2. ABC's Charles Gibson Forces Laura Bush to Discuss Prison Abuse
3. "Pictures Shred the Last Good Reason to Feel Righteous" on War
The broadcast and cable network newscasts led once again Monday night with multiple stories on the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal and calls for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to resign as all touted how the International Committee of the Red Cross reports from last year prove the abuse was widespread, not corrected and long-known by top officials. NBC went so far as to air a claim that Rumsfeld reminds one Egyptian journalist of a "neo-Nazi character" and how an Arab businessman thinks U.S. treatment of prisoners "is not Jeffersonian democracy. It's more like a lesson from Hitler's book, Mein Kampf."
CBS's Dan Rather began his May 10 broadcast by trumpeting: "Leading military newspapers today came out calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's removal, accusing him of, and I quote, 'failure that amounts to professional negligence.'" Peter Jennings teased ABC's World News Tonight: "The International Red Cross says the Bush administration knew about allegations of torture and humiliation in Iraqi prisons more than a year ago." NBC's Tom Brokaw echoed that theme: "A Confidential report suggests the U.S. knew abuse was standing operating procedure in Iraqi prisons and did nothing to stop it." Brokaw promised: "The Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal is a long way from over."
Andrea Mitchell pointed out how the Red Cross found that the U.S. employed "physical and psychological coercion" despite, she bore in, "George Bush's promise last year that Iraqi prisoners would be treated properly as he expected Americans to be treated."
From Egypt, NBC's Fred Francis found everyone the world over says that Rumsfeld must go. Before quoting an Arab businessman who analogized U.S. behavior to Mein Kampf, Francis cited a woman he described as "a moderate journalist" and highlighted a clip of her charging of Rumsfeld: "He is reminding me of a sort of neo-Nazi character who's coming back to life and anything which is not American is wrong."
CNN's NewsNight with Aaron Brown devoted about half the show to the scandal, but Brown did bring aboard, via satellite from Washington, DC, National Review Online Editor-at-Large Jonah Goldberg who argued that, given the danger the pictures posed to troop safety and that there was no reason to believe that the abuse was ongoing, CBS and the New Yorker should not have shown the pictures. And now, no additional photos should be released. He contended:
For Goldberg's May 7 National Review Online column expounding on his viewpoint, see: www.nationalreview.com
To give you a flavor of the media's agenda, a brief rundown of the May 10 show introductions and subsequent story topics on the broadcast network evening shows:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Jennings teased: "The International Red Cross says the Bush administration knew about allegations of torture and humiliation in Iraqi prisons more than a year ago."
Jennings opened his show: "Good evening. Two American soldiers were killed in Iraq today. The war goes on. And so, at a much lower level than a month ago, do the U.S. efforts to get Iraq ready for political self-determination at the end of June. The President made a speech at the Pentagon today about the war effort and why, in his view, the U.S. will prevail. But so much of this here and there is still overshadowed by the reports of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqis in prison. The President again today tried to limit the damage, but it is very difficult."
After Terry Moran at the White House on Bush's trip to the Pentagon, Jennings intoned: "A report from the International Committee of the Red Cross, which was first seen in the Wall Street Journal today, provides a dramatic indictment of the process by which allegations of prisoner abuse were handled. According to the ICRC, the Bush administration knew about the abuses long before they were investigated. And the Red Cross says they were an acceptable practice."
Martha Raddatz filled in the details, including how coalition intelligence officers estimated that up to 90 percent of those arrested were a mistake.
Finally, Kate Snow retraced the abuses at Abu Ghraib and how they occurred after it became over-crowded, Major General Geoffrey Miller allowed MPs to soften up prisoners and the 372nd MP Company, which was tired and expected to return to the U.S., was assigned to the prison guard duty.
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather teased: "Tonight, new evidence Iraqi prisoner abuse was not isolated, but was possibly widespread."
Rather opened his show: "Good evening. Leading military newspapers today came out calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's removal. Accusing him of, and I quote, 'failure that amounts to professional negligence.' This comes among new indications that abuse of Iraqi prisoners may not have been limited to a few cases, and possibly started much earlier than U.S. officials have said. President Bush is standing by Rumsfeld. The President today saw for himself unreleased images of Iraqi prisoners being abused by some American soldiers, images soon to be seen by Congress. CBS's John Roberts reports, one way or another, the public might soon see the pictures the President saw today. We caution you, you may not want your young children to hear the graphic descriptions in John's report."
John Roberts relayed how the unreleased video and pictures are "of prisoners naked, being forced to masturbate before the camera and pornographic video of sex between two guards."
Roberts highlighted how "the influential Military Times Group wrote today the Pentagon is deriding 'the six morons who lost the war.' But they are focused on 'the wrong morons. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential, even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.'"
Next, David Martin looked at why Rumsfeld's job is in danger and how there are predictions the scandal will not end until there are high level resignations.
Mark Phillips then detailed how the International Committee of the Red Cross reports raised warnings much before January as last year they documented a "pattern of brutal behavior."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw teased: "Early warnings: A Confidential report suggests the U.S. knew abuse was standing operating procedure in Iraqi prisons and did nothing to stop it."
Brokaw led his program: "Good evening. The Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal is a long way from over. In fact, the worst pictures of grotesque mistreatment have yet to be seen by Congress and the public. But for now, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld stays in his job. For now. In Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike want many more answers than they have received so far. We're going to begin tonight with the President's vote of confidence in Rumsfeld in a highly-publicized trip to the Pentagon."
Jim Miklaszewski trumpeted how "despite today's vote of confidence from President Bush, there are surprising voices now calling for Rumsfeld's resignation. Conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote today that leading Republican lawmakers and contributors told him 'Rumsfeld had to go.'"
Brokaw set up the second story of the newscast: "And there's more evidence that high-ranking American political and military officials had repeated warning about the prisoner abuses from, among other places, the International Red Cross."
Andrea Mitchell brought it home to Bush as she reported how numerous ICRC reports went unheeded and then, "finally, in February the Red Cross issued this report to coalition leader Paul Bremer and General Rick Sanchez, warning that [text with ellipses on screen] 'physical and psychological coercion...appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures to...obtain confession and extract information' at Abu Ghraib. This despite George Bush's promise last year that Iraqi prisoners would be treated properly as he expected Americans to be treated."
Brokaw next announced: "As you would expect, all of this only fuels outrage toward the United States in the Arab world and beyond. And tonight the question, can anything be done to salvage the so-called battle for hearts and minds?"
From Egypt, Fred Francis declared: "In the Arab street and much of the world, outrage has produced a consensus: Rumsfeld must go. In Egypt Marabak Molson [spelling not on screen and so a phonetic guess], considered a moderate journalist [video of her anchoring a TV newscast], says Arabs reject the Rumsfeld apology that still seemed more arrogant than contrite."
Moving on to Germany, Francis passed along this soundbite from Dr. Jurgen Falter of the University of Mainz: "There have to be total structural reform and total transparency in regard to the tortures and regard to what's going on in Iraq."
After a denouncement from a Russian, Francis did at least highlight an Italian professor who said that the U.S. dealing openly with the abuse shows how "democracy has enough courage to face it's own evil."
For a picture and bio of Fred Francis: msnbc.msn.com
Finally, after some unrelated stories, NBC ended the newscast with a story on the power of news photos. Brokaw maintained of the Abu Ghraib pictures: "Already they're an enduring symbol of a controversial war." Bob Faw recalled indelible images from Vietnam of the fleeing naked Vietnamese girl and the execution of the Vietnamese General, as well as how the civil rights movement gained support after photos of police dogs snarling at peaceful protesters in Birmingham. He also noted positive images, such as of Iwo Jima and the student standing in front of the tank in Tiennenman Square. Faw observed: "No, the prison photos are not as gruesome as torture inflicted by Saddam or the My Lai massacre by Americans soldiers, but in the Arab world and at home they are drawing blood, piercing hearts and changing minds."
First Lady Laura Bush agreed to a live interview on Monday's Good Morning America so she could promote her announcement of the 2004 grant recipients from her Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries, but ABC's Charles Gibson focused on the prison abuse scandal and her husband's view of it. Gibson wanted to know: "But does it put our entire effort, given the way it's being played over there, does it put our entire effort -- everything we've done -- in jeopardy?" When he got to education, his concern was about how the No Child Left Behind program is supposedly "under-funded."
The MRC's Jessica Anderson took down much of the back-and-forth between Gibson and Bush in the live, 7:30am half hour interview conducted in ABC's Time Square studio:
Gibson: "But as I mentioned, we are joined this morning by the First Lady, Laura Bush, who later this morning will head to a school in Queens, New York, to announce the 2004 Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries grant recipients....As I mentioned at the top of the half hour, this is a tough time."
Time and Newsweek put the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal on their covers this week as pieces inside the magazines denounced how the Bush administration has conducted the war and turned the world against us and they blamed the abuse on the Rumsfeld-authorized notion that in a war on terrorists the Geneva Conventions cannot always be followed. Time's Nancy Gibbs, after pointing out how human rights became the reason for the war after WMD were not found, declared: "Psychologically, if not in fact, these pictures shred the last good reason to feel righteous about having gone to war." In Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria, a regular on ABC's This Week, ridiculed President Bush's promise to usher in a "new responsibility era" as he concluded, "Whether he wins or loses in November, George W. Bush's legacy is now clear: the creation of a poisonous atmosphere of anti-Americanism around the globe. I'm sure he takes full responsibility."
The cover of the May 17 Newsweek featured a photo of Rumsfeld with the words "Is He to Blame?" The subhead on the side: "Rumsfeld and the Road to the Prison Abuse Scandal" See: msnbc.msn.com
"Iraq: How Did It Come to This?" read the title over Time's cover illustration which consisted of a painting of a hooded, naked Iraqi man, a scene inspired by one of the photos. See: www.time.com
An excerpt from Gibbs' piece in Time, "Their Humiliation, and Ours; The U.S. was forced to see itself as the world does -- and it was painful to behold."
....This "does not represent the America that I know," President Bush said of the events at Abu Ghraib, and how tempting it was to go there. The pictures can't be real. If they are real, they can't be typical. If they are typical, this can't be America -- unless, perhaps, you are Rush Limbaugh, who invited listeners to identify with the frustration the soldiers must have felt being shot at by the ungrateful Iraqi people; so naturally they felt the need to "blow some steam off," to "have a good time." Others noted that there was less outcry when Saddam was doing the torturing, or argued that "they would do the same to us" if they had a chance. When we are reduced to insisting that our depravity isn't as bad as the other guy's, we have fallen deep into a pit of moral equivalence that reveals what we have lost.
You could track the stages of grief, because something precious had surely died: a hope that the world might one day come to see Americans as we see ourselves. Instead, we have had to see ourselves as the world sees us. On the very site where Saddam drilled holes in prisoners' hands or dipped them in acid, the American guards, instead of planting new values, harvested the ones already there. I heard the pain last week of people who had supported the war out of principle, who continued to support it after weapons weren't found and soldiers kept getting killed and other nations pulled out, and did so because, as Brigadier General Kimmitt put it last week, "we came here to help." That meant at the very least ensuring that Abu Ghraib was no longer a torture chamber. Now the front page of a Baghdad paper shows the defiled prisoners and the caption: "This is the freedom and democracy that Bush promised us." Psychologically, if not in fact, these pictures shred the last good reason to feel righteous about having gone to war.
Denial was of little use because the pictures told the story in a universal language of domination. And the perps in the pictures were somehow familiar, the giddy weekend warriors under the command of the traveling window-blind salesman, the boy next door -- and the girl. This time women can't privately tell one another that if only we were in charge, we might all have a chance of getting along, because there she is, Private England, gloating, holding the leash....
What they did was give the jihadists a gift of incalculable value. Our enemies call the U.S. godless, depraved and corrupt, and now they have a p.r. weapon of mass destruction that they will use as another reason to kill any other infidels they can. That's why we look for powerful people to be punished, even out of proportion to their responsibility. Soldiers should not be the only ones expected to sacrifice for the safety of the country. This event requires, to use the military term, an asymmetrical response....
And as for the violation of American values, we must recalculate the cost of the post-9/11 instinct to change the rules we play by, detain whomever we need to, forget due process and forgo the Geneva Convention. If this is indeed a fight to the death, what is it we are fighting for, if not the values we seem so ready to sacrifice on the grounds that this is a different kind of war? There will be other causes and threats, and we will need not only the power to confront them but the moral authority as well.
END of Excerpt
For the piece by Gibbs in full in the May 17 Time magazine: www.time.com
"America is ushering in a new responsibility era," says President Bush as part of his standard stump speech, "where each of us understands we're responsible for the decisions we make in life." When speaking about bad CEOs he's even clearer as to what it entails: "You're beginning to see the consequences of people making irresponsible decisions. They need to pay a price for their irresponsibility."
"I take full responsibility," said Donald Rumsfeld in his congressional testimony last week. But what does this mean? Secretary Rumsfeld hastened to add that he did not plan to resign and was not going to ask anyone else who might have been "responsible" to resign. As far as I can tell, taking responsibility these days means nothing more than saying the magic words "I take responsibility."
After the greatest terrorist attack against America, no one was asked to resign, and the White House didn't even want to launch a serious investigation into it....After the fiasco over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, not one person was even reassigned. The only people who have been fired or cashiered in this administration are men like Gen. Eric Shinseki, Paul O'Neill and Larry Lindsey, who spoke inconvenient truths....
The events at Abu Ghraib are part of a larger breakdown in American policy over the past two years. And it has been perpetrated by a small number of people at the highest levels of government.
Since 9/11, a handful of officials at the top of the Defense Department and the vice president's office have commandeered American foreign and defense policy. In the name of fighting terror they have systematically weakened the traditional restraints that have made this country respected around the world. Alliances, international institutions, norms and ethical conventions have all been deemed expensive indulgences at a time of crisis.
Within weeks after September 11, senior officials at the Pentagon and the White House began the drive to maximize American freedom of action. They attacked specifically the Geneva Conventions, which govern behavior during wartime....
The basic attitude taken by Rumsfeld, Cheney and their top aides has been "We're at war; all these niceties will have to wait." As a result, we have waged pre-emptive war unilaterally, spurned international cooperation, rejected United Nations participation, humiliated allies, discounted the need for local support in Iraq and incurred massive costs in blood and treasure. If the world is not to be trusted in these dangerous times, key agencies of the American government, like the State Department, are to be trusted even less. Congress is barely informed, even on issues on which its "advise and consent" are constitutionally mandated.
Leave process aside: the results are plain. On almost every issue involving postwar Iraq-troop strength, international support, the credibility of exiles, de-Baathification, handling Ayatollah Ali Sistani-Washington's assumptions and policies have been wrong. By now most have been reversed, often too late to have much effect. This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq. It has had the much broader effect of turning the United States into an international outlaw in the eyes of much of the world.
Whether he wins or loses in November, George W. Bush's legacy is now clear: the creation of a poisonous atmosphere of anti-Americanism around the globe. I'm sure he takes full responsibility.
END of Excerpt
For Zakaria's rant in full: msnbc.msn.com
# Tim Russert is scheduled to appear tonight (Tuesday) on Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
-- Brent Baker