Reform The Media

With the collapse of Baghdad’s defenses and the subsequent fall of Saddam’s regime last week, the media has forced itself to move on to new ground. For weeks, news reporters and columnists had characterized the war plan as vastly flawed. In fact, some even went as far as to say that it had failed. Not even two weeks into the war, for example, CBS decided that the fighting had dragged on too long and that somehow our government should be accountable for the notion that this war could and would be won under two weeks. Suddenly, the networks are singing a different tune. An interruption of a March Madness NCAA basketball game reported, “Ten days into what was supposed to be a quick and sharp war…” The CBS anchor then outlined the setbacks in Iraq, as if it is unusual to confront any type of difficulty while at war. The anchor also implied that President Bush has deceived America about the expected ease and brevity of the war and that in actuality, our forces are not making enough progress. Joining CBS in ill-fated criticism of the administration’s war plan, the prestigious Time magazine had its say in its April 7 issue, with an article headlined: “Best-laid plans: The Iraqi army has been neither shocked nor awed. What the Allies missed and how they missed it.” Two days later, Baghdad fell. Oops. That same week’s issue of Newsweek conveyed this statement concerning Vice President Cheney: “Tells ‘Meet the Press’ before the war, ‘We will be greeted as liberators.’ An arrogant blunder for the ages.” Again, two days later, with the fall of Baghdad, video coverage of Iraqi civilians hugging, kissing, and giving flowers to American servicemen appeared on television sets worldwide. The Iraqi people had tasted freedom and could barely contain their joy. Regrettably, such journalistic missteps do not represent isolated occurrences; the majority of the mainstream media has consistently been highlighting the “failures” and “surprises” of the war. From the excessive use of the word “quagmire” in The New York Times to press-conference questions insisting that a new military strategy be implemented, the media—prior to the recent collapse of Saddam’s regime—seemed to have concluded that the war was not going as smoothly as Bush had promised, that resistance was formidable and forceful, and that the Iraqi people would object to the presence of coalition troops. In reality, this war is running more efficiently than perhaps any other war in our history, with Baghdad falling in less than a month and American casualties remaining under 200. An overwhelming number of regular Iraqi troops have surrendered, a substantial portion of the Republican Guard still chooses not to fight, and the Iraqi people are literally dancing in the streets, praising and thanking our servicemen and women. The media’s predictions for the outcome of the war were wrong, very wrong. Fortunately for those reporters, columnists, newspapers, and networks who proved themselves to be so blatantly incorrect about their assessments of this war, no repercussions seem imminent. Since the media hastily backpedaled with stories of the success of the war to cover for themselves, the majority of America will not lose respect for their favorite news sources. Yet the media’s praise of the administration and the war can last for only so long. So, after a few days, such lauds have vanished as quickly as they appeared. Now, stories doubting the presence of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq or the success of rebuilding the nation are ever-present in the media. Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, commented appropriately on such claims, “Those who rush to conclude that because the U.S. military has not confirmed yet the discovery of a [weapons of mass destruction] site means no such sites exist may soon be as embarrassed as those who rushed to conclude the Coalition war plan was a failure, or that the Republican Guard was the second coming of the Waffen SS.” It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that the media will misinform us once again. We’ll just have to turn on our TVs to see.