What’s Wrong With The Media On Iraq

By: Warner Todd Huston

Recently on his nationally syndicated radio talk show, Hugh Hewitt interviewed Time Magazine’s Baghdad Bureau chief, Michael Ware –intrepid Iraq reporter, unquestionably brave — and the result was indicative of an utter lack of support for western moral codes on the part of the media.

I can’t say that Ware himself is an amoral reporter filled with anti-western sentiment, because that just is not true. But his working philosophy, while not directly hostile, reveals an utter lack of concern for what is good and right, what is moral and what is amoral.

He shows several disturbing tendencies that are repeated many times over in today’s media the worst of which is an obscene deference for the terrorists that undermines the Global War on Terror. For instance, he said to Hewitt, “… the insurgent groups study very closely everything that we hear, say and write. And given that we’re within their grasp, one always must be diplomatic.”

Now, I can certainly understand why it would be necessary to be “diplomatic” when talking about the terrorists and their goals and actions if you want to remain their friend. But, why would one wish to assure friendship with such evil?

Now, I am not necessarily saying Ware wants to be friendly with terrorists (though I cannot say that about some of his colleagues) but that his position of being easy on the terrorists in his reporting not only tends to embolden them, but reveals a reporter walking on eggs with evil instead of one calling a spade a spade. How can we be sure that Ware and others are telling us the whole truth if they feel they must be so delicate with the terrorist’s feelings?

Ware also revealed a certain lack of understanding about WWII in his interview with Hewitt that might tend to show his unfamiliarity with “good” and “right” in past eras in contrast to today’s conflict.

He seemed not to know that Hitler was full of misdirection about his end plans and goals in the days prior to all out warfare, for one thing.

“… Plus, there was also a very great understanding about the nature of German expansionism, and German nationalism. Hitler had very much outlined his intentions for a decade before the war. So I don’t think there was any great mystery there. There was no great unknown to the extent that there is here, that people just don’t know what this war is really about.”

This answer misses the truth as Ware had it exactly backwards. Ware seems not to understand that Germany had done its level best toward subterfuge about its intentions for the decades prior to the war. Even in hindsight, it is often hard to connect the dots to see the efficacy for war and it was just as hard for many 1940′s Americans to understand what their war was really about as it is for many today. In fact, many in the USA then were against the war when it started and had every kind of reason not to go “over there”.

Henry Ford, premier American industrialist, was one of the loudest voices against the USA joining the allies. And he was not the only well known American to advocate against the war. So, contrary to what Ware seems to think, war was not an easy and obvious choice on the eve of the USA’s entrance into WWII.

By contrast, Al Qaeida has repeatedly made quite plain their end game. It is far easier to discern the end game for radical Islam today than it was to discern what Hitler’s goals were in the late 1930s and early 40s. So, a choice for war today is a decision that is easier to arrive at than it was for America of pre-WWII days.

He also seemed to imagine that this particular war is so different in that “propaganda” is a preeminent aspect of its conduct. This shows quite a lack of historical perspective. There are very few wars that one can think of that did not have a large amount of propaganda as an aspect of it.

“This is a propaganda war. This war, as, you know, insurgents said way back in 2003, isn’t going to be won on the battlefield. It’s going to be won on the airwaves. It turns out it’s going to be won or lost on the internet. So these things become critically important.”

Such as it is that is true. But, that being the case then his offering the terrorists platforms to spread their propaganda tends to offer them succor instead of defeat. And this is the problem the media has in this conflict. They seem to think that “fairly” reporting both sides, like one might the facts about a case of embezzlement back home, will end this war. Choosing sides is for others, they think. So, they report on evil, without outrage, in their efforts to be even-handed and to avoid looking like they are choosing sides. But this tends to normalize such evil, making it seem simply factual instead of just plain wrong. It is also in stark contrast to even Time magazine’s actions during WWII — the very publication that Ware now works for. They were at the forefront of those forces in the USA trying to win the war against Hitler and “Tojo” with their reporting. A sentiment that is sadly missing today.

Then, when they DO finally choose a side, it is always one that tends to disdain our own people and actions. Why we just need to understand the terrorists, they say. They are just misunderstood, and it’s probably our fault anyway.

Ware also seemed not to know much about Saddam’s reign of terror previous to the invasion, as well.

“… we’ve let a horrific genie out of the bottle, where 50 or 60 people are showing up dead every morning from an undeclared civil war that even the American ambassador now acknowledges is killing more people than the insurgency. Now that’s something that was not here before, yet is here now.”

No, Saddam was killing even more than that “every morning”, only he had the rather sickening sense to keep it all hidden behind the walls of his hundreds of specially built torture chambers. Only Iraqis then had no freedom or opportunity to work toward stopping Saddam’s murderous actions. Thanks to the US invasion, they DO have that ability to end the killers’ horrible work today.

Lastly, I was a bit befuddled by this story Ware recounted:

” I witnessed an event that the Pentagon subsequently asked me to write about as a witness, which is now a matter for the Congressional Medal of Honor nomination. And I am mentioned in that citation. ”

This story that he knew a guy who is getting a medal seemed boastful and pointless. I have no idea what this bit was all about but it seemed to reveal a certain revelry in his being close to battle that makes one wonder if the thrill of battle is more important to him than even getting the story? This would tend to explain why the morality of the situation is not central to his work as the thrill is the preeminent goal, not the reporting. And thrill seeking is not a very noble factor to reporting a war, I’d say… though I cannot say in this Ware is alone. One has but to remember Ambrose Bierce in the Spanish American war or even Churchill in his dashing younger days during the Boer War to remember that one.

In any case, the result of this interview revealed as much about the strange and disturbing propensities of the news media in this conflict as it did Michael Ware himself.

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