Moran Frets Saddam Trial Will Embarrass U.S., Nazis "Railroaded" --12/15/2003
2. Jennings: "There's Not a Good Deal for Iraqis to Be Happy About"
3. Stahl Worries U.S. May "Deprive" Him of Sleep, Make Him Hot/Cold
4. Dan Rather Delivers the Most Convoluted Question of the Day
5. CBS and CNN Distort Audit to Hype Halliburton "War Profiteering"
ABC's concerns: A Saddam Hussein trial could embarrass the U.S., it will be hard to find "impartial judges in Iraq" and Nazis were "railroaded" at Nuremberg. Barely an hour after Paul Bremer had announced the capture of Saddam Hussein, ABC's Terry Moran, at the White House, reminded viewers how for many years the "United States had an interesting relationship, to say the least, with the Iraqi government" as "Secretary Rumsfeld was over in Baghdad meeting with Saddam Hussein years ago" and "there are allegations that the United States provided weapons to Saddam Hussein's regime during the Iran-Iraq war. And all that could spill out in a big show trial."
A few minutes later, Moran fretted about the inequities awaiting Hussein as he lamented how the Nuremberg trial of Nazis was "not considered to be a model of legal niceties. They railroaded, in some respects, those defendants through, in the eyes of many jurists today." (In an e-mail to National Review Online later in the day, Moran conceded that saying the Nazis were "railroaded" was "foolish and wrong.")
In between Moran's two 8am EST hour comments, anchor Charles Gibson worried about how to find "impartial judges in Iraq" to try Hussein.
At about 8:10am EST, Moran checked in from a snowy White House lawn: "What happens to Saddam Hussein now becomes an international political problem for this administration in two ways: First, Saddam Hussein was at the heart of Iraqi politics for 30 years really. He was President since 1979, but really in power before then. And for about 15 of those years the United States had an interesting relationship, to say the least, with the Iraqi government. Secretary Rumsfeld was over in Baghdad meeting with Saddam Hussein years ago. There are allegations that the United States provided weapons to Saddam Hussein's regime during the Iran-Iraq war. And all that could spill out in a big show trial. The other problem they have, although I should also say other countries will have problems there as well, France and Russia, who apparently were telling Saddam Hussein, on the eve of this war, to hang on, will also have some embarrassments in that trial.
Gibson next turned, by phone, to Kanan Makiya of the Iraqi National Congress. Gibson's first concern: "The only problem that occurs to me is how do you find impartial judges in Iraq? Saddam Hussein terrorized the country for so long, it seems to me it would be difficult to find judges that you could call impartial."
A few minutes later, at about 8:25am EST, Moran recalled how "I have covered the international war crimes trials in the Hague" of Bosnian leaders. He rued: "Just a couple of points in the war crimes trials. It will take a long time. The great Nuremberg trial, as it's called, the big one -- of Hermann Goering and the other top Nazi leaders who survived that regime -- that took nine months. And that is generally not considered to be a model of legal niceties. They railroaded, in some respects, those defendants through, in the eyes of many jurists today. So this would take a long time."
On Sunday afternoon, the MRC's Tim Graham informed me, Moran wrote a mea culpa e-mail to Kathryn Jean Lopez, Editor of National Review Online, which had reported Moran's comments about how a trial could embarrass the U.S. and concern about how Nazi's were "railroaded." Moran took back the latter, but not the former:
If only Moran would be so eager to retract more of his biased nightly output.
Putting a damper on any happiness by Iraqis about Saddam Hussein's capture, during ABC's prime time special on Sunday night, Peter Jennings declared that "there's not a good deal for Iraqis to be happy about at the moment. Life is still very chaotic, beset by violence in many cases, huge shortages. In some respects, Iraqis keep telling us life is not as stable for them as it was when Saddam Hussein was in power."
Earlier, Jennings, who spent the day flying to New York from Los Angeles, opened Sunday's World News Tonight by emphasizing how Hussein had once been a U.S. ally: "After ten months hunting him, in the end the man who has gone from American ally to American nemesis, surrendered without a fight."
During ABC's 8pm EST special, Saddam Hussein: Captured, Martin Seemungal in Baghdad relayed how many Iraqis were joyous at learning of Hussein's capture, but others were more muted. He suggested a reason why: "This muted response is really shock, that he went down without a fight. In fact, some people are that while they're happy he was captured, they're disappointed because they're disappointed that the man who terrorized them for so many years went down without a fight. They feel cheated. They're essentially saying that it would have been much better, they would have been happier to see him fight because it would have justified the fear that they had for him for these so many years."
Without explaining his personal contact with Iraqis during the day, Jennings asserted: "On the other hand Martin, as people have suggested to us today, there's not a good deal for Iraqis to be happy about at the moment. Life is still very chaotic, beset by violence in many cases, huge shortages. In some respects, Iraqis keep telling us life is not as stable for them as it was when Saddam Hussein was in power. Is that a factor today?"
Seemungal agreed that many suffer from power outages and water shortages, but see Hussein's capture as a turning point for things getting better.
It's stability over freedom for Jennings.
CBS's Lesley Stahl is worried the U.S. might "torture" Saddam Hussein by depriving him of sleep or making him "very cold" or "very hot." Interviewing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for Sunday's 60 Minutes, Stahl wanted Rumsfeld to confirm: "The Red Cross can see him soon?" She soon raised the notion of "torture," demanding to know: "Would we deprive him of sleep, would we make it very cold where he is, or very hot? Are there any restrictions on the way we treat him to get him to cooperate more than he has been?" When Rumsfeld insisted we would we follow the Geneva Conventions, that wasn't good enough for Stahl who pressed: "Sleep deprivation, that kind of thing. You're ruling it completely out, is that what you're telling us?"
That elicited a classic Rumsfeld response: "I'm not telling you anything other than I have just told you."
For 60 Minutes, CBS put Rumsfeld on the Face the Nation set in Washington, DC while Stahl quizzed him from a set in New York City.
When Stahl raised the conditions in which Hussein is being held, Rumsfeld assured: "His circumstance is he is at an undisclosed location for obvious reasons. He is being accorded the protections of a prisoner of war and his treatment will be governed by the Geneva Convention."
CBS has posted a transcript of the interview, but I noticed some errors in comparing it to what aired: www.cbsnews.com
Most Convoluted Question of the Day. After nearly six hours on the air live, a question posed by CBS's Dan Rather a bit before noon EST on Sunday suggested he needed some relief, which he got a few minutes later when CBS went to football following President Bush's remarks at 12:15pm EST.
Interviewing Congressman Jim Saxton of New Jersey, who appeared via satellite from KYW-TV in Philadelphia, after a question about whether the capture provided a chance to get NATO troops into Iraq, Rather rattled off this difficult to follow question based around a real estate analogy:
Saxton acted as if he understood, but quickly moved on to his own points: "Well I think so, and I think there's another factor that's mitigating, and that is that the effort to organize the EU has hit some stumbling blocks..."
Smearing Halliburton and Vice President Dick Cheney. A Pentagon audit found that a subsidiary of Halliburton, Kellog, Brown and Root, overpaid a Kuwaiti firm for gasoline that it trucked into Iraq, but CBS and CNN on Friday night distorted the revelation into a tale of "war-profiteering" by the firm once headed by Cheney, implying some kind of administration malfeasance.
Over a full screen graphic of Cheney's head next to video of Halliburton trucks and employees with "Halliburton" emblazoned on outfits, inside a video frame in the shape of the United States, the text at the top of Friday's CBS Evening News declared, "Follow the Dollar," as Dan Rather demanded: "Tonight, did politically-connected Halliburton gouge U.S. taxpayers with war profits? CBS will follow your dollars."
Rather proceeded to charge that "Pentagon auditors have found evidence of possible price-gouging and unusual war profiteering by the Halliburton company in Iraq drew swift reaction today," including "stinging criticism from Democrats critical of no-bid, multibillion-dollar contracts awarded to Halliburton for rebuilding Iraq."
But, only after David Martin pointed out how "the appearance of price-gouging on Pentagon contracts awarded to a firm once headed by the Vice President has given the President's Democratic opponents what the military would call a high-value target," were CBS viewers informed by Martin that Halliburton did not profit from what occurred, thus undermining Rather's "war-profiteering" premise. Martin explained: "The audit found that Halliburton's subsidiary was charging $2.27 for a gallon of unleaded gas trucked into Iraq from Kuwait while the same gallon shipped in from Turkey cost $1.18. The audit attributes the $1.09 difference to the high price charged by the Kuwaiti oil company which sold the gas to Halliburton and says Halliburton did not pocket any of the $61 million."
"War Profiteering?" read the on-screen chyron throughout a story on Friday's NewsNight with Aaron Brown. After Jamie McIntyre's piece was finished, Brown demonstrated he had no comprehension of the facts, though his show was making a reckless allegation about "war profiteering." Incredibly, he asked McIntyre: "In trying to figure this out today it is not clear to me, maybe it is to you, it is not clear to me how in this scenario where Halliburton's paying $2.00 plus for a gallon of gas and selling it for four, six, 15 cents, how it is profiting from this deal. Is that clear to you?"
Then why paste "war profiteering" on screen if you have no idea how there was any war profiteering?
McIntyre explained to Brown: "Well, one of the things that the auditors determined was that Halliburton had not profited any more from the deal than they would have if they had bought the gas at a lower price. They got a fixed percentage of the contract with a ceiling and they didn't profit anymore."
In other words, no big scandal. Just a pricing dispute.
Indeed, NBC figured this out and delivered a rationale story without the inaccurate "war profiteering" allegations. Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw announced: "Now to the controversy over the oil-services giant Halliburton. And the Pentagon audit released last night that found the company is over-charging taxpayers for fuel deliveries in Iraq. President Bush addressed the issue head-on today in a question and answer session with reporters."
David Gregory noted: "With the Halliburton investigation threatening to become a political problem for the Bush White House, today the President took a tough stand against the company his Vice President used to head." Gregory explained: "Pentagon officials say the problem may have been that Halliburton paid a Kuwaiti subcontractor for the gasoline in the first place, meaning Halliburton didn't profit from the discrepancy."
That matches what both the New York Times and Washington Post reported on Friday, stories both CBS and CNN producers had plenty of time to read.
In a New York Times story, "U.S. Sees Evidence of Overcharging in Iraq Contract," Douglas Jehl reported:
"Halliburton Unit Probed for Possible Overbilling of U.S.," read the Washington Post headline over a story by Jackie Spinner and Thomas E. Ricks which got Cheney into the second paragraph. An excerpt from the top:
Defense Department auditors have discovered that a Halliburton Inc. subsidiary may have overcharged the government $61 million on a contract to supply fuel for Iraq, a Pentagon official said at a hurriedly called news conference last night.
In another contract to operate U.S. military mess halls, Halliburton, which was headed by Dick Cheney before he became vice president, would have been overpaid $67 million if auditors hadn't questioned the arrangement, officials said, citing findings of a draft audit.
While Halliburton isn't being accused of wrongdoing, and the government isn't yet seeking reimbursement, this is the first instance the Pentagon has said it believes that major contracts for the war in Iraq and its reconstruction have been mishandled.
"We have found some issues of concern that are worthy of immediate attention and we're making sure that that kind of aggressive action is taken so that we resolve these issues as expediently as possible," said William H. Reed, director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency.
On the gas contract, Halliburton subsidiary KBR has been charging the U.S. government $2.27 a gallon to deliver gasoline from Kuwait, while a similar contract for gas from Turkey sets the price at only $1.18, the official said.
Halliburton didn't profit from that differential, officials said. "This isn't money that went to the company," said Larry DiRita, the Pentagon's top spokesman. Rather, he said, the money the Pentagon believes was overcharged went to a private Kuwaiti company that is a subcontractor on the contract. He declined to identify that company. He also noted that during last spring's war, the Kuwaiti government provided fuel to the United States and its allies at no charge...
END of Excerpt
For the article in full: www.washingtonpost.com
-- CBS Evening News. Following the tease quoted above featuring Dick Cheney, Dan Rather led his broadcast, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
Martin began: "A subsidiary of Halliburton, the Texas firm once headed by Vice President Cheney, may have overcharged the Pentagon by more than a dollar a gallon for gas delivered to Iraq. And the President, no doubt hoping to contain the political fallout, says he wants the money back."
From the DC bureau, McIntyre relayed: "Well, President Bush today tried to quiet the controversy over Halliburton, saying if the company had overcharged the U.S. government the money would have to be repaid. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld called it just a disagreement not really an overpayment but the President's critics, knowing a winning issue when they see one, are turning up the heat -- Aaron."
Following the rest of "The Whip," CNN plastered "War Profiteering?" on-screen through Brown's intro to McIntyre and all during McIntyre's story, though what McIntyre reported did not support the "War Profiteering" claim.
Brown set up McIntyre: "We begin tonight with what the Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is calling a disagreement. Others less friendly to the administration are calling it a disgrace. A cynic might say it is simply business as usual. Whatever it is, the question of whether a subsidiary of Halliburton overcharged the Pentagon $61 million for fuel remains topic A tonight for many reasons. We begin with CNN's Jamie McIntyre."
McIntyre began: "President Bush tackled the Halliburton flap head-on, insisting the company formerly headed by his Vice President would be held to the letter of the law."
With the "War Profiteering" chyron still on screen, Brown dismissed the free gas during the war rationalization and then revealed he had no knowledge of what justified any "war profiteering" allegation:
# Barbara Walters is scheduled to appear Tuesday night on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman.
-- Brent Baker