May 1 2006


News From Nobody

On ABC’s This Week (3/19/06), host George Stephanopoulos asked Washington Post reporter Jackie Spinner how long Iraqis would tolerate the American occupation. The aptly named Spinner’s response: “Well, you know . . . I find when I come back to the United States the discussion of troop withdrawal to be a curious one, because nobody is talking about that in Iraq.” Her definition of “nobody” must be pretty expansive: Eighty-seven percent of Iraqis, according to a poll recently published by the Brookings Institution (New York Times, 3/19/06), want to see a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops.

The Great Debate Must Wait

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews (2/20/06), interviewing anti-war Iraq War vet Paul Hackett, who had just pulled out of the Democratic senatorial primary race in Ohio, made an odd comment: “You know, I, as a journalist and as a person who loves to watch big debates in this country, was hoping that your race would be one of the races in that country we could all watch this November and say now there’s a guy who thinks the war in Iraq is wrong, the wrong policy. He’s taken on the policy. The voters are going to get to vote on this war. Now they don’t get that chance, do they, because you pulled out?” Hackett’s withdrawal means that Ohio’s Democratic Senate candidate will be Rep. Sherrod Brown, a consistent war opponent who voted against the authorization of force; when Brown faces off against incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine, a war supporter, voters will still have a chance to vote for or against the war. But why does Matthews, who hosts a daily national TV show, have to depend on congressional candidates for those “big debates” he claims to love?

Half-Empty Scoop

ABC investigative journalist Brian Ross reported on 1995 recordings of Saddam Hussein (World News Tonight and Nightline, 2/15/06) that Ross said “will only serve to fuel the continuing debate about Saddam’s true intentions and whether he, in fact, did hide weapons of mass destruction.” In the recordings, Hussein talked to his weapons chief (and son-in-law) Hussein Kamel about Iraq’s misleading of weapons inspectors. But Ross’ scoop was a bit stale—Kamel, who defected to the West in 1995, told U.N. weapons inspectors and the CIA (and CNN viewers—9/21/95) about the deceptions more than a decade ago. More importantly, Ross didn’t mention that Kamel had emphasized to the U.N., the CIA and CNN that Iraq had destroyed all its stocks of usable unconventional weapons in 1991. After a FAIR Action Alert (2/17/06) called attention to these omissions, Ross told a correspondent who asked about Kamel’s earlier testimony that he was “completely aware of it, of course. We felt the tapes stand for themselves” (Activism Update, 3/3/06). Ross’ failure to give his audience a complete picture speaks for itself as well.

“Scandalously Obvious”

Reviewing a memoir by former Iraq proconsul Paul Bremer (New York Times Book Review, 2/26/06), New York Times Iraq correspondent Dexter Filkins criticized Bremer for not revealing earlier that he and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top officer in Iraq, thought tens of thousands of additional troops were needed: “To nearly anyone who spent time in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, it was scandalously obvious that the American military, for all its prowess, lacked sufficient numbers of soldiers to bring the country under control. Iraqis knew it. American officers, beneath their breath, often said it.” Filkins charged: “Bremer bears a heavy responsibility for keeping silent— and so does General Sanchez.” But Bremer and Sanchez worked for an administration that presumably wanted them to keep such criticisms in-house; by keeping quiet, they were arguably just doing their jobs. Filkins, on the other hand, is employed by a newspaper supposedly dedicated to printing the truth; if it was “scandalously obvious” to “nearly anyone” that the occupation was understaffed, why did he need Bremer’s help to make that clear to his readers?

A League of Their Own

A piece by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius (3/1/06) argued that “we should say yes to India’s nukes and no to Iran’s” because “one [country] has shown that it is benign and the other behaves like a global outlaw.” Ignatius maintained that “a world where behavior matters . . . forces Iran to demonstrate its reliability so that, over time, it can be seen in the same league as India and Pakistan.” Behavior matters? India has supported separatist guerrillas fighting the government of neighboring Sri Lanka, and intervened to support a civil war in its neighbor Pakistan, breaking the country in two. Meanwhile, Pakistan has supported separatist militants in the Indian province of Kashmir, and provided major support to overthrow the government of Afghanistan at least three times. It’s true—Iran will have to be much more aggressive toward its neighbors before it can fairly be seen to be in the same league with India and Pakistan.

“Lower Forms of Behavior

In an interview with TV Guide (3/24/06), right-wing Fox News personality and syndicated radio host Sean Hannity expressed a degree of fondness for shock jock Howard Stern, but drew a distinction: “The only difference between his path and my path was he was talking about lesbians and strippers and I was praising Ronald Reagan.” Actually, Hannity was also talking about lesbians in his early days in radio; his anti-gay rhetoric cost him a job at UC Santa Barbara’s KCSB (Extra!, 11-12/03). “Anyone listening to this show that believes homosexuality is a normal lifestyle has been brainwashed,” Hannity declared. “It’s very dangerous if we start accepting lower and lower forms of behavior as the normal.” After one of Hannity’s guest told a lesbian caller that she was the parent of a “turkey-baster baby,” the future Fox star chimed in, “I feel sorry for your child.”