Koppel Expresses "Cynicism About Reasons that Took Us to War" -- 04/22/2003 CyberAlert
2. Fox's Snow Mocks
NYT's Apple for Saying "Nobody" Got War Right
3. NY Times Reporter Reveals How Iraqi Regime Terrorized Him
4. Actor Rick Schroder on President Bush: "He's a Fantastic Guy"
5. Miller Fires Back at Liberal Who Criticized Bush's Praying
Despite being "enormously impressed" with how the "young men and women" of the Army, with whom he was embedded, "carried out the orders of their civilian masters...in a brilliant fashion," ABC's Ted Koppel remains unconvinced that attacking Iraq was the correct policy. At a Monday night forum, he maintained: "My level of cynicism about the reasons that took us to war against Iraq remain just as well-developed as they were before I went."
During a one-on-one session with Marvin Kalb at the National Press Club, Koppel asked: "Was what they were told to do necessary?" Koppel answered his own question: "The jury is still out on that one, and I think that's going to be the subject of long and sustained debate for years to come."
Koppel expressed similar discomfort with Bush's policy very early in the war. As U.S. tanks and Bradley armored vehicles rolled by him in Iraq early in the morning of March 21 Iraq time, Koppel insisted "we ought to take note of the significance of what is happening here" because the U.S. "invasion...was not prompted by any invasion of the United States." He also complained that "members of the administration have been creating a tenuous linkage between al-Qaeda and the Iraqis so that there is that linkage between 9-11 and what's happening here now."
On Monday night, at the forum sponsored by George Washington University and the Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Kalb, a former NBC and CBS News reporter, raised General Richard Myers' contention that the embedding system had washed away press cynicism of government and educated journalists as to the character of those who serve in the armed services.
Koppel replied, at the April 21 event shown live by C-SPAN, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
As recounted in the March 21 CyberAlert, Koppel revealed his discomfort with the Bush administration's policies at about 10:22pm EST March 20, 5:22am in Iraq, from his embedded position with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division which had crossed into the Iraqi desert. After discussing the situation with Jennings for a while, Jennings wondered: "Anything else for the moment?"
With tanks and armored personnel carriers traveling in a convoy behind him at the line of departure, Koppel divulged he had something to get off his chest:
So much for military success changing his mind.
On Fox News Sunday, moderator Tony Snow made fun of New York Times veteran R.W. "Johnny" Apple for leading a story about war predictions by claiming that "nobody got it quite right" when, just a few weeks earlier, Apple had raised the specter of Vietnam in a piece about how the war was becoming a debacle for the U.S.
In a March 30 piece, the former Washington Bureau Chief for the Times had asserted: "With every passing day, it is more evident that the allies made...gross military misjudgments...The very term 'shock and awe' has a swagger to it, no doubt because it was intended to discourage Mr. Hussein and his circle. But it rings hollow now."
At the top of the panel segment on the April 20 Fox News
Sunday, Snow observed, as transcribed by MRC analyst Patrick Gregory:
The top of the "A Nation at War" section in the April 20 Times carried a fresh retrospective by Apple headlined, "A New Way of Warfare Leaves Behind an Abundance of Loose Ends."
An excerpt from the top:
Nobody got it quite right.
The war in Iraq, now in its final military stages after only a month of fighting, was neither as painful as its opponents predicted nor as painless as its proponents suggested. Saddam Hussein was driven from power, at a quite substantial cost in American, British and especially Iraqi lives and with still unknowable consequences for world and regional political stability.
Many things that worried either the planners or the critics of the plan they produced did not materialize. No retaliatory terrorist attacks were mounted in the United States, only a few of the oil wells on which any future Iraqi prosperity must depend were set on fire and the long American supply lines snaking north from Kuwait proved less vulnerable than feared.
It is still far too early, obviously, to draw many definitive lessons from the fighting. Too much remains unknown, not only about Iraqi plans and operations but about such basics as the extent and nature of fighting that took place outside the range of "embedded" correspondents' vision.
Clearly, despite the Pentagon's heated denials, the campaign evolved differently than anticipated. Fedayeen and other paramilitary groups played a larger role, proved more difficult to combat and gave the allied forces some nasty surprises.
Intelligence, as ever, was less than perfect. But allied forces regrouped and regained the initiative remarkably quickly, thanks in large part to a new command flexibility, tied to new technology that made possible the more rapid sharing of data....
END of Excerpt
On Sunday and Monday a New York Times reporter and a columnist divulged the difficulties encountered by reporters working in totalitarian nations, Iraq in particular, the MRC's TimesWatch.org Web site, edited by Clay Waters, noted on Monday.
In a lengthy front page piece on Sunday, New York Times Baghdad reporter John Burns shed some light on how journalism is made in a dictatorship: "Any Iraqi voicing an opinion other than those approved by the state would be vulnerable to arrest, torture and execution. But these were facts rarely mentioned by many reporters." Waters commented: "Burns did mention such things -- and the regime threatened his life."
Indeed, those who watched the CBS Evening News or PBS's NewsHour during the early days of the war may recall his reports by phone for those shows in which he displayed a lot more skepticism about the Iraqi propaganda line than did ABC's Richard Engel or Peter Arnett on NBC/MSNBC.
And on Monday's op-ed page, following the revelation on the same page a week-and-a-half before by CNN executive Eason Jordan about how the network suppressed information it had about Hussein's brutality, Ethan Bronner disclosed more difficulties in covering dictatorships: "A few countries ask your religion. 'Jewish' is not the right answer."
Now, reprints of the two TimesWatch.org items about those stories. The MRC's TimesWatch.org is dedicated to documenting and exposing the liberal political agenda of the New York Times, but in this case the items deal with two very good pieces in the Times which fulfill the paper's promise of quality journalism:
-- John Burns is the Times man in Baghdad, a reporter who acquitted himself marvelously well under wartime duress. Andrew Sullivan, no friend of the Times, thinks Burns deserves a Pulitzer for his work. Read Sullivan's take.
Now, in a long front-page analysis for Sunday's Times titled "Last, Desperate Days of a Brutal Reign," Burns shed some light on how journalism is made in a dictatorship:
"A tacit understanding, accepted by many visiting journalists, was that there were aspects of Mr. Hussein's Iraq that could be mentioned only obliquely. First among these was the personality of Mr. Hussein himself, and the fact that he was widely despised and feared by Iraqis, something that was obvious to any visitor ready to listen to the furtive whispers in which this hatred was commonly expressed."
"The terror that was the most pervasive aspect of society under Mr. Hussein was another topic that was largely taboo. Every interview conducted by television reporters, and most print journalists, was monitored; any Iraqi voicing an opinion other than those approved by the state would be vulnerable to arrest, torture and execution. But these were facts rarely mentioned by many reporters."
Burns did mention these things in his reporting from Baghdad, which is perhaps why this happened: "At midnight on April 1, without warning, a group of men led by [senior intelligence agent Sa'ad] Muthanna, identifying themselves as intelligence agents, broke into my room at the Palestine Hotel. The men, in suits and ties, at least one with a holstered pistol under his jacket, said they had known 'for a long time' that I was an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency, that I was from that moment under arrest, and that a failure to 'cooperate' would lead to more serious consequences. 'For you, it will be the end,' Mr. Muthanna said. 'Where we will take you, you will not return.'"
The men gathered up Burns' equipment, stole some money and warned him that others would be coming for him: "From that moment until the arrival of the American tanks, I lived a clandestine existence, using darkened hotel stairwells in place of elevators, sleeping and working in other reporters' rooms."
END Reprint from TimesWatch.org
Read Burns' 4,600 word article, with a picture of bushy-haired and bearded Burns in a column on the right side of the page.
-- After CNN news chief Eason Jordan's disturbing revelations on the Times op-ed page, assistant editorial page editor Ethan Bronner revealed more details on the difficulties journalists face covering dictatorships -- and the compromises they make with truth.
Bronner explained: "Just getting a visa to places like Iran, Syria, Sudan and Libya is a monumentally frustrating chore. A few countries' applications, for example, demand to know if you have ever visited 'Occupied Palestine,' meaning Israel. If you say yes, you may be barred. Since any decent reporter covering the region has been to Israel, this means being forced to lie. A few countries ask your religion. 'Jewish' is not the right answer. Often a visa is available only during a staged state celebration, like Saddam Hussein's obscene birthday parties or the anniversary of a revolution."
Kudos to the Times for providing a forum on the scandal of journalists trading truth for access inside oppressive regimes.
END of Reprint of second TimesWatch.org item
Previous CyberAlert items on the Jordan matter:
-- Brit Hume's FNC panel denounced CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan for withholding knowledge he had of Saddam Hussein's brutality. Morton Kondracke recalled that last year Jordan had insisted "that CNN never made journalistic compromises to gain access," but that "is a flat lie." Columnist Charles Krauthammer observed: "It's a classic example of selling your soul for the story. He clearly gave up truth for access."
-- The Fox News Sunday panel, from left to right, castigated CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan for his confession on Friday that he had covered up knowledge he had about Saddam Hussein's brutality. NPR's Juan Williams called Jordan's decision an "outrage," Weekly Standard Publisher Bill Kristal described Jordan's behavior as "just craven" and even NPR correspondent Mara Liasson was troubled: "I think that raises some crucial questions about how media organizations behave in totalitarian governments." Read the April 14, 2003 CyberAlert item.
-- More Eason Jordan material: In a memo to CNN's staff, Jordan defended his withholding of knowledge he had about Saddam Hussein's brutality, Franklin Foer penned an op-ed updating his story on how media outlets traded truth for access in Baghdad, on FNC Fred Barnes, Brit Hume and Jeffrey Birnbaum all chided Jordan, and OpinionJournal.com revealed that four years ago Jordan complained about how the U.S. government was an impediment to CNN establishing a permanent Baghdad bureau. Plus, on the very day of Jordan's confession, a newspaper story noted that CNN, claiming it's "independent," refused to mar itself by letting its news be part of a new U.S. government TV channel in Iraq. See the April 15, 2003 CyberAlert.
-- CNN's Eason Jordan on Tuesday earned the condemnation of another major mainstream journalistic guidepost, a Washington Post editorial, which held CNN culpable for not informing its viewers of Saddam Hussein's true nature. The paper's editorial writers worried that "if CNN did not fully disclose what it knew about the Baathist regime, and if CNN deliberately kept its coverage bland and inoffensive, that would help explain why the regime was not perceived to be as ruthless as it in fact was." Read the April 16, 2003 CyberAlert item.
-- The interest in access over truth goes beyond Eason Jordan at CNN. Former CNN Baghdad reporter Peter Collins disclosed in a Tuesday op-ed for the Washington Times that in 1993 he observed then-CNN President Tom Johnson "groveling" for an interview with Saddam Hussein. Collins recalled how Johnson demanded that he read on the air some talking points provided by the Ministry of Information, but then Johnson complained about his "flat" delivery. Collins recalled: "I was astonished. The President of CNN was telling me I seemed less-than-enthusiastic reading Saddam Hussein's propaganda." See the April 16, 2003 CyberAlert item.
-- Tom Brokaw scolded CNN's Eason Jordan, suggesting he should have kept his knowledge secret since the revelation now casts doubt on anything CNN reports. On Tuesday's Late Show, Brokaw told David Letterman that CNN "should have worked harder at conveying" what Jordan knew, but that if you "decide to keep that as a secret for yourself to protect those people and to protect the interests of your company, then you probably ought to keep it secret for a long time because it opens them up now, wherever they go, wherever they're stationed, 'well what are they not telling us now?'" Read the April 16, 2003 CyberAlert item.
-- On the PBS NewsHour on Tuesday night, C-SPAN on Wednesday morning and in an op-ed in Wednesday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CNN's chief news executive defended himself. In the op-ed, Eason Jordan noted that "some critics complain that" his New York Times "op-ed piece proves CNN withheld vital information from the public and kowtowed to the Saddam Hussein regime to maintain a reporting presence in Iraq." Jordan insisted: "That is nonsense." Plus, Tom Brokaw did some groveling to get on the good side of the Saddam Hussein regime. See the April 17, 2003 CyberAlert item.
Add actor Rick Schroder to the short list of pro-war/pro-Bush celebrities. The kid star of Silver Spoons who went on to an adult role as a detective on ABC's NYPD Blue, said of President Bush last week, according to a Washington Post item: "'He's a fantastic guy, let me tell you that,' Schroder said. 'I told him I wanted to help him get re-elected.'"
Schroder's comments follow another second-tier celebrity praising President Bush. As recounted in the April 12 CyberAlert, on NBC's Last Call with Carson Daly, 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. See the April 12, 2003 CyberAlert.
Saturday's Names & Faces column in the Washington Post, compiled by Matt Kane, included this item:
Rick Schroder, the child star formerly known as Ricky, really digs nature. The onetime "NYPD Blue" star was in town yesterday, shovel in hand, taking part in Interior Secretary Gale Norton's national volunteer Take Pride in America program.
It "inspires people to take pride in parks," Schroder told us while planting trees alongside Mayor Tony Williams and schoolchildren in Watts Branch Park. "I've been involved with these issues for the past 12 years because I have a cattle ranch."...
Schroder, who is not shy about his conservative views, also met with President Bush during his brief D.C. stint. "He's a fantastic guy, let me tell you that," Schroder said. "I told him I wanted to help him get reelected."
END of Excerpt
Schroder starred as "Detective Danny Sorenson" on NYPD Blue from 1998 to 2001 and also starred in the early '80s sit-com Silver Spoons and later in the Lonesome Dove mini-series.
His Internet Movie Database bio notes that he "spoke at the Republican National Convention in honor of George W. Bush" in 2000 and that he's a member of the NRA. See his IMDB page.
Schroder had some political company on the NYPD Blue set. On the April 1 edition of the syndicated program Extra, Dennis Franz, who plays "Detective Andy Sipowicz" on NYPD Blue, declared: "I think we're doing the right thing." Franz, who fought in Vietnam for nearly a year, urged Americans to get behind the troops: "They are defending our country. Thank God that we have people in this world that are willing to do it."
Be advised: This item contains slang terminology for an oral sex act. If that will offend you, read no further. This is the last item in today's CyberAlert.
When liberal author/professor Michael Eric Dyson complained on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday night about how President Bush went to war in a crusade of Christianity over Islam as evidenced by how Bush "bows his head to God and prays to God," actor/comedian Dennis Miller fired back with an anti-Clinton quip: "At least he's not bowing his head to watch an intern blow him!"
The exchange took place during a discussion amongst panelists Dyson, a professor of humanities at the University of Pennsylvania, author and Chicago Sun-Times columnist; conservative author/columnist Ann Coulter and Miller. When Maher recalled how Bush had once used the term "crusade" for the U.S. war on terrorism, this exchange ensued:
Dyson: "There's a huge difference between politically being opposed to persons in war and in the name of religion trying to wipe out your enemy who happens to be religious -- whether it's between Protestants and Catholics or now between Christians and Muslims. I think it's a huge difference."
As recounted in the April 4 CyberAlert, Miller delivered another round of pro-American patriotism, pro-President Bush and anti-liberal jibes, jests and slams on April 3 Tonight Show with Jay Leno, including a nice zinger at Peter Arnett: "How am I supposed to trust the honesty of a reporter that has that bad of a comb-over on top of his head?...Hey guess what Pete? We know you're bald, okay? The outside of your skull is as empty as the inside."
For much more that he said on that Tonight Show see the April 4, 2003 CyberAlert.
For Miller's previous Tonight Show appearance see the February 26, 2003 CyberAlert item.
For Miller taking on Phil Donahue on February 3 read the February 4, 2003 CyberAlert.
For links to earlier Miller appearances on the Tonight Show and a picture of him see the January 30, 2003 CyberAlert item.
Bill Maher is scheduled to be a guest on Wednesday's (April 23) Tonight Show.
> Coming on Wednesday: The MRC's report card on network coverage of the war.
-- Brent Baker