2. Associated Press: 'Some Cubans Enjoy Comforts of Communism'
In the very last seconds of the 7pm EDT hour of Friday's The Situation Room on CNN, anchor Wolf Blitzer remarked to Jack Cafferty: "You know, one of the big stories this week, perhaps under-reported, top U.S. Generals now acknowledging, Guess what? The Iraq situation may be on the verge of a civil war." Is Blitzer in a parallel universe? Those comments Thursday, from Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace and General John Abizaid, about the "possibility" that Iraq "could" fall into civil war, were all over the cable networks Thursday and Friday, including Blitzer's three hours.
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Thursday all made the civil war talk their lead stories. NBC's Brian Williams, for instance, began: "Tonight, is civil war becoming a reality in Iraq? Two of the Pentagon's most senior Generals now say it looks that way." The broadcast network morning shows on Friday all devoted first half hour time to the warnings. "Is Iraq on the brink of civil war? It was a stunning admission from two top Generals testifying on the escalating violence in Iraq," CBS Early Show co-host Julie Chen announced. "U.S. General Says Iraq Could Slide Into a Civil War," heralded a Friday New York Times front page story and the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and USA Today all plastered it on their front pages.
[This item was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Blitzer's 7:59pm EDT remark came right after Cafferty finished reading e-mailed responses to his question of the hour: "Why do half of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction back in 2003?" Cafferty had cited a month-old Harris poll and the last comment he read ended with a reference to how "Americans are more interested in who won American Idol or who got thrown out of the Big Brother house last night."
As for how the news media "under-reported" the acknowledgment by the Generals that civil war is a possibility in Iraq, here's how, gathered with the assistance of the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, the most-watched and most-read news outlets played it on Thursday night, August 3 and then Friday morning, August 4:
# ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, tease of the lead story by substitute anchor Diane Sawyer:
# CBS Evening News, Bob Schieffer's tease of his top item:
# NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams teasing his lead topic:
# ABC's Good Morning America. News reader Heather Nauert in the 7am news update:
And Diane Sawyer set up a subsequent 7am half hour story by highlighting "the American Generals in charge of the war, admitting that Iraq could be sliding toward a civil war."
# CBS's Early Show, first words:
# NBC's Today didn't put it in the tease, but the show aired a report on the hearing by Jim Miklaszewski who ran a soundbite from Abizaid and Matt Lauer raised the subject with guest Howard Fineman of Newsweek.
# Washington Post, bottom left of front page:
# New York Times, top left of front page:
# USA Today, lead headline on top right of front page:
# Los Angeles Times, lead headline on top left of front page:
For links to the newspaper stories, check the NewsBusters posting of this item as linked above.
"Some Cubans enjoy comforts of communism," asserted the headline over a Friday dispatch from Havana by the AP"s Vanessa Arrington who proposed that "many Cubans find genuine comfort in the communist system, and reject U.S.-style democracy and values." Arrington noted that "when outsiders think of Cuba, it's often the lack of political freedoms and economic power that comes to mind." But, she contended, "Cubans who have chosen to stay on the island, however, are quick to point out the positives: safe streets, a rich and accessible cultural life, a leisurely lifestyle to enjoy with family and friends."
The AP reporter also countered Castro critics: "Many foreigners consider it propaganda when Castro's government enumerates its accomplishments, but many Cubans take pride in their free education system, high literacy rates and top-notch doctors. Ardent Castro supporters say life in the United States, in contrast, seems selfish, superficial, and -- despite its riches -- ultimately unsatisfying." Arrington gratuitously threw in: "Some Cubans retort that a system allowing President Bush to 'steal' elections and wage wars without the people's support is certainly more flawed than their own."
[This item is adopted from a Saturday posting by Clay Waters, of the MRC's TimesWatch.org site, on the MRC's NewsBusters blog: newsbusters.org ]
Thanks to the media blog at National Review Online ( media.nationalreview.com ) for pointing out an Associated Press story from Friday on how Cubans love Fidel Castro and how they find "genuine comfort in the communist system."
It comes complete with a "no, it's-not-a-parody" headline, "Some Cubans Enjoy Comforts of Communism."
Google News confirms that the AP reporter is Vanessa Arrington, a veteran of the Havana bureau. Her story simply must be read to be believed, but here are some choice excerpts:
Park cleaner Froilan Mezquia sleeps in the shed where he stores his supplies and hasn't had a real meal in three days. The 62-year-old also received years of free medical treatment for throat cancer.
In Cuba's communist society, where every day is a struggle but survival is practically guaranteed, Mezquia's story helps explain why people didn't flood the streets clamoring for change when Fidel Castro stepped down for surgery this week.
The reasons Cubans took the events in such stride are complex. Castro supporters say it's because of Cubans' deep belief in socialist ideals; detractors say it's all about fear. Conviction and dread aside, many Cubans find genuine comfort in the communist system, and reject U.S.-style democracy and values....
Mezquia's former wife and four children live in Mexico, and from what he hears, capitalist countries are filled with cruelty, hardship -- and certainly no free health care.
"They pay you more, but you must spend so much more just to live," he said.
Cubans who have left the island come back to visit relatives laden with gifts and goods, symbols of the material wealth to be found beyond Cuba's borders. But they also speak of people working multiple jobs just to get by and of people who don't know their neighbors -- foreign concepts in Cuba.
This after just talking to someone who sleeps in his workshed and hasn't had a real meal in three days.
When outsiders think of Cuba, it's often the lack of political freedoms and economic power that comes to mind. Cubans who have chosen to stay on the island, however, are quick to point out the positives: safe streets, a rich and accessible cultural life, a leisurely lifestyle to enjoy with family and friends.
There are, of course, hundreds of dissidents and political prisoners on the island of 11 million who abhor the system and feel a desperate need for rapid change. But most Cubans would not list political repression among their most immediate concerns.
For all its flaws, life in Castro's Cuba has its comforts, and unknown alternatives are not automatically more attractive. The idea of Cuba without "El Comandante," who has been in power for nearly five decades, provokes alarm and uncertainty -- and a tremendous fear they could lose their way of life.
Arrington throws in a line you may remember your Marxist professor spouting in Political Theory 201:
Many foreigners consider it propaganda when Castro's government enumerates its accomplishments, but many Cubans take pride in their free education system, high literacy rates and top-notch doctors. Ardent Castro supporters say life in the United States, in contrast, seems selfish, superficial, and -- despite its riches -- ultimately unsatisfying.
"Socialism is superior to capitalism. It's much more humane," said retiree Luis Poey, 66, whose last job was delivering food to workers in Old Havana.
These Cubans even defend their system as a democracy in which the National Assembly and provincial and city leaders are directly elected. Assembly members then elect one of their own to be president of the country -- Castro, a representative from the eastern city of Santiago, has repeatedly won out.
Castro's critics say the notion that Cuba is democratic is a farce -- that tight state control, a heavy police presence and neighborhood-watch groups reporting on "anti-revolutionary" conduct prevent any real political freedom.
Some Cubans retort that a system allowing President Bush to "steal" elections and wage wars without the people's support is certainly more flawed than their own.
END of Excerpt
Well, give Arrington some credit -- she does put "steal" in quotation marks. Too bad she apparently didn't even try to get in some dissident viewpoints -- it's not as if your average man in Havana is going to tell you what they really think of El Jefe, dead or alive.
* denial of citizens' rights to change their government
* beatings and abuse of detainees and prisoners, including human rights activists, carried out with impunity
* transfers of mentally healthy prisoners to psychiatric facilities for political reasons
* frequent harassment of political opponents by government-recruited mobs
* extremely harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, including denial of medical care
* arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights advocates and members of independent professional organizations
* denial of fair trial, particularly to political prisoners
* interference with privacy, including pervasive monitoring of private communications
* severe limitations on freedom of speech and press
* denial of peaceful assembly and association
The State Department has 20 pages of detail on these allegations, any random paragraph of which would make a sad mockery of Arrington's story. (See: www.state.gov )
That's not all. Arrington's story from Wednesday, "A life of close calls for Cuban leader," makes "the leader of Cuba's revolution" out to be some dauntless, death-dodging hero of the people (though whether death has caught up to him at last has become more and more an open question):
When Fidel Castro was 10, he nearly died of appendicitis. Since then, he has survived military assaults and even poisoned cigars and milkshakes. Now, two weeks shy of his 80th birthday, surgery has sidelined the leader of Cuba's revolution.
After a life filled with near-death experiences, the intestinal bleeding that forced Castro to hand over power and undergo surgery may be one of the closest calls yet for the true survivor.
The current crisis follows a lifetime of close shaves....
END of Excerpt
-- Brent Baker