2. CBS's Pitts Castigates "Nasty" Bush, Paints Kerry as the Victim
3. ABC Focuses on U.S. Human Rights Breaches, Not Good Treatment
CBS's Byron Pitts on Tuesday night trumpeted how exit polls showed that "Democratic voters are angry at the Bush administration, particularly in one state." That one state would be Florida where "Democrats want revenge" for the 2000 election, but while 49 percent of Florida Democratic primary voters on Tuesday, when asked their view of Bush, indeed said they are "angry," that's the same percent as voters in California and a lower percentage than primary voters this year in Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut and Delaware. So, contrary to Pitts' implication, Florida Democrats are not excessively angry toward Bush compared to Democrats in other states.
Nonetheless, Pitts touted how the anger and quest for revenge "comes up at all of John Kerry's Florida rallies." He then showed a woman asking Kerry: "What can we do to prevent them from stealing the election again?" Pitts very bizarrely claimed that "in a rare move for a sitting President, Mr. Bush has campaigned extensively in Florida" -- as if an incumbent campaigning in a state where the polls show a close race is somehow unusual.
Pitts also failed to remind viewers how in 2002 the anger of Democrats didn't translate into victory since Governor Jeb Bush handily beat his Democratic opponent by 13 points.
Anchor John Roberts set up the March 9 CBS Evening News story, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "In Florida and three other Southern states, a lot of voters going to the polls in today's presidential primaries have yet another issue on their minds. It's an issue that's making Democratic voters angry. And Byron Pitts reports why John Kerry couldn't be happier about it."
Pitts began from Florida: "For John Kerry, with victory tonight a foregone conclusion, today's four Southern primaries serve as part coronation and part rehearsal for the general election."
CNN has posted the exit polls taken during all of the Democratic primaries this year. To a question about how they view President Bush, 49 percent of Florida Democratic primary voters chose the "angry" option. See: www.cnn.com
"It's shaping up to be the longest and nastiest campaign in history," CBS's Byron Pitts charged Monday after a clip of Senator John Kerry denouncing tax loopholes and right before running a soundbite in which President Bush simply conveyed a comment about a policy position taken by Kerry. Bush's supposedly "nasty" remark: "He's for good intelligence. Yet he was willing to gut the intelligence services. And that is no way to lead a nation in a time of war."
Instead of castigating Kerry's other shots at Bush on jobs and the handling of pre-9/11 intelligence, Pitts endorsed their credibility and painted Kerry as the victim as Pitts passed along how Kerry warned, without any substantiation, that the Bush team will "attack my character and even my wife's."
Pitts asserted: "Troubling issues for Mr. Bush: jobs, the war in Iraq and continued questions about his administration's handling of the intelligence prior to the September 11th attacks, a theme his rivals hit hard today."
The next morning, the MRC's Brian Boyd noticed, Pitts continued his complaints about "nastiness" in the presidential contest, as if candidates should not be allowed to criticize each other. Pitts insisted on the March 9 Early Show:
Over on Tuesday's Today, co-host Ann Curry, the MRC's Geoff Dickens observed, was taken aback by Bush "bashing his opponent" about a Senate vote taken nine years ago -- as if that is somehow out of bounds. During a session with Tim Russert, Curry played this clip from Bush about how Kerry pushed for a cut in intelligence funding: "His bill was so deeply irresponsible that he didn't have a single co-sponsor in the United States Senate. Once again Senator Kerry is trying to have it both ways. He's for good intelligence yet he was willing to gut the intelligence services."
Curry then lamented: "An incumbent President bashing his opponent about a bill from nine years ago that never even came to a vote."
Now the March 8 CBS Evening News story in full. Anchor John Roberts introduced it: "In the presidential campaign, the outcome of primaries tomorrow in four Southern states is not in any doubt, and the battle for the South in November is already in high gear. CBS's Byron Pitts reports tonight President Bush opened fire today from his home state of Texas, while Senator John Kerry came out charging in the battleground state of Florida."
Pitts began, over video of a man at a Kerry rally wearing a Bush mask: "Today in Florida on the campaign trail, Halloween came early."
For a picture and bio of Pitts: www.cbsnews.com
Several of those released recently from detention at Guantanamo Bay professed how they were treated well and on Monday night the CBS Evening News looked at how "conditions are improving" in Afghanistan with U.S. soldiers ingratiating themselves with villagers, road-building and "more Afghan children in school than at any time in the country's history," but on Monday night CNN's Anderson Cooper picked up on how Terry Waite, a hostage in Iran in 1979-80, "accuses the U.S. now of using 'terrorist tactics'" in "the way it treats detainees at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." And on Tuesday night, ABC's Peter Jennings devoted a full story to how "the international organization, Human Rights Watch, accused U.S. forces in Afghanistan of mistreating prisoners and violating international law."
ABC's Mike Lee related the allegations of how "the U.S. military has used 'cowboy-like' excessive force when arresting Afghans." He focused on one Afghan man who claimed he was sent to Guantanamo Bay and forced to sign a confession though he was really innocent. Lee ominously concluded: "The Human Rights Watch report warns that many other Afghans out there are angry over how they've been treated and may be less willing to help in the war against terrorism."
Lee ignored a 12 to 13-year-old Afghan boy, who upon his release from Guantanamo Bay, told London's left-wing Guardian newspaper, a paper you'd think Peter Jennings would find authoritative: "I am lucky I went there, and now I miss it. Cuba was great." The boy cited the delicious food, how he liked snorkeling in the ocean and proclaimed that "Americans are great people, better than anyone else," so, "if I could be anywhere, I would be in America. I would like to be a doctor, an engineer -- or an American soldier."
A month ago, a 15-year-old released from Guantanamo informed London's Sunday Telegraph that "they gave me a good time in Cuba. They were very nice to me, giving me English lessons." An elderly Afghan man let go last fall praised his treatment: "They treated us well. We had enough food. I didn't mind [being detained] because they took my old clothes and gave me new clothes."
"Cuba? It was great, say boys freed from US prison camp," declared the headline over the March 6 Guardian story which the FNC's Brit Hume highlighted in his "Grapevine" segment on Monday night. An excerpt from the article by James Astill:
Asadullah strives to make his point, switching to English lest there be any mistaking him. "I am lucky I went there, and now I miss it. Cuba was great," said the 14-year-old, knotting his brow in the effort to make sure he is understood.
Not that Asadullah saw much of the Caribbean island. During his 14-month stay, he went to the beach only a couple of times -- a shame, as he loved to snorkel....
He spent a typical day watching movies, going to class and playing football. He was fascinated to learn about the solar system, and now enjoys reciting the names of the planets, starting with Earth. Less diverting were the twice-monthly interrogations about his knowledge of al-Qaida and the Taliban. But, as Asadullah's answer was always the same -- "I don't know anything about these people" -- these sessions were merely a bore: an inevitably tedious consequence, Asadullah suggests with a shrug, of being held captive in Guantanamo Bay.
On January 29, Asadullah and two other juvenile prisoners were returned home to Afghanistan. The three boys are not sure of their ages. But, according to the estimate of the Red Cross, Asadullah is the youngest, aged 12 at the time of his arrest. The second youngest, Naqibullah, was arrested with him, aged perhaps 13, while the third boy, Mohammed Ismail, was a child at the time of his separate arrest, but probably isn't now.
Tracked down to his remote village in south-eastern Afghanistan, Naqibullah has memories of Guantanamo that are almost identical to Asadullah's. Prison life was good, he said shyly, nervous to be receiving a foreigner to his family's mud-fortress home.
The food in the camp was delicious, the teaching was excellent, and his warders were kind. "Americans are good people, they were always friendly, I don't have anything against them," he said. "If my father didn't need me, I would want to live in America."
Asadullah is even more sure of this. "Americans are great people, better than anyone else," he said, when found at his elder brother's tiny fruit and nut shop in a muddy backstreet of Kabul. "Americans are polite and friendly when you speak to them. They are not rude like Afghans. If I could be anywhere, I would be in America. I would like to be a doctor, an engineer -- or an American soldier."...
After five months, Naqibullah wrote home for the first time. Taking this first letter, written on Red Cross notepaper, from his pocket, he now reads it aloud. "My greetings to beloved family, to my beloved father, to my beloved uncles, to my beloved cousins, to my beloved brothers. I am in good health and happy. I am in Cuba, in a special room, but it is not like a jail. Don't worry about me. I am learning English, Pashto and Arabic."...
When Asadullah returned to Khoja Angur last month -- at a day's notice -- the village elders gathered to ask how the Americans had treated him. When he said they had treated him well, they ruled that the matter was closed. "We have nothing against the Americans, they looked after the boy. They taught him English and other things," said Haji Mohammad Tahir, an elder of the village, gesturing to Asadullah's drawings of the planets, which were proudly displayed on the floor....
END of Excerpt
For the March 6 Guardian story in full: www.guardian.co.uk
An Afghan boy whose 14-month detention by US authorities as a terrorist suspect in Cuba prompted an outcry from human rights campaigners said yesterday that he enjoyed his time in the camp.
Mohammed Ismail Agha, 15, who until last week was held at the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, said that he was treated very well and particularly enjoyed learning to speak English. His words will disappoint critics of the US policy of detaining "illegal combatants" in south-east Cuba indefinitely and without trial.
In a first interview with any of the three juveniles held by the US at Guantanamo Bay base, Mohammed said: "They gave me a good time in Cuba. They were very nice to me, giving me English lessons."
Mohammed, an unemployed Afghan farmer, found the surroundings in Cuba at first baffling. After he settled in, however, he was left to enjoy stimulating school work, good food and prayer.
"At first I was unhappy...For two or three days [after I arrived in Cuba] I was confused but later the Americans were so nice to me. They gave me good food with fruit and water for ablutions and prayer," he said yesterday in Naw Zad, a remote market town in southern Afghanistan close to his home village and 300 miles south-west of Kabul, the capital.
He said that the American soldiers taught him and his fellow child captives -- aged 15 and 13 -- to write and speak a little English. They supplied them with books in their native Pashto language. When the three boys left last week for Afghanistan, the soldiers looking after them gave them a send-off dinner and urged them to continue their studies.
"They even took photographs of us all together before we left," he said. Mohammed, however, said he would have to disappoint his captors by not returning to his studies. "I am too poor for that. I will have to look for work," he said....
Mohammed and his fellow juvenile detainees returned to Afghanistan last week, after the intervention of the International Committee of the Red Cross. His words of praise for the American soldiers in Guantanamo Bay echo those of Faiz Mohammed, an elderly Afghan farmer who was detained at the base for eight months before being released in October 2002.
"They treated us well. We had enough food. I didn't mind [being detained] because they took my old clothes and gave me new clothes," said the farmer, who was partially deaf....
END of Excerpt
For the February 8 Sunday Telegraph story in its entirety: news.telegraph.co.uk
Cooper went to a taped interview with Waite who compared U.S. treatment of Guantanamo detainees with how the Iranians treated him. Cooper at least challenged him: "But I should point out, sir, that they do have three meals a day. The U.S. government also says they have adequate clothing, shelter. They have reading materials, and they have the means to send and receive mail, albeit perhaps not as frequent as they would like. The conditions they are being kept in are far different than the conditions you were being kept in."
Cooper followed up: "But these people were combatants in a war. I mean, they were picked up for the most part on the battlefields of Afghanistan, a few places elsewhere. I'm not quite sure -- I mean, some 10,000 people were rounded up. Ultimately, only some 650, I think, are still being kept at Guantanamo Bay. I'm not sure what status you think they should be held under."
A night later, ABC and Peter Jennings displayed no such skepticism about the concerns of those who claim mistreatment occurs at Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan. Jennings set up a March 9 World News Tonight story, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
Lee began his tale of woe, over video of a man using an axe to hit a piece of wood: "Wazeer Mohammed says that for nearly two years, he was held at detention camps here in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before being released without charge. 'I'm a simple taxi driver,' he told me. 'The Afghan army arrested me at a checkpoint and turned me over to the Americans.' That was in March of 2002. Wazeer says he was a prisoner at two U.S. bases here, where he was blindfolded, shackled, forced to kneel on the ground, and deprived of sleep. There are other stories like his in the human rights report. Among the allegations, the U.S. military has used 'cowboy-like' excessive force when arresting Afghans, that 'ordinary civilians caught up in military operations and arrested are left in a hopeless situation,' and that U.S. detention facilities here are shrouded in secrecy and operate 'in a climate of almost total impunity.'"
For the table of contents for the report, "'Enduring Freedom:' Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan," see: hrw.org
This wasn't the first time Jennings has used ABC air time to complain about detainee treatment at Guantanamo Bay:
-- February 21, 2003 CyberAlert: ABC's Peter Jennings treated an accused terrorist arrested on Thursday as the victim of an over-aggressive Justice Department as ABC failed to report how the man once wished "death" upon America. Jennings referred to "the government's aggressive campaign in the U.S. against people it accuses of supporting terrorism" and to what the "government calls a terrorist group overseas." Jennings also fretted about how "we learned today that three more prisoners being held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have attempted suicide." Jennings proceeded to assert that "at least two human rights organizations are seeking information about the interrogation techniques." See: www.mediaresearch.org
But now that those three teenagers are out and praising their treatment they no longer interest Jennings.
Meanwhile, on Monday night of this week, instead of focusing on the supposed mistreatment of Afghans, the CBS Evening News ran a story on the good efforts of the U.S. to improve the lives of Afghans.
Lara Logan began her story from Afghanistan with video of Pakistani troops taking control of a village which had al-Qaeda members, part of Pakistan's efforts to find Osama bin Laden "and his followers in the hostile territory along the border with Afghanistan." In Afghanistan, Logan noted, the Taliban still manage a few rocket attacks on U.S. forces.
Logan explained how "the U.S. Army says the face of the war here has changed to a classic guerrilla insurgency, and they've adapted their strategy accordingly."
Over video of U.S. soldiers in a village: "By having a regular presence in villages like these, the U.S. Army is using their enemies' own tactics against them, making it extremely difficult for the enemy to hide behind the local population. Security is the crucial issue here. So far more than a million Afghans have registered to vote for the first time in their lives. But national elections scheduled for June may be delayed, in part, because of terrorist threats."
For a picture and bio of Logan: www.cbsnews.com
-- Brent Baker