All signs in Washington point to an American attack on Iraq.
Before any military action, the fullest democratic urge would encourage a
lengthy debate questioning all the reasons for action and the possible
outcomes. But it's one thing to debate, another altogether to undermine.
Regardless of the congressional outcome, it already appears that
once again the United States will go to war without support from many in the
American media, those who just don't like to take sides against Middle
Eastern despots preparing weapons of mass destruction. Taking a leading role
in assembling all the reasons why war in Iraq is certifiably insane is ABC,
and the perpetually pompous Peter Jennings.
In a recent appearance on the David Letterman show, the
Canadian-born anchor said his mother "was pretty anti-American. And so I
was, in some respects, raised with anti-Americanism in my blood or in my
mother's milk at least." That attitude is not suppressed on the air.
Jennings and his "Road to War?" series have provided a platform
for war opponents, leaving out any of the policymakers outside the Bush team
who favor American action -- including usual media favorites such as Joe
Lieberman and John McCain. They find no public purpose in exploring the
costs of U.S. inaction or the benefits of ousting Saddam Hussein.
On August 20, Jennings wondered, "whether or not the White House
is losing control of the debate about war with Iraq." Network anchors like
Jennings believe they should have rigid control over any political debate.
Their tone suggests that foolish is the president who suggests to the
all-powerful boob tube titans that they are not in command of indoctrinating
the citizenry in what to believe.
ABC would roundly reject that just as they pretend they don't
love pulling the levers of public opinion. ABC White House reporter Terry
Moran proclaimed, "if Mr. Bush wants to move militarily, he and his team
will have to do a better job of shoring up public support." Left unsaid, and
what reporters like Moran will never concede is that if Bush wants to shore
up public support, he's going to have to do a better job of refuting and
resisting the media's totally imbalanced nightly attacks.
On the 15th, ABC enjoyed highlighting Republicans critical of
the Bush direction, from retiring House leader Dick Armey to Bush I national
security adviser Brent Scowcroft. No Bush supporters were allowed on air,
nor was ABC going to ruin the scenario by pointing out that Scowcroft could
easily be criticized for not finishing the job in Iraq the first time
On the 20th, Jennings highlighted sages like the flip-flopping
former UN inspector Scott Ritter and the defense minister of Canada. (Now
there's a powerful man representing an experienced military power.) The next
night, it was time to highlight the opposition of Saudi Arabia, Jordan,
Germany and Russia, since polls show support drops when people are asked if
they still support war if the allies are opposed. Pentagon reporter John
McWethy highlighted how military action could go very wrong without allied
support. On the 22nd, ABC reporter John Cochran told viewers that "even the
optimists say if [war] were to go on for months, if Saddam Hussein eludes
capture, then the cost to the American economy is likely to be heavy."
Do you get the picture? ABC's "Road to War?" series went on and
on, night after night, highlighting every political, military and legal
criticism of Bush war planners. Every viewer should ask: Does this crippling
cascade of naysayers really help us? Would their very thinly disguised
preference for U.S. inaction provide the peace for which they yearn?
Americans need to turn all these questions around and start
firing them back at ABC. Isn't this whole crusade the exact same thing they
"reported" a decade ago, right before the last Gulf War?
On Dec. 12, 1990, ABC was forecasting American casualties as
high as 16,000 in the first 10 days of action, and "few expect the war to
last only 10 days." ABC reporter Bill Redeker warned "American forces could
be bogged down and lose tens of thousands of lives." (The actual toll was
closer to 100, but who's bothering with math?)
In times of terror like these, this is no time for Americans
watching the TV news to buy the fiction that news anchors are just impartial
observers trying to ask tough questions of the powerful. Some anchors are
trying to be the powerful, and it's time to question them about their
strident opposition to the war on terror.