On today’s MSNBC web site an update on the story of the Pentagon’s propaganda program quotes Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., as saying that the program, part of an effort to “get the truth out” in Iraq by paying to plant favorable stories with Iraqi journalists and newspapers, is a serious problem.
The timing on the disclosure of this program was ironic in that it came to light just as President Bush released his strategy for victory in Iraq. It includes the need to support a “free, independent and responsible Iraqi media.”
“We are very concerned,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. “We are seeking more information from the Pentagon.”
The original story was run in a variety of publications including, presumably, the New York Times. Though I missed the Times story, one of my favorite readers and an occasional commenter apparently read it, became incensed, and sent the editor a letter in response. He emailed me a copy of the letter which I reprint here:
The NY Times is the best paper in this country. However:
As this country’s premier newspaper, why do you find it compulsory to bash our war effort in at least one front page story each day?
If these positive stories about our troops you complain of are true, why should we not pay to place them in the Iraqi papers? Could paid stories in Iraqi papers be more biased than the anti-American coverage appearing in your paper every day? To a stranger, who doesn’t know better, it would appear you are paid to air stories in favor of the enemies of the United States. Of course, we Americans know better. You bash the Administration to enlighten us for which our enemies around the World are grateful. Self flagellation seems to be your imprimatur. The only parallel I can recall is how the Viennese newspapers treated Dolfuss as he was trying to resist the Nazis just before the Anchluss. As a footnote, their editorial staff was sent to the death camps and never heard from again. Ungrateful Nazis. Go figure.
I looked at the headlines run in the NY Times during WWII and could not find similar criticism of our efforts in Europe or the Pacific. I couldn’t find criticism of Jack Kennedy losing his PT boat. I couldn’t find criticism of Gen. Mark Clark after the debacle at Anzio beach. Where were your guys after Kasserine Pass or Monte Cassino? Battle of the Bulge? Debacle after debacle went unreported. Today you act like movie critics when it comes to one of the most unpredictable of all human endevors. War is messy. Freedom is not free. It may take us decades to establish the institutions of democracy in Iraq just as it did in Germany and Japan. I cannot recall criticism in the New York Times of Harry Truman or Gen. Marshall when they proposed the budget busting idea of the “Marshall Plan” to rebuild Europe. Just curious. Are you competing with Al Jereeza for readers?
Kent S. Woods
My reader’s thoughts on the matter relate directly to the frustration that our field commanders often profess in regard to the coverage of the war by the media. For example, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, laments that, “We want to get the facts out. We want to get the truth out.”
Perhaps one of the problems is that there are a variety of truths in regard to this war and they don’t necessarily agree with one another. The consequent frustration felt by the various proponents of differing views is at least understandable. Whether the fact that this war seems to have the audacity to reach hard into the gut of each of us and incite our respective hot zones is a good thing or bad, I don’t know, but a fair question seems to be: how long can this go on?
It seems evident that we all need to come to agreement in some central, primal way. It would appear that our leaders need to determine what we all really want (not just what they want) and get busy implementing the hell out of it. After all, they work for us.
That strategy might also work particularly well in respect of what the primary parties of Iraq (the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds) might want in their respective heart of hearts, now that the governance of their country has been so thoroughly destructured and opened to creative design.
Perhaps it behooves us to look once again at the way rebuilding has taken place in the Balkans inasmuch as it surely is a model for enlightened nation restructuring. It doesn’t take an overactive imagination to see the similarities between Milosevik’s Yugoslavia and Saddam’s Iraq. Insofar as the intervention itself is concerned, Yugoslavia/Serbia was no threat to the U.S. or NATO members and yet action was taken and justified as being humanitarian. That war was also preemptive. Our motives and methods with respect to Iraq may have been strikingly different but we are there now and our only legitimate mission at this point is to bring structure and peace to the region.
It may take quite a while. More on this later.
In any case, click the headline for the update on the planted stories.