ABC's Engel in Baghdad Finds Disillusion and Disgust with U.S. -- 04/12/2003 CyberAlert
2. "War Worked Better than Expected," But Winning Peace, Well...
3. Jennings Showcases "KILL Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld..." Sign
4. CNN's Juxtaposition: Pro-War Rally vs. Spray-Painting Vandals
5. CNN's Eason Jordan Denounced for Lying and Selling His Soul
6. Actress Shannen Doherty: Loves Rumsfeld and Supports Bush
7. A Reporter Delivers a Good One-Liner at the CENTCOM Briefing
Less than 48 hours after Iraqis toppled the Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad and before U.S. forces had even managed to take full control of the city, ABC's Richard Engel decided that chaos in the streets meant "time may be running out" for the Americans. "There is a growing sense of disillusionment," Engel contended since "Iraqis wanted U.S. troops to bring them freedom and security."
Baghdad-based Engel highlighted the views of three Iraqis, all of whom denounced the United States. One woman demanded: "Did the Americans come to protect us or to kill us?" And Engel quoted a man who charged: "Now we know that America came to occupy us. They came to steal our oil and our riches and then to leave."
Engel may be the only non-Arab reporter in Baghdad to have managed to find both universal love for Saddam Hussein up until early this week and universal hatred of the U.S. since his regime fell.
In contrast, CBS's Dan Rather, who arrived in Baghdad in time for Friday's CBS Evening News, found the people glad to have been liberated and appreciative of the U.S.: "Unlike the celebrations of earlier in the week, many of the streets of Baghdad are now deserted. Fear rules. Among the few people we did see out, all were wary, but they all said they had gratitude for what they called their 'liberation.'"
All the networks, both cable and broadcast, focused much of their Friday coverage on looting and overburdened hospitals in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, but none went so far as ABC, which featured three full stories Friday night on looting, or Engel's discovery of universal disgust toward America.
"Lawlessness has become deadly," Engel warned at the top of his April 11 World News Tonight piece as he described the lynching of Ba'ath party members in a day of revenge-taking. After showing some looting, Engel cautioned: "This opportunism and greed are costing innocent lives. Carjackers killed this man today. 'Did the Americans come to protect us?' asks this woman at the funeral, 'or to kill us?' People here accuse the U.S. forces of purposely turning a blind eye to the looting."
Engel showed men who put tires across a road to block it and then noted that mosques are reminding their attendees that stealing is against Islamic law.
Engel even found an American to criticize U.S. policy: "At the U.S. military checkpoints, the soldiers do seem to regret that they're doing nothing to stop what's happening around them."
Okay I was wrong, but. Exactly one week after ABC Pentagon reporter John McWethy warned that expected block by block fighting in Baghdad meant "this could be...a long war," McWethy conceded on Friday night that "this plan to win the war has clearly worked better than anticipated." At least better than he anticipated. But, he then added: "The plan to win the peace, well, that is still a work in progress."
Journalists love to move the goal posts.
On the April 4 World News Tonight McWethy had insisted: "As the U.S. begins to really squeeze Baghdad, U.S. intelligence sources are saying that some of Saddam Hussein's toughest security forces are now apparently digging in, apparently willing to defend their city block by block. This could be, Peter, a long war." Peter Jennings felt vindication: "As many people had anticipated."
Fast forward a week and McWethy changed his story and gave time to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's criticism of media coverage. McWethy ran a clip of Rumsfeld at Friday's Pentagon briefing: "I picked up a newspaper today and I couldn't believe it. I read eight headlines that talked about 'chaos,' 'violence,' 'unrest.' And it just was henny-penny, the sky is falling. I've never seen anything like it and here is a country that's being liberated. [edit jump] Do I think those words are unrepresentative? Yes."
Sounds like most of ABC's coverage, but Rumsfeld may have been referring to Friday's New York Times. The headline across the top of the April 11 front page: "Allies Widen Hold on Iraq; Civil Strife on Rise"
Another front page story: "Looting and a Suicide Attack as Chaos Grows in Baghdad"
On the front of the "A Nation at War" section: "Kirkuk's Swift Collapse Leaves a City in Chaos"
But inside the section the Times at least gave some space to those with whom the paper and ABC News disagree: "For Hawks, a Day to Sit Back and Say, 'I Told You So'"
Peter Jennings' affection for dissent. A night after he ignored the rally of 15,000 in New York City to support the troops, an event both CBS and NBC managed to squeeze into their 30-minute evening newscasts, in his end of show review of war photographs on Friday night Jennings highlighted a picture from Africa, far from the war zone, of a protest sign urging: "KILL Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld and Powell, NOT INNOCENT IRAQI CIVILIANS." Jennings non-judgmentally characterized that as "very strong stuff."
Jennings concludes World News Tonight every night with five to eight war photos. On Friday night, he showcased pictures of an Iraqi man rifling through papers at the military intelligence headquarters in hopes of finding information about a missing relative, a man at the piano in the al-Rasheed hotel, a group celebrating an imam, an Iraqi man offering water to a U.S. soldier, a U.S. soldier lounging on the bed of Saddam Hussein's son, a dead man lying on a gurney and then, "At an anti-war rally today in Nairobi. Very strong stuff."
As Jennings spoke, viewers as a picture of a woman from the rear with her head covered by a scarf holding up this clearly readable sign:
The April 11 CyberAlert reported how no anti-war protest has been too small to earn coverage from Jennings who in recent months has highlighted anti-war events involving just a few hundred people, a "virtual" protest and even one guy who jumped off a bridge, but on Thursday night, while CBS and NBC noted a pro-troops rally featuring 15,000 in New York City, Jennings could not manage to mention it on World News Tonight. For details see the April 11, 2003 CyberAlert item.
Strange juxtaposition of the day. "Americans remain split over the war," CNN's Heidi Collins contended late Thursday night. Split between patriotic, law-abiding Americans at a lawful rally and a bunch of criminals who defaced SUVs by spray painting "No War" on them.
The true public opinion "split" stands at about 80 to 20 percent in favor of the war.
During CNN's "At This Hour" news update at 1:13am EDT Friday morning, an update delayed a bit from 1am by "breaking news" video of Iraqi soldiers walking down a road, Collins asserted:
The on screen wording during shots of the rally: "Ground Zero rally supports war in Iraq." As she spoke about the vandals, CNN put this cutesy line on screen: "Anti-war vandals chose gas-guzzling canvases." The video showed SUVs with "NO WAR" spray painted on them.
Brit Hume's panel on Friday night denounced CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan for withholding knowledge he had of Saddam Hussein's brutality, including later fulfilled death threats against two of Hussein's sons in law, a murder plot against CNN staffers in Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq, fingernails and teeth pulled out of Iraqis and the threats of imprisonment or death for journalists and Iraqis working for them, such as translators, if they reported something the regime wanted kept quiet.
As those who read Friday's CyberAlert Special know, Jordan confessed his cover-up Thursday night on CNN's NewsNight and in a Friday op-ed in the New York Times.
Jordan should get some credit for revealing CNN's cover-up, but as the MRC's Media Reality Check "Quick Take" asked on Friday, will the other media outlets which traded access for the truth be as forthcoming? Read the "Quick Take" by Rich Noyes.
On the April 11 Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC, citing a NPR interview Jordan did last October, Roll Call's Morton Kondracke recalled that Jordan insisted "that CNN never made journalistic compromises to gain access, specifically about covering this war, but he made that general statement, which is a flat lie, to National Public radio at the time."
Kondracke added: "It's very important that CNN should not have had people like Nic Robertson ever portraying Saddam Hussein somehow beloved of his people or, you know, supported by his people when this boss knows exactly what's going on."
Columnist Charles Krauthammer observed: "It's a classic example of selling your soul for the story. He clearly gave up truth for access. Well he could have taken the translator out and told that story about Uday or other stories, but he would have lost the bureau in Baghdad and that's why he did it."
In denouncing CNN for reporting that Hussein is beloved by his people when the "boss knows exactly what's going on," Kondracke was referring to a bit of reporting by CNN correspondent Nic Robertson at the time of the "election" last October, a quote Hume cited earlier that was featured in the April 9 CyberAlert Extra "Quote and Gloat" edition.
From Baghdad, on CNN's American Morning on October 14, 2002, Robertson asserted: "Iraqi reverence for President Saddam Hussein is rarely more expressive than when their leader calls a referendum. 'To paint for the President for this special day is important,' explains artist Abdul. 'It shows our love to him.' Amid even bolder demonstrations of devotion to the Iraqi leader, students at Baghdad's fine arts school, too young to vote in the last referendum in 1995, appear eager now."
The NPR interview to which Kondracke referred was an October 25 session with Bob Garfield's "On the Media" show produced at WNYC Radio in New York City. Jordan appeared to react to a New Republic story by Franklin Foer detailing how Western journalists were afraid of reporting anything that would upset the Saddam Hussein regime for fear of losing access. He wrote about CNN's efforts to maintain their slot in Baghdad and about some of the laudatory reporting on Hussein that CNN delivered.
For an excerpt of the most interesting portions of the very illuminating 3,500 word article in the October 28, 2002 edition of the New Republic, refer to the October 18, 2002 CyberAlert.
Read the lengthy article in full, which is posted in two parts by the New Republic.
Read the "printer friendly" version which has the whole article as one unit as posted on New Republic.
Now, a couple of excerpts from the WNYC Radio interview:
Garfield: "I'm sure you have seen Franklin Foer's article in The New Republic which charges that the Western press is appeasing the Iraqi regime in order to maintain its visas -- to be there reporting should a war ultimately break out. What's your take on that?"
Read the transcript and listen to the RealAudio of the interview as posted on www.wnyc.org.
I got that link from RushLimbaugh.com and his site offers his take on the subject from Friday's show.
An excerpt from Jordan's op-ed in the April 11 New York Times:
Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN's Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard -- awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.
For example, in the mid-1990's one of our Iraqi cameramen was abducted. For weeks he was beaten and subjected to electroshock torture in the basement of a secret police headquarters because he refused to confirm the government's ludicrous suspicion that I was the Central Intelligence Agency's Iraq station chief. CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk.
Working for a foreign news organization provided Iraqi citizens no protection. The secret police terrorized Iraqis working for international press services who were courageous enough to try to provide accurate reporting. Some vanished, never to be heard from again. Others disappeared and then surfaced later with whispered tales of being hauled off and tortured in unimaginable ways....
We also had to worry that our reporting might endanger Iraqis not on our payroll. I knew that CNN could not report that Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, told me in 1995 that he intended to assassinate two of his brothers-in-law who had defected and also the man giving them asylum, King Hussein of Jordan. If we had gone with the story, I was sure he would have responded by killing the Iraqi translator who was the only other participant in the meeting. After all, secret police thugs brutalized even senior officials of the Information Ministry, just to keep them in line (one such official has long been missing all his fingernails)....
An aide to Uday once told me why he had no front teeth: henchmen had ripped them out with pliers and told him never to wear dentures, so he would always remember the price to be paid for upsetting his boss. Again, we could not broadcast anything these men said to us.
Last December, when I told Information Minister Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf that we intended to send reporters to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, he warned me they would "suffer the severest possible consequences." CNN went ahead, and in March, Kurdish officials presented us with evidence that they had thwarted an armed attack on our quarters in Erbil....
Then there were the events that were not unreported but that nonetheless still haunt me. A 31-year-old Kuwaiti woman, Asrar Qabandi, was captured by Iraqi secret police occupying her country in 1990 for "crimes," one of which included speaking with CNN on the phone. They beat her daily for two months, forcing her father to watch. In January 1991, on the eve of the American-led offensive, they smashed her skull and tore her body apart limb by limb. A plastic bag containing her body parts was left on the doorstep of her family's home.
I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me. Now that Saddam Hussein's regime is gone, I suspect we will hear many, many more gut-wrenching tales from Iraqis about the decades of torment. At last, these stories can be told freely.
END of Excerpt
Read Jordan's op-ed in full as posted on www.nytimes.com.
Thursday night at about 10:45pm EDT Jordan discussed the subject with Aaron Brown on NewsNight. To read what he said, access the transcript of the first hour of the four-hour NewsNight and scroll down about three-fourths of the way.
If you want to know what Jordan looks like, a CNN.com story on the matter features a picture of him.
One Hollywood celebrity, or at least a semi-celebrity, is out of the Hollywood mainstream. On Thursday night's Last Call with Carson Daly on NBC, Shannen Doherty extolled her love for Donald Rumsfeld, said she's "a big supporter of President Bush" and revealed that on her refrigerator she displays a picture of herself with Ari Fleischer.
Doherty, best known as a star of Fox's Beverly Hills, 90210 during the early 1990s, recalled meeting Rumsfeld at a correspondents dinner in Washington, DC. She gushed to Daly on the NBC show which airs after Late Night with Conan O'Brien: "I loved him, I enjoyed meeting him a lot."
Doherty proclaimed: "I'm a Republican...I'm a big supporter of President Bush." Justifying her support to a less than enthusiastic audience in New York City, Doherty added: "C'mon, our troops are over there, we gotta be supportive."
She went on to note that at the same dinner with Rumsfeld she got a picture of herself with Fleischer and now displays it on her refrigerator.
For a photo and bio of Doherty, see the Internet Movie Database page on her.
She is now the host of "Scare Tactics," a reality show on the Sci-Fi Channel which airs Friday nights at 10pm EDT/PDT. See more about it and another picture of her posted on www.scifi.com.
No new Letterman shows the last couple of nights, so no Top Ten list to end on, but MRC analyst Ken Shepherd caught a humorous one-liner from Sky News correspondent Geoff Meade at Friday's CENTCOM briefing in Doha.
Meade, referring to the packs of playing cards with photos of wanted Iraqi leaders which the coalition is distributing, quipped: "On your deck of 55 most wanted, does that include the former Information Minister? -- because every pack needs a joker."
Brigadier General Vincent Brooks liked that: "Well said, Geoff. Well said. Well, there are jokers in this deck, there's no doubt about that."
At Monday's briefing Meade had asked: "If Iraq was so unable to defend itself, was it really the threat to the world on which this whole war was predicated?"
I prefer his jokes.
-- Brent Baker