Disinformation hits bottom

Posted: Apr 04, 2003 12:00 AM

Sentiment about the war, the economy and the stock market has swung from euphoria to pessimism in only a few days. But Peter Arnett -- and maybe Geraldo, too -- signal a turn for the better. With both reporters rightly getting busted in Iraq, the media disinformation peak -- in economist terms -- has hit a market bottom.

For almost two weeks now, many in the media have spread a message of defeat. The daily drumbeat on the front pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times, picked up by some of the major networks each night, would have us believe that we are losing the war.

It's a Vietnam quagmire, we are told. We don't have enough troops. We're taking too many risks.

Utter nonsense.

The only major group embedded in a Vietnam-like quagmire is the Democratic Party. Republicans and independents are running upward of 70 percent to 80 percent in support of Bush, Rumsfeld & Co. Three-quarters of voting Americans are behind the war.

So, consider this Arnett/Geraldo moment the turning point -- but not exactly the one they intended. These two will represent the media's high tide of disinformation -- which, when history writes it, won't look like much of a tide at all. While the barrages of disinformation will continue, responsible and accurate journalism will carry the day.

To begin, The Wall Street Journal's editorial writers are getting it right. Donald Rumsfeld, they report, inherited the Clinton defense budget, which was slashed to the bone. His resources were scarce, while the military grandees from Gulf War I inherited the Reagan inventory and its massive Cold War buildup of resources.

Fox and MSNBC are providing good war coverage, too. Their reporting is fair and balanced, and, most important, truthful. The same can be said for Rowan Scarborough and Bill Gertz of The Washington Times -- and, usually, John Burns of the New York Times.

The coverage in the New York Post has been excellent. Paula Zahn on CNN has been fair. The Washington Post editorial page has been strong. And don't forget Kudlow & Cramer -- holding the fort for wartime patriotism and tax cuts.

In only the last few days, field report after field report has been positive. A pause, the pundits say? Let's study this pause:

On Tuesday, a full-armored brigade division of the Republican Guard was destroyed as it made its way south from Tikrit to Baghdad. Two Iraqi guard units, after days of air and ground attacks by coalition forces, were declared at less than half-strength by Air Force Gen. Richard Myers.

A legion of maniacal homicide bombers waiting in the wings? More hits from Saddam's Fedayeen Gestapo? These are wartime gnats biting on the elephant's rear.

This week, former generals Ralston and Kernan spoke of American successes on PBS with Charlie Rose. The United States, they report, controls 600 oil fields in the south. No scud missiles with chemical warheads have yet been launched at Iraq's neighbors, they say.

At this writing, tens of thousands of coalition troops are near Baghdad and are tightening the noose. They've crossed the Tigris River, crushing the Republican Guard there. The much-touted Medina division has seen its escape routes cut off. Its attrition rate is compounding geometrically.

Did we move the ground forces in too quickly? Yes -- but this was the only way to secure the oil fields and stop barrel prices from rising to $70 or even $100. In addition, Special Forces had to move quickly into western Iraq to stop scud attacks on Israel. A handful of old generals gripe that too few forces were sent too far too fast, but this new military is faster, more flexible, more high-tech and more geared toward precision-bombing air attacks than ever before.

We're also seeing the enemy for who they really are. The Iraqi regime is committing war crimes by using hospitals for operational headquarters, putting weapons into schools, and placing women and children on the battlefield as human shields. They wave the white flag of surrender only to pull out a rifle and shoot coalition soldiers -- all while American soldiers carry Iraqi prisoners to safety. A picture of an American GI hauling his barefoot and bloodied POW to a nearby medical facility tells it all: There's a big difference between American values and the values of Saddam and his henchmen.

Too few soldiers? Another hundred thousand troops are in the pipeline, including the 4th Infantry Division. They are flowing in gradually, according to plan. Blame Turkey, not Rumsfeld, for their delay.

So let's give thanks to Peter Arnett and Geraldo Rivera. Because of these two, media excesses have been fully exposed. And as the media assault drops in importance, American expectations will rise to a second peak. Count on it. Unconditional victory is within our grasp.