Jennings: Why Is Bush Not "Threatening War Against North Korea?"; Brian Williams Mocks Iraqi Election; Journalists in Iraq Put Access Over Accuracy; Woody Harrelson: "This Is a Racist and Imperialist War"
1) In looking at North Korea's revelation that it is pursuing nuclear weapons, the networks ignored how the deal the communists violated was arranged by Jimmy Carter, a role which contributed to his earning the Nobel Peace Prize last week as FNC's Brit Hume noted. ABC's Peter Jennings demanded to know: "Why, for instance, is the Bush administration not threatening war against North Korea as it is doing almost daily with Iraq?"
2) CNBC's Brian Williams mocked Iraq's "election" victory for Saddam Hussein: "They say the man with the deft political touch combined the extraordinary grassroots campaigning skills of his well-honed re-election machine with selective public assassinations and the disappearance of any high-profile critics of his administration."
3) Why the glowing reports on the pro-Hussein referendum? In a New Republic piece, "How Saddam Manipulates the U.S. Media," Franklin Foer detailed how journalists are afraid of losing access: "To stay on the right side of the regime, many reporters on the Baghdad beat take the path of least resistance: They mimic the Baath Party line." Everyone knows pro-Hussein marches are "a sham," a journalist told
Foer, "'But CNN in Atlanta is telling Nic Robertson that he has to file a story. He doesn't have anything else to work with. So he shows the demonstration.'" Plus, a new MRC Media Reality Check on Iraqi "election" coverage.
4) A fresh America-hating blast from a left-wing actor. Woody Harrelson charged: "This is a racist and imperialist war. The warmongers who stole the White House (you call them 'hawks', but I would never disparage such a fine bird) have hijacked a nation's grief and turned it into a perpetual war on any non-white country they choose to describe as terrorist."
In looking at North Korea's revelation that it is pursuing nuclear weapons in violation of a 1994 agreement, on Thursday night the networks ignored how the deal the communists violated was arranged by Jimmy Carter, a role which contributed to his earning the Nobel Peace Prize last week, and they skipped over how it was a failure of the Clinton administration's policy.
Aaron Brown on CNN's NewsNight, in fact, brought aboard Clinton's National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, to discuss the revelation but never raised the name Carter or suggested Clinton's policy did not work.
Of the broadcast networks, only David Martin of CBS even mentioned Carter's name, but only in the context of allowing Clinton's North Korea point man, Robert Gallucci, to declare the policy a success: "We stopped a huge plutonium production program that would by now have been producing roughly 30 nuclear weapons worth of plutonium a year."
Only FNC's Brit Hume honed in on Carter's failure, noting on the October 17 Special Report with Brit Hume:
"The revelation that North Korea has a nuclear weapons program under way comes only days after the Nobel Prize was awarded to former President Jimmy Carter, in part because of the assurances he got from North Korea on its nuclear program back in 1994. They were seen at the time as defusing a crisis that could have led to war. As Leon Sigal, author of a book on nuclear diplomacy with North Korea, put it, quote, 'Carter had obtained Kim Il Sung's personal pledge to freeze North Korea's nuclear program. Sigal called the Carter visit, quote, 'a triumph.'"
ABC's Peter Jennings, meanwhile fretted about why President Bush is more concerned with Iraq and had suppressed his knowledge of North Korea's nuclear efforts. Jennings contrasted the two nations, noting how "North Korea's nuclear program is very advanced, certainly more advanced than Iraq's" and how "the Bush administration has known this for some time." Which sounds like months or years when it was for less than two weeks.
Jennings soon demanded: "Why, for instance, is the Bush administration not threatening war against North Korea as it is doing almost daily with Iraq?"
Brian Williams pursued a similar line on his CNBC program: "North Korea could put an ICBM in the middle of Central Park if they wanted to probably. Iraq could do nothing of the sort. Why then does the White House say Iraq is the clear and substantial priority here?"
More details on the ABC, CBS and CNBC coverage on Thursday night, October 17:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings intoned up top:
"As the Bush administration threatens to attack Iraq, it also confronts a nuclear crisis in Asia, acknowledging that North Korea's nuclear program is very advanced, certainly more advanced than Iraq's. And that the United States, the Bush administration, has known this for some time."
Following a story by Martha Raddatz on North Korea's nuclear program, Jennings insisted: ""These revelations raise all sorts of questions. Why, for instance, is the Bush administration not threatening war against North Korea as it is doing almost daily with Iraq?"
Terry Moran answered from the White House: "Well Peter, the short answer, or one short answer to your question is the administration believes Iraq is much more dangerous. But it is true the Bush administration has know for 13 days of North Korea's admission of its secret weapons programs. The President and his team kept it quiet and did not want to see it revealed."
The on-screen graphic as Moran began his piece: "Double Standard?"
Moran did go on to outline the administration's view that Iraq is unique because it has launched wars and has already used weapons of mass destruction.
-- CBS Evening News. David Martin recalled, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The last time the U.S. discovered a secret nuclear project in North Korea, it almost led to war. In 1994, then-President Clinton was prepared to launch airstrikes to prevent North Korea from reprocessing nuclear fuel rods into weapons grade plutonium. Robert Gallucci, the Clinton administration's point man on North Korea, says the President was being briefed on the military options when a call came in from Jimmy Carter."
Robert Gallucci, Georgetown School of Foreign Service: "In the midst of that presentation, literally, former President Jimmy Carter telephoned from Pyongyang where he had been meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Il Sung to say that there was a possible way out of this."
Martin: "The way out was an agreement in which North Korea put the spent fuel rods under seal in return for billions of dollars in aid."
Gallucci: "We stopped a huge plutonium production program that would by now have been producing roughly 30 nuclear weapons worth of plutonium a year."
-- CNBC's The News with Brian Williams. After a piece by Andrea Mitchell which did not mention Clinton or Carter, the same story which ran on NBC Nightly News, Williams asked about the impact on Bush policy: "The administration sure didn't need this and they sure didn't ask for it. And how does it complicate things now, especially given this resolution the President asked for from Congress on another front?"
Mitchell replied: "Well, in fact, I've been told that it not only complicates their efforts against Iraq, it will certainly undercut their arguments with some aspects of political leaders both here and abroad as well as the American public, but that the administration deliberately kept this under wraps for 12 days because they wanted to get that congressional resolution first. They wanted to win the passage first, and they didn't want this to be out. So they waited, they kept it quiet, there were no leaks, that's certainly a landmark feature of this White House, and then they finally had to confront the North Koreans and admit it to the American public."
Turning to Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank, Williams
posed what he labeled a "devil's advocate question." Williams wanted to know: "You've got an army that's among the largest in the world. North Korea could put an ICBM in the middle of Central Park if they wanted to probably. Iraq could do nothing of the sort. Why then does the White House say Iraq is the clear and substantial priority here?"
Brian Williams mocked the Iraqi "election" in his closing comments on Thursday's The News with Brian Williams on CNBC. He took it much less seriously than have a lot of journalists for major media outlets, including stories by NBC's Keith Miller carried earlier in the week on his CNBC show.
For examples of how reporters treated the election as legitimate and played into Iraqi propaganda efforts by showing Iraqis celebrating and denigrating President Bush, refer to:
But not Williams on Thursday night, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth noticed. Williams wrapped up his October 17 program:
"And a bit of a last word before we go here tonight. They are still celebrating heartily at 'Hussein for President Headquarters' in Baghdad after their stunning reelection victory. This morning's New York Times reports that with 100 percent of precincts reporting in, that it looks like Saddam in the clear re-election victory for another term as Iraqi dictator. The vote tally so far, Saddam: 11,425,638 votes. Opponents: 0.
"It was only after learning the margin of victory was assured that the 'Hussein for President' campaign claimed victory. After Saddam was able to garner 100 percent of the vote, the Times called it, and I am quoting, 'the most extraordinary electoral performance ever claimed by one of the Arab world's autocratic leaders.' That is an endorsement any candidate can be proud of -- autocrat or democrat.
"How did Saddam cobble together such an impressive coalition of voters in his ride to victory? Analysts say by appealing to his political base: frightened Iraqis who prefer to call him 'President for Life.' They say the man with the deft political touch combined the extraordinary grassroots campaigning skills of his well-honed re-election machine with selective public assassinations and the disappearance of any high-profile critics of his administration. And so his name remains on the letterhead in Iraq. It'll be Saddam for the next seven years at least."
How journalists cover the Iraqi vote will determine if they are allowed to remain in Iraq, Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Slackman revealed, a concern which may have influenced how journalists reported on the "referendum."
Indeed, in a piece for next week's New Republic, "How Saddam Manipulates the U.S. Media," Franklin Foer detailed how Western journalists are afraid of reporting anything that will upset the regime for fear of losing access.
The October 17 CyberAlert quoted the October 15 Los Angeles Times story, but I didn't read deep enough to catch an illuminating paragraph. The MRC's Rich Noyes did and put it into a Media Reality Check report, "Impressed by Sick Distortion of Democracy; ABC's Wright: It's 'Impossible to Say' If 11,440,638 to
Zero Results 'True Measure' of Iraqi Opinion."
LA Times reporter Michael Slackman reported from Baghdad:
"Hundreds of journalists, routinely denied visas, have been allowed in to report on the referendum. But a message has been delivered that reentry to Iraq may depend on how the vote is covered."
For the October 17 Media Reality Check:
The MRC has also created a "Media War Watch" page which features the best of the MRC's documentation of skewed reporting on he U.S. policy toward Iraq. See everything in one place at:
An excerpt from the very illuminating 3,500 word article in the October 28 edition of the New Republic by Associate Editor Franklin Foer (ellipses within quotes as in original):
If the bombs begin falling on Baghdad, a broad swath of the TV-viewing world will quickly become intimate with Jane Arraf, CNN's Iraq correspondent for the past four years. Arraf files her reports from the third-floor landing of a blocky white building a few hundred meters from the Tigris River, with the ancient city's minaret-filled panorama behind her. CNN shares the building with the BBC, Associated Press, Reuters, and the handful of other news organizations that have a permanent presence in Baghdad. But there's an uncomfortable fact about this building to which these tenants don't often call attention: It's the Iraqi Ministry of Information.
About six floors above Arraf's set, not far from her office, sits the ministry's monitoring section, where rows of apparatchiks in headphones listen to recordings of Western broadcasts from Iraq. One TV reporter who glimpsed the operation four years ago describes the listeners transcribing the tapes by hand, with passages critical of the regime written in red. The ministry stores the transcripts in files, which are pulled out and analyzed when journalists apply for visas....
In October 1995, ABC News' Sheila MacVicar filed a story from Baghdad on Iraq's presidential referendum. Iraqis generally consider it too risky to speak honestly to a reporter from American television, but MacVicar had come across a rare moment of dissent. As Iraqis lined up to cast their votes, they flashed MacVicar their ration cards, which guarantee them a supply of government-issued food. The point was clear: In exchange for their votes, officials stamped the cards. When MacVicar filed her story, she reported this small current of rebellion and called the forthcoming referendum results -- 99.96 percent for Saddam -- a fiction....
After her referendum report, however, that shuttling abruptly ended. She stopped receiving responses to her visa requests....
Desperate to get MacVicar back to Baghdad, ABC sent a fixer...After several trips to Baghdad, the fixer reported that MacVicar had been placed on a blacklist, but an arrangement could be made: MacVicar could return if she sent a letter apologizing for "her rude treatment of His Excellency." MacVicar hedged. She wrote that she "apologized if there was offense found." A few months later she was allowed to return to Iraq.
MacVicar is not alone. Visas are the Ministry of Information's primary tools for controlling foreign journalists. Even correspondents for CNN and the BBC, which maintain permanent offices in Baghdad, must continually apply for visas, which typically last only two weeks....
In Iraq...high-ranking network functionaries endlessly court the Ministry of Information so they will be well-positioned when they need to get their reporters in. (Media executives not on news-gathering missions get visas much more easily.) This month -- in preparation for the impending war -- Fox News Senior Vice President John Moody made the pilgrimage. And nobody has schmoozed the ministry harder than the head of CNN's News Group, Eason Jordan, who has traveled to Baghdad twelve times since the Gulf war. In part these trips consist of network execs setting up meetings with Iraqi officials to try to persuade them that the networks are not sending CIA stooges. And in part they consist of network execs promising the Iraqi regime that they will cover its propaganda. "[The Iraqis] make it clear that you must attend if you hope to get future visas," one cameraman told me. That may explain why earlier this spring Tom Brokaw drove eleven hours through the desert to broadcast live from Baghdad on the eve of Saddam's sixty-fifth birthday -- and why dozens of top correspondents covered this week's presidential referendum, even though every journalist considers the event a sham.
The networks make these concessions because the alternative is no access. Jordan says the Iraqis have shut down CNN's Baghdad bureau on at least five occasions since the Gulf war, at times when they deemed CNN reports to be too critical. Currently, three of the network's correspondents -- Wolf Blitzer, Richard Roth, and Christiane Amanpour -- are banned from obtaining visas....
If you are lucky enough to gain a visa to report in Iraq, you also receive a minder, an English-speaking government shadow who is required by the regime and will cost you at least $100 per day....
It's the minder who enforces the Ministry of Information's will. When a TV crew wants to shoot footage, even of one of the many Saddam murals and statues, the reporters must get a letter of permission from the information ministry....
According to the ex-Iraqi intelligence officer, even when the minder is out of sight, officials are watching all the time. His six-page memo refers constantly to the journalist as hadef ("target"). He writes, "Put the target under secretive surveillance. This will be used to gather information against him or find him doing something he's not supposed to. Prepare plans to make him fail, or seduce him to do things....One effective way is though sexual relations."...
Sometimes the officials go beyond angry lectures. According to a network source, on about four separate occasions in 1996 the Iraqis roused MacVicar from her hotel room at 2 a.m. and drove her to the Ministry of Information, where officials screamed that she was working for the CIA. The French documentary filmmaker Joel Soler told me how his minder took him to a hospital, ostensibly to examine the effects of sanctions, but then called in a nurse with a long needle. "He said, 'Now we'll do a series of blood tests.'" Soler jumped on the table screaming: "I said, 'I'm calling my ambassador.' If I'd been American, forget about it."...
To stay on the right side of the regime, many reporters on the Baghdad beat take the path of least resistance: They mimic the Baath Party line. Lacking other stories, they go along with government-arranged tours -- most popularly to the leukemia ward at Saddam Central Children's Hospital, where doctors recount the horrors of sanctions, and to the Martyr's Monument, a Baghdad memorial to 400 women and children accidentally killed by an American missile during the Gulf war. ("They revel in pointing out the pieces of charred flesh on the wall," says Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune.) The Iraqis also load up buses of foreign journalists for tours of alleged weapons sites or street protests. But the demonstrations aren't terribly convincing. One journalist described to me an anti-American demonstration held last April in Baghdad to celebrate Saddam's sixty-fifth birthday. She saw the same high school students pass by several times, simulating an endless stream of angry protesters.....
"Everyone knows they're a sham," says the journalist. "But CNN in Atlanta is telling Nic Robertson that he has to file a story. He doesn't have anything else to work with. So he shows the demonstration."
Nobody better exemplifies this go-along-to-get-along reporting strategy than the dean of Western reporters in Baghdad, Arraf. In a segment last month, answering viewer phone calls, Arraf rebutted the charge that Saddam's vanity construction projects have diverted money that could have been used to feed his starving people. Sanctions, she said, have "tied his hands in some respects." Later in the same segment, repeating Saddam's constant refrain, she told viewers, "If there's been anything that's been essentially agreed over the last decade, it's been that the sanctions that are in place, held in place by the U.N. and U.S., haven't been working."...
There's nothing unusual about reporters ingratiating themselves to a source. But Arraf's beat sweeteners are a little hard to swallow. Last year she ran a story on the tenth anniversary of the Gulf war that included this nearly congratulatory section on Saddam: "He, too, endures. More than a symbol, a powerful force who has survived three major U.S.-led attacks since the Gulf war, bombing, and plots to depose him. At 63, the president mocks rumors he is ill. Not just standing tall but building up. As soon as the dust settled from the Gulf war, and the bodies were buried, Iraq began rebuilding."...
In fact, even Arraf herself seems to know that what she is saying is probably bunk. Last March she published a piece in London's Daily Telegraph (which the Iraqi Ministry of Information apparently missed), in which she outlined the near impossibility of reporting honestly on Saddam's regime. She wrote, "People in the streets are not allowed to talk to television journalists; or rather, the journalists are not allowed to talk to them. 'Why do you want to ask them political questions? They are not qualified to answer,' an official said....More than most countries, there is a wide gap in Iraq between what people profess in public for their own safety and what they say in private." Nonetheless, Arraf still frequently includes in her CNN reports, without qualification or caveat, footage of Iraqi people condemning the United States and lauding their leader.
Many of Arraf's colleagues commit the same egregious errors, treating regime-organized demonstrations as if they were genuine expressions of public opinion. NBC's man in Iraq, Ron Allen, filed a report from Saddam's birthday bash last April that noted, "[T]he huge crowds in the streets suggest Saddam still has firm control of his country. Iraqi officials defiantly insist the celebration sends a clear message, especially to the U.S., that the people will stand behind their leader."...
In part, reporters spin these bogus tours into stories because the risks of airing meaningful material are just too high. A TV journalist told me about the time he interviewed a respected Baghdad politico on camera. The journalist was shocked by his subject's candid criticisms of the government. But as the reporter left the interview, his minder told him, "I can't tell you what to do. But if he says that on camera, he'll be in severe trouble -- and so will I." Worried about putting lives at risk, the journalists never aired his footage....
There are alternatives to mindlessly reciting Baghdad's spin. Instead of desperately trying to keep their Baghdad offices open, the networks could scour Kurdistan and Jordan, where there are many recently arrived Iraqis who can talk freely. "Amman is the place to find out what's really going on in Iraq," says ex-CIA officer Robert Baer, who spent the mid-'90s working in and around Iraq. (To CNN's credit, it has sent reporter Brent Sadler to Kurdistan despite Baghdad's furious objections.) Or they could use their access to depict the harsh realities of life under Saddam -- even if it means never returning to Iraq. It's a method used by Soler in his documentary Uncle Saddam, to be aired on Cinemax next month. After spending a month ingratiating himself with Saddam's entourage, Soler convinced the Iraqis to grant him camera time with His Excellency's inner circle. His film shows Saddam to be a lunatic, devoid of morality or humanity...."I don't need a relationship with Iraq," he explains of his decision to bare all. "It was my one shot. Every day it was how can I push the limits."...
When I asked CNN's Jordan to explain why his network is so devoted to maintaining a perpetual Baghdad presence, he listed two reasons: "First, because it's newsworthy; second, because there's an expectation that if anybody is in Iraq, it will be CNN." His answer reveals the fundamental attitude of most Western media: Access to Baghdad is an end in itself, regardless of the intellectual or moral caliber of the journalism such access produces. An old journalistic aphorism holds "access is a curse." The Iraqi experience proves it can be much worse than that.
END of Excerpt
For the lengthy article in full:
A fresh America-hating blast from a left-wing actor. Woody Harrelson, best-known as "Woody Boyd" the dopey bartender on Cheers in the 1980s, charged in an opinion piece about Iraq for the London newspaper The Guardian:
"This is a racist and imperialist war. The warmongers who stole the White House (you call them 'hawks', but I would never
disparage such a fine bird) have hijacked a nation's grief and turned it into a perpetual war on any non-white country they
choose to describe as terrorist."
On Thursday night FNC's Brit Hume highlighted Harrelson's vicious polemic.
"I'm an American tired of American lies" read the headline over the October 17 attack by Harrelson who, ironically, was born in Midland, Texas in 1961 -- a time when George H.W. Bush and his son, George W., were fellow residents. (Harrelson grew up in Ohio.) Harrelson is in London to act in a play.
An excerpt from Harrelson's tirade in which he preposterously claimed that 50 percent of U.S. government spending goes toward making war and that the U.S. has killed a million Iraqis since 1991:
....We've killed a million Iraqis since the start of the Gulf war -- mostly by blocking humanitarian aid. Let's stop now....
Probably I should just relax, be happy and talk about the weather, but this war is under my skin -- it affects my sleep....
I went to the White House when Harvey Weinstein was showing Clinton the movie Welcome to Sarejevo, which I was in. I got a few moments alone with Clinton. Saddam throwing out the weapons inspectors was all over the news and I asked what he was going to do. His answer was very revealing. He said: "Everybody is telling me to bomb him. All the military are saying, 'You gotta bomb him.' But if even one innocent person died, I couldn't bear it." And I looked in his eyes and I believed him. Little did I know he was blocking humanitarian aid at the time, allowing the deaths of thousands of innocent people.
I am a father, and no amount of propaganda can convince me that half a million dead children is acceptable "collateral damage". The fact is that Saddam Hussein was our boy. The CIA helped him to power, as they did the Shah of Iran and Noriega and Marcos and the Taliban and countless other brutal tyrants....
This is a racist and imperialist war. The warmongers who stole the White House (you call them "hawks", but I would never disparage such a fine bird) have hijacked a nation's grief and turned it into a perpetual war on any non-white country they choose to describe as terrorist.
To the men in Washington, the world is just a giant Monopoly
board. Oddly enough, Americans generally know how the government works. The politicians do everything they can for the people -- the people who put them in power. The giant industries that are polluting our planet as well as violating human rights worldwide are the ones nearest and dearest to the hearts of American politicians....
I read in a paper here about a woman who held out the part of her taxes that would go to the war effort. Something like 17%. I like that idea, though in the US it would have to be more like 50%. If you consider money as a form of energy, then we see half our taxes and half the US government's energy focused on war and weapons of mass destruction. Over the past 30 years, this amounts to more than ten trillion dollars. Imagine that money going to preserving rainforest or contributing to a sustainable economy (as opposed to the dinosaur tit we are currently in the process of sucking dry)....
END of Excerpt
For the entire diatribe:
For a picture and bio of Harrelson, see his Internet Movie Database page:
For more examples of left-wing rantings from celebrities, check out the new "Celebrities on Politics and War" page compiled by the MRC's Tim Jones:
> Speaking of liberal celebrities, the liberal co-host of CNN's Crossfire tonight will be actor Ron Silver, who now plays a political strategist on NBC's The West Wing, a show which, like Crossfire, is owned and produced by AOL Time Warner. -- Brent Baker
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