A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, May 20, 2005

Some Heavy Friday Lifting

Lots of interesting comments about my Newsweek post. I fear Troy's wish to move on to other, non-media/bias, topics may not happen-- off all the posts I've thrown out there, the ones on bias are always the most commented upon. For the most part I agree with Mojo, who's analysis is very good, and his style is quite persuasive (I'm going to have to keep an eye on that guy. Don't want the commenters showing up the host.). In particular I think this is a key point:

The videos of the brutal beheadings and other murders of hostages by Islamic terrorists have been available on the internet for some time. The Beslan school massacre killed hundreds of civilians in the course of a terrorist act committed by Muslim separatists. This and more has been available and reported, but none of it has jolted us into the realization of who we are facing.

Instead, we continue to have hand-wringing stories revisiting the very few abuses that were committed by U.S. personnel (abuses that involve government cases against those responsible), or stories with unsubstantiated claims of U.S. abuse that are acceptable because they seem plausible. All the while the successes of our forces in theater go widely unreported and the concept of revisiting the atrocities committed by the terrorists and their allies is dismissed as something that would be xenophobic or just stir-up ill-will towards Islam.

I agree that those who fomented the populous to riot in the Muslim world following the Newsweek story are directly responsible for the damage and deaths, but there is a plausible question of partial civil culpability on the part of Newsweek due to their publication of that piece. I don't think that the civil case will be forthcoming, but there would be a foundation for such a case in civil court.

The problem here is that we have a press that won't revisit or show the brutality of the terrorist acts for fear of riling Americans against innocent Muslims, yet press organizations seem to have no problem whatsoever in publishing stories, unsubstantiated or otherwise, that rally Muslims against Americans. If the Newsweek story had been something that caused riots against Muslims in Dearborn, MI, do you think CAIR would file a civil case against Newsweek for damages sustained in those riots on the grounds of reckless disregard and vicarious liability? I think that CAIR would; and Newsweek would settle.

I do also think it important to remember that whether the allegations are true or not is irrelevant to determining Newsweek's culpability. Innocent until proven guilty, remember that phrase? Yet, because we find it credible that the U.S. military may have desecrated the Qu'ran (and yes, it is possible that has occured), one uncorroborated source claiming such desecration is sufficient reason to go ahead with a story on the desecration. That's reprehensible journalism, because A) it fails nearly any standard of journalistic credibility and B) Newsweek had to know that the story would be inflammatory to fanatical Islamists, so they should have exercised extra caution in publishing such inflammatory material. The bar should be higher for publishing such content-- not lower.

That said, there does need to be greater outrage and scrutiny of the abuses our military is perpetrating-- as tc notes. We don't get to claim the moral high ground when things like this occur, and there is credible evidence that it is occuring more frequently then just an isolated incident or two at Abu Ghraid. By all means, let the media report on actual, credible, and documented abuse-- and let those responsible be punished to the full extent possible to show the moderate and liberal elements of Islam that we do live by the rule of law. But, the fact that abuses occur does not absolve Newsweek of responsibility for 1) shoddy journalism and 2) the consequences of reporting unsubstantiated, and inflammatory, content.

Finally, let me respond to a comment I discovered Jack left recently on an old post:
One of you brainy conservatives out there needs to explain to me why we invaded Iraq. In middle school they taught me that America would never invade a country that hadn't attacked us, but now we have.

Why was that again? As I recall, it had something to do with some miss-information about WMD. Yet, I can't help but conclude that we invaded Iraq because we could. that we invaded Iraq because we could.

Couple things. If you were taught that in middle school, did they ignore the European Theater of the WWII and the entirity of WWI? Or did I miss something and, in fact, the Nazis did bomb Pearl Harbor? The Korean conflict was just us sending troops over there after North Korea attacked Philadelphia? Now, you can argue that we shouldn't have gotten involved in any of those wars precisely because we weren't attacked, but the fact is that U.S. military might has been brought to bear on other countries many times for things having nothing to do with us being attacked. We use our military when the President, in consultation with Congress, and hopefully with the support of the majority of the country, feel it is both necessary and prudent to defend our principles, our allies, and our interests.

As to the particulars of invading Iraq. First, pretty much everyone thought there were WMD's in Iraq. The NYT, Clinton, Albright, etc. etc. The fact that there weren't any reflects incredibly poorly on our intelligence services, and if tc, Jack and anybody else want to rail about how incredibly ridiculous it was for Bush to give George Tenet a frickin' MEDAL for heaven's sake, I'll be right there with them. But at the time, our best intelligence was that there were WMD's in Iraq, and to wait until they could deliver them to Israel, Europe, or American soil would be foolhardy in the extreme, given that Saddam had already shown himself willing to use such weapons on his own people.

Second, WMD's was only one of the reasons posited for invading Iraq, though arguably the most time dependent and the most trumpeted. Saddam's continued flouting of UN resolutions and weapons inspections was antoher. Regime change was another. Stability in the region was still another. As was the fact that his was a terrorist regime, whether there was a direct connection to Al Qaida or no-- bin Laden/Zarqawi's terrorist cells are only one faction in this war. Ask all the Israeli widows, widowers and parents who no longer have children whether Saddam's funding of suicide bomers from Lebanon and elsewhere is the act of a terrorist state or not.

Now, if you want to rip the Administration on inconsistencies in their support of democracy in places like Uzbekistan (sp?), there's a case to be made. But the War in Iraq is another theatre in the War on Terror. And, for those of us who have forgetten, it is important to remember that we did not start that war.

THIS started that war.

What does that have to do with the Newsweek article? It has to do with it in that the media, and much of the country, appears to have forgotten that we are, in fact, at war. You can argue we shouldn't be, and that's fine, but we are and we should not be giving ammunition to our enemies. Things like the Newsweek report actively undermine our ability to prosecute the war and give ammunition to our enemy. A case can be made that such a story should never be reported precisely because it will aid our opponent. I think that goes to far-- we need an open society, and part of that society is a free and open media.


If you ARE going to report on something that will have that effect, you BLOODY WELL BETTER BE SURE IT'S TRUE!


One comment at the end. Not only does what you report have to be true, but it needs a purpose. At what point does any need to know the use of the Qu'ran in trying to extract information from prisoners of war. In fact, why does the general public need to know anything about what goes on in the interrogation of prisoners of war, unless there are proven abuses of the Geneva convention.
Newsweek is just another lame media outlet trying to sell magazines with anything they can get their hands on.
And back to Gym's comments about me letting the media off the hook. I do worse than blaming them, I ignore them. And nothing pisses them off more than just ignoring them.
And now that I have Nick, Mojo, & TC distilling all of the important events for me, why would I ever need Newsweek.
I agree with Troy that, along with truth, there needs to be a purpose to the piece published. Unfortunately, in our instant access society, the purpose is usually to be the first to break the big story. (And thanks for the kind words, Troy - I always wanted to be a distiller)

Regarding the abuses by the U.S. referenced in this post, please keep in mind that the NY Times article that TC pointed to is about incidents that took place prior to Abu Ghraib. And even with Abu Ghraib, the military made its investigations of the alleged abuses public record months before the pictures were aired. The press didn't run with the story until there were images that could be used.

Overall, as of eight months ago (September 2004), there were about 300 cases of abuse that had been alleged against U.S. personnel. Of those, 66 cases were confirmed and about 100 more were under investigation. What that amounts to is roughly one allegation every three days since the war on terror started, and that one-third of all investigated cases have been confirmed to be valid.

Considering the number of troops that have been and currently are involved in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Gitmo, that really isn't what I would call a systemic and pervasive culture of abuse. U.S. personnel should not be committing abuse, and they should be punished fully if they do so, but I don't know if I could agree with the concept that abuse is occurring more frequently on the part of U.S. forces.

And as far as the reasons why we went to war with Iraq:

The 1991 hostilities with Iraq ended with a cease-fire agreement that Iraq never fully complied with. As such, the conflict really never ended. It just resumed in earnest in 2003.

The official policy of the U.S. towards Iraq became regime change in 1998 (HR 4655 - 105th Congress; Public Law 105–338).

The reasons that the President gave in his speech to the U.N. on 9/12/02, in the order presented to the general assembly, were:

1. Repression of the people of Iraq and human rights abuses.
2. Failure of Iraq to release and return over 600 foreign prisoners.
3. The Iraqi regime's failure to renounce all involvement with terrorism, and permit no terrorist organizations to operate in Iraq.
4. Finally, weapons programs and weapons of mass destruction.

Authorization for the use of military force against Iraq from Congress (HJ Res 114 - 107th Congress; Public Law 107–243).

Are those enough reasons?
I'd like to address Jack's question about why we started the war. As someone who will never vote Republican, I can offer a different take on the reasons. (Note: I would be willing to vote for a Republican candidate if they came out and said that they would have no affiliation with the religious right, but since that has come up as a plot line on the West Wing, we know it's fantasy.)
Anyway, even though I am not a Republican, I was still for the removal of Saddam Hussein, and the only way to do that was to invade.
I agree with all of Mojo's reasons, but I would also like to specifically address the WMD part. Whether or not Saddam actually had them at the time we invaded isn't as important as what he did have: lots and lots of cash. He had more money than Bill Gates. And there are a lot of Soviet weapons that are in the hands of new governments. And a few of those governments might actually want some cash to run their damn countries. Anyone with his record (killing his own people, etc) and that much cash (enough to make Osama look like he lives in a cave) cannot run around free. And while our friends in Europe may not have jumped on the invasion bandwagon, they're the ones we saved. Saddam getting bombs (big or small) into the US would have been tough. We're half a world away and really don't have that many openings. But, Europe is close and there are a lot of borders with a lot of countries.
They will never admit this, but they're happy Saddam is gone too.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?