May 20, 2005
Military-haters in the pressBy Ed Lasky
The last few years have seen a heightened awareness of the mainstream media's anti—military bias. Plenty of people are noticing it, and even some media brand name correspondents are admitting it. There is plenty of evidence.
The New York Times has run front—page articles regarding the defense forces' putative reliance on unemployable people opting to become cannon fodder by "volunteering" for the military, to get a paycheck because other employers would not hire them. CBS News has run similar pieces. Neither considered anything so mundane as serving one's nation or fulfilling family tradition as a possible motivation for enlistment.
The overblown Abu Ghraib coverage, which enflamed the Muslim world, was the product of an editorial inclination to believe the very worst about our military, and to force responsibility up the chain of command, to the very top —a principle the press never applies to its own top management. Few in the press noted that the military justice system was already pursuing the miscreants at the very time the press obtained photos.
The alleged ransacking of an Iraqi weapons cache by insurgents while it was under Army guard did not happen, and the reports were refuted by the blogosphere, not by the vaunted fact—checking editorial function of the mainstream media, supposedly its key advantage over internet bloggers.
The looting of 'thousands of priceless artifacts' from Baghdad's museum was lamented as one of the great tragedies of historical preservation, until it was revealed that relatively few pieces were taken, many of them reproductions.
Eason Jordan falsely claimed that the soldiers were deliberately targeting journalists in Iraq. After his evasions failed to get him out of his self—inflicted scandal he was forced to resign his senior management position at CNN. Nevertheless, this urban legend of military targeting journalists seems to live on: the President of the Newspaper Guild just last week repeated this egregious allegation. . Apparently, the efforts to help journalist by embedding them with troops has resulted in few foxhole conversions into Ernie Pyles. Much more aptly, too many journalists may have become Dan Rathers.
The recently allegation of the flushing the Koran down the toilet made by Newsweek was also a false report. It may be a tipping point in terms of media credibility and public perception. Hugh Hewitt interviewed Terry Moran of ABC News who was brave and honest enough to admit that the media did have an anti—military bias born of the Vietnam War. Moran stated,
"There is, Hugh, I agree with you, a deep anti—military bias in the media. One that begins from the premise that the military must be lying, and that American projection of power around the world must be wrong. I think that that is a hangover from Vietnam, and I think it's very dangerous."
Moran has it right. This anti—military attitude dates to the Vietnam era.
Soldiers have become so bewildered and disheartened by the dishonesty and inaccuracy of the journalists stationed in Iraq (many of whom never leave the safety of the security zones guarded by US troops) that they have utilized the internet to try to get their perspectives out to their families and to the public at home. Milblogs (military blogs) have also become a source of honesty and expertise regarding the military.
The pervasiveness and Vietnam era—origins of the lamentable press hostility toward the media are confirmed in the current issue of the New Yorker An article appears there by Thomas Bass, 'The Spy Who Loved Us," about Pham Xuan An, a South Vietnamese correspondent for Time magazine during the Vietnam War.
Pham was able to use his position at Time to spy for the North Vietnamese. Among his "accomplishments" was playing a key role in identifying targets for the Viet Cong preparatory to their savage Tet offensive, which killed thousands of people (and during which the US Embassy was attacked) and chauffeuring one of the key planners around Saigon before the launch of the attack.
Pham's cover was never blown during the war, and he was rewarded with a promotion to general in the North Vietnamese army. What is telling are Bass's interviews with American correspondents regarding Pham. Despite thousands of Americans and South Vietnamese killed or wounded with the help of this traitor, the American journalists uniformly praise and admire Pham.
Fellow Time correspondent Robert Sam Anson was captured by the North Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge in Cambodia where at least 25 other journalists were already dead or unaccounted for (left unsaid by Bass were the thousands of soldiers enjoying the same status). Through the intercession of Anson's wife, Pham was able to secure his release.
In 1987 Anson asked him why he was saved. Pham responded that he liked Anson. Of course, Anson does not consider the fact that many American soldiers were harmed through his "friend's" efforts. An admiring Anson, to this day, keeps a photo of Pham on his desk.
Bass notes that almost all the journalists who worked with Pham are united in their support of him. Peter Arnett praises him as a "bold guy". Frank McCulloch, who was the head of Time's Asia bureau when he hired Pham said he was "absolutely not" angry when he learned of Pham's spying and said, "It's his land, I thought. If the situation were reversed, I would have done the same thing."
McCulloch, says Bass, remembers Pham with "tremendous fondness and respect" and says it was a great pleasure to raise thirty—two thousand dollars to send Pham's son to journalism (!) school in America.
Richard Pyle, the former A.P. Saigon bureau chief, praises Pham for saving Time from embarrassing itself by publishing stories that weren't true (because Pham had sources on the other side). Legendary reporter David Halberstam says he has "no grudges" against Pham and "I still think fondly of An. I never felt betrayed by An." Halberstam and the other reporters did not feel betrayed by An because he helped them in their careers by having the inside scoop about our enemies (and in the case of Anson, springing him from captivity). While their status soared, American soldiers were sinking into the swamps of Vietnam.