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April 15, 2003

What Are The True Facts About This War?

Al Duke

I had to laugh when I saw Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on television last Friday evening discussing headlines about the War in Iraq with great astonishment at their tone.

Saturday’s Washington Times quoted him as saying, "I picked up a newspaper today and I couldn’t believe it. I read eight headlines that talked about chaos, violence, unrest. And it just was Henny Penny – ‘The sky is falling.’ I’ve never seen anything like it." The Times opines that the newspaper he was discussing was the New York Times.

I probably would have not paid much more attention to that had I not seen the lead headline in Saturday’s Washington Post. It read "Rampant Looting Sweeps Iraq." Other war-related headlines included: "In Baghdad, Anything and Everything, Goes;" "Groups Say U. S. Lags on Restoring Order;" "The Medical Crisis: In Need of Help, Nowhere to Turn;" and on a more positive note, "Race is On to Locate Hussein’s Billions."

In the lead story, looting in Baghdad was mentioned in the third paragraph and looting in Mosul was noted in the eighth paragraph. The rest of the early part of the story reflected the fall of Mosul, the possible "last stand" at Tikrit, the deaths and injuries to people who did not follow orders at checkpoints, and the List of 55. The great part of the story of the looting could be read on Page A22.

As an aside, just on a note of reality, if there are armed soldiers telling you to stop, and you have children in your vehicle, or even if you don’t, you shouldn’t get the idea that you don’t like this turn of events, so you are just going to ignore the soldiers. After having a number of soldiers killed and wounded by terrorist at checkpoints, certain procedures were instituted for the soldiers’ protection, and one stupidly ignores them at his or her own risk, and any subsequent results are not the fault of the soldiers.

Anyway, back to the main point. Saturday’s Washington Times led with "Saddam’s Iraqi ‘regime has ended.’" This is a quote from White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. As near as I can determine, it did not make the Post, but I did not read every word of every story.

Other headlines in the Times on Saturday indicate that "Bush warns Damascus against safe havens," "Potential leaders to convene in Nasiriyah," and "Arms scientists said to have fled to Syria." In my opinion, these headlines and stories more directly reflect the significant events of the day.

Looting is well covered on the inside pages of the Times, including the killing by British soldiers of five looters who were trying to rob a Basra bank

This is not to say that the Post’s stories did not need to be told. They did. However, I strongly disagree with the placement and the relative value of the various events of the day as displayed by the Post.

A careful reader or viewer will see the bias in any newspaper or television news report. While I would prefer just to get the facts, journalists and editors these days seem to have to put a spin on a story. The Post is guilty of this, and the Times is not free from it either. This is fine as long as you understand that you need to step back and analyze what you read. My means of doing this is to read both papers regularly.

Sunday, April 13

Based on the 24-hour rule, I was going to "revise and extend my remarks" and then send them in to However, there was an interesting turn of events in the Washington Sunday Times.

A very interesting story below the fold headlined: "Television, newspapers wrong on war in Iraq." It gleefully noted that these commentators predicted a lengthy war and dished the battle plan. Well, OK, "gleefully" is my spin on that article. But I do sense a chortle in the reporting.

The Washington Post was singled out for particular attention for its stories dealing with the opinion of some that the force involved in the war was not sufficient to take Baghdad. Wrong.

Retired army generals Barry McCaffrey and Wesley Clark predicted a difficult battle ahead for Baghdad. Wrong.

Journalist R. W. Apple, Jr., of the New York Times, no doubt following the editorial policy of that paper, was negative throughout, but at the end turned on a dime with nary a mention of his incorrect predictions.

The story went on to mention several other news outlets that made dire predictions.

The Sunday Times mentioned retired Air Force General Thomas McInerney in a positive note as one whose predictions have so far been remarkably accurate.

Modestly, the Times does not mention its own record, but, in my opinion, the Times has done a very good job of reporting on the War in Iraq.

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