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Anti-War Media Change Focus

October 29, 2007

With President Bush and Vice President Cheney warning that Iran must not be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons, our media have shifted their focus from Iraq. The shift is apparent in the decision by many reporters to make a controversy out of the fact that Senator Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, voted for a resolution declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to be a terrorist force. The resolution states a simple truth, but it has been interpreted by the anti-war media and the far-left in the Democratic Party as war-mongering and saber-rattling.

The media are moving into a position of hardened opposition to an emerging bipartisan consensus that something has to be done militarily about the Iranian threat to the region and the world. The anti-war media, in short, are alive and well, and they can complicate efforts to deal not only with Iran, a clear danger to the region and the world, but with the global radical Islamic menace.

In reality, of course, one cannot separate Iraq from Iran. A successful outcome in Iraq depends on containing Iran and ultimately achieving regime change in Tehran.

But the media, from their perspective, have to realize that they have failed to defeat the administration's Iraq policy. That explains their focus on Iran.

The administration's Iraq policy got a second life from Gen. David Petraeus, who delivered forceful testimony before Congress about progress there. His call for more time and patience was viewed by some as a political maneuver coordinated with the White House, but the evidence on the ground, as well as media reports from unlikely sources, suggest that Petraeus was telling the truth.

The media's anti-war bias on Iraq re-emerged when the retired Lt. General in charge of forces in Iraq for most of the first year in Iraq, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, garnered headlines by blasting the Bush administration. He called its policy "catastrophically flawed" and said the U.S. was "living a nightmare with no end in sight." Interestingly, the speech was delivered before a group called Military Reporters and Editors.

Less attention, however, was given to his conclusion that leaving Iraq is not an option and that America has no choice but to continue its efforts. "A precipitous withdrawal will unquestionably lead to chaos that would endanger the stability of the greater Middle East," said Sanchez. "If this occurs it would have significant adverse effects on the international community. Coalition and American force presence will be required at some level for the foreseeable future."

Even less attention was devoted to his criticism of the media. However, it comprised the first 40 percent of his speech and was equally harsh. While singling out a few reporters as exceptions for the quality of their journalism, such as John Burns of the New York Times and Joe Galloway of McClatchy Newspapers, he was merciless to the majority of them. He sounded like a member in good standing of Accuracy in Media when he said we should demand "tough reporting that relies upon integrity, objectivity and fairness to give accurate and thorough accounts that strengthen our freedom of the press and in turn our democracy."

However, Sanchez said, "For some, it seems that as long as you get a front-page story there is little or no regard for the 'collateral damage' you will cause. Personal reputations have no value and you report with total impunity and are rarely held accountable for unethical conduct." He accused others of "unscrupulous reporting that was solely focused on supporting your agenda and preconceived notions of what our military had done."

Sanchez may have been talking about himself. He was in charge of the military from June of 2003 through mid 2004, a little over a year, and the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq occurred on his watch. The media claimed credit for uncovering that abuse when military authorities were the first to investigate it. Sanchez believes that he was unfairly singled out and, for that reason, was not given his fourth star as a general.

While dishing out criticism, Sanchez came in for some of his own. Republican presidential candidate John McCain believes that Sanchez should have been more candid to him and others in Congress when asked about conditions in Iraq when he was in command. According to McCain, Sanchez "was asked in several hearings about the strategy, and he not only didn't complain about it¯in all due respect again¯but he supported it."

Not surprisingly, our media played down Sanchez' criticism of the media. The New York Times didn't bother mentioning any of it. The Washington Post saved Sanchez's criticism of the media for the very last paragraph of its article about his speech. NBC News covered Sanchez's criticism of the administration but not of the press.

Beyond Iraq and Iran, however, lies the question of what the U.S. will do about the global threat from radical Islamic. Here, our media seem to be AWOL, unaware or unconcerned about the fact that the enemy is based in Iraq, Iran and scores of other countries.

On the same day that Sanchez gave his speech, the nature of the enemy was demonstrated when the AP reported that "a bomb planted among toys in a cart left near a children's playground" had killed one civilian and wounded 17, including five children.

The incident occurred in Iraq, but it is indicative of the threat that faces the U.S. and many other nations. Why are these Islamists targeting children by planting bombs among their toys? In this case, can our anti-war media come to their senses long enough to acknowledge that preparing to confront these forces of evil is not necessarily a Bush-Cheney plot?

For the time being, it is apparent that many in our media want to do whatever they can to prevent a military strike on Iran. That explains their constant focus on which of the presidential candidates favor anything that can be conceived as laying the groundwork for such a strike. Clearly it would be preferable for regime change in Iran to come from within the country. But our anti-war media oppose any confrontation with Iran, just as they have sought to undermine and defeat the Bush Administration's policy on Iraq.

Our media, however, should look beyond Iraq and Iran to the broader war with radical Islam. After all, stabilizing Iraq and even eliminating the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons will not guarantee international peace and security. The threat in both of those countries is global in scope and never rests.

In short, our media have to ask the candidates, Democrats and Republicans: how do you intend on winning the world war we find ourselves in? How do you intend to assure America's survival and defeat the global Jihad?

And please don't tell us the answer is that U.S. officials need to make more appearances on Al-Jazeera.

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Copyright ©2007 Roger Aronoff

Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at roger.aronoff@aim.org.