Arrogant Media Blunders
Gulf War II will be remembered for many things, not the least of them being another American victory that left the world in awe, just as America's commanders predicted it would. It will also be remembered as having triggered another exercise in leftwing press agitation, with media armchair generalissimos making fools of themselves with one ridiculous pronouncement after another.
The media's opposition to the war began long before the first cruise missile entered Saddam's window in Baghdad. For weeks on end, with evident and growing enthusiasm, the press played up the anti war protests around the country. In one twelve hour period, CNN ran no less than 38 different news reports on protests. Everywhere you turned, the media were promoting an apple pie "feel" of these demonstrations. As MSNBC's Jeannie Ohm reported back in January, "A growing number of people are speaking out against war with Iraq: students, grandparents, businessmen, politicians, teachers, actors and activists, standing shoulder to shoulder in protest." By the March 3 issue of Newsweek, the anti-war crowd had earned great new respectability with the magazine's "Conventional Wisdom" box: "Old CW: Unpatriotic '60s leftover fringe. New: Not-so-silent minority is respectable, and growing fast."
"Growing fast"? In January, President George Bush's approval rating was 59 percent; by war's end the "growing" anti-war movement had lowered him to 73 percent. On January 23, support for the war stood at 52 percent; exactly two months later the "growing" anti-war movement reduced support to 72 percent.
Typical of the media protest hype was this statement from ABC correspondent Chris Cuomo on March 22: "[Protesters] want government accountability, they want environmental justice" - and what in the world does that have to do with a war on terror, anyway? - "and most of all, they're calling for peace... In American history, protests like this have been prescient indicators of the national mood." Oops.
The worldview of the protest movement, which sees the United States and the president as reckless, if not diabolically evil, regularly peppered the comments and questions of some top journalists. No matter what Bush did, he was wrong.
On March 21, ABC White House reporter Terry Moran damned the president for the civilian deaths caused by the bombing in Iraq. This was his outrageous "question," posed to White House spokesman Ari Fleisher: "Have you heard [Bush] talk about the other responsibility which may weigh on him heavily today, and that is the death of innocents, for Iraqi moms and dads and children who may, despite our best efforts, be killed?"
But here is Moran just four days later, again questioning Fleisher, this time about the administration's decision to bypass populated areas to prevent civilian casualties: "Obviously, the Iraqi regime has mined this [Basra] harbor and that is a wicked thing to do, but the coalition battle plan was to bypass Basra and leave the more than half million citizens there essentially to fend for themselves... Does the administration take any responsibility for the plight of the people of Basra?"
Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Those liberals who butchered their coverage of the domestic political scene will find solace in the knowledge that their colleagues overseas were equally irresponsible in their reporting of events in Iraq.
So who was the most obnoxious reporter of them all? It should not surprise. Just as he was in Gulf War I, Peter Arnett, proved himself to be a noxious embarrassment. He would ultimately get fired from MSNBC for his shameless promotion of Saddam's regime, but not before filing a number of reports that must have made that former Iraqi Minister of Information green with envy.
"Clearly, the American war planners misjudged the determination of Iraqi forces... The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance; now they are trying to write another war plan." Arnett made these pronouncements on April 1. Four days later, the Marines were in Baghdad.
On March 25 Arnett dutifully passed along Saddam's propaganda line concerning his regime's treatment of coalition POWs. "This morning the Trade Minister told us in a press conference that President Saddam Hussein had personally ordered that these [POWs] be treated well," Arnett intoned. "The Trade Minister said Saddam wants them given the best medicine and the best food."
Six days later came the glorious news that Jessica Lynch had been rescued, her poor body broken to pieces by her tormentors, her location provided to the coalition forces by an Iraqi citizen who had watched, and could no longer bear, her torture at the hands of Saddam's goons.
A few days before American tanks rumbled into Baghdad and were met by delirious crowds celebrating their liberation, the April 7 edition of Newsweek assigned a "down" arrow in its "Conventional Wisdom" box to Vice President Dick Cheney. Why? Because he "Tells Meet the Press just before the war, 'We will be greeted as liberators.' An arrogant blunder for the ages."
These leftist activists embedded in American journalism are experts in arrogant blunders.