Debra J. Saunders

When mainstream journalists report both sides of racism -- pro and con, with equal weight -- or both sides of having a free press in America, then I'll believe that American media don't take sides on issues, and that there is at least a rationale for American media not rooting for U.S. troops to win in Iraq. But that day will never come.

There are certain issues on which thinking Americans don't disagree. Discrimination against minorities is bad. Period. (There are disagreements on how to achieve racial equality, but not whether racial equality is desirable.) A free press isn't optional -- who would want to live in an America without it?

The same bias should apply to U.S. victory in Iraq. Yes, serious people can disagree on whether U.S.-led forces should have gone into Iraq. But serious antiwar Americans understand the consequences of a U.S. capitulation.

A U.S. pullout would send a green light to terrorists everywhere. It would invite global chaos and violence. If that doesn't scare journalists, they should think of how the news media likely would be silenced in a world that welcomes the likes of Saddam Hussein.

It makes you wonder why leftist media critics are wringing their hands over the embedding of journalists with soldiers on the front and how that embedding might undermine objective reporting.

I can only assume that these salvos are designed to goad journalists into asking critical questions at Pentagon press conferences. Alas for the public, those questions turn out like this one put to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last Friday: "You also said the fedayeen Saddam were onesies and twosies. Do you still stand by both those statements?"

To the extent the media are sympathetic with U.S. troops, solid news coverage is not a casualty. Here's why.

First, the American people are getting the facts. Voters know U.S. forces have killed civilians, that Hussein's thugs have killed Iraqi citizen, and that the fedayeen have posed as civilians to kill allied troops.

Second, the American media are running negative war stories. News outlets have obsessed on Lt. Gen. William Wallace's assertion that the war would last longer than the Pentagon anticipated and, "The enemy we're fighting is different from the one we war-gamed against."

Yes, it's important for reporters to explore the probable length of the war, as well as Pentagon miscalculations. But some journalists frame the issue in a way that all but ignores victorious skirmishes, and focuses on words, not deeds.

Who, but members of the media, would ask in the second week of a war: What happened to Vice President Cheney's prediction that the war would last "weeks rather than months?"

Third, who's the journalist whose reportage has suffered? Peter Arnett, formerly of CNN and now formerly of MSNBC. Arnett wasn't embedded with Iraqi troops, but foreign journalists are embedded with Iraqi government "minders."

While other reporters were agonizing over whether they've been compromised by embedding, the ostensibly objective Arnett was gushing on Iraqi TV that the Ministry of Information granted reporters "a degree of freedom which we appreciate."

A degree of freedom -- as in less than zero?

Hussein's thugs have thrown CNN's Nic Robertson and other journalists out of Iraq. On March 25, Iraqi authorities took freelance photojournalist Molly Bingham into custody. Any more of what Arnett hailed as "freedom" and there'd be a whole gaggle of press behind bars in Baghdad.

In Washington, reporters question whether embedding restricts their freedom.

In Baghdad, a Pulitzer Prize winner gushes about their degree of freedom. That's one of many reasons the U.S. media should root for an American victory -- - without hand-wringing.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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