USS Clueless - Biased reporting from Iraq
     
     
 

Stardate 20031020.1923

(On Screen): In Newsweek, Martha Brant laments the biased reporting about Iraq. The problem is that there hasn't been enough emphasis on American casualties. Somehow, it seems as if it isn't getting through to the majority of Americans that we are stuck in a quagmire and should pull out, despite the best efforts of the press to get that message across. It's clear that more is needed, and Brant suggests that there should be coverage of coffins returning home.

Death announcements are arriving almost daily for American soldiers killed in Iraq. Itís hard to put a weekly average on the number of dead because some weeks there are no casualties. But by my unofficial tally, somewhere between three and six soldiers die every week in Iraq.

And yet, it often feels like the American public has no sense of the steady trickle of killed and wounded. Iíve had some people tell me that itís our fault; the media are not covering the deaths the way we did during the war. Others say itís because the numbers are so small compared to, say, Vietnam, the news doesnít catch peopleís attention.

Iíll offer a different reason: there are no pictures. As much as I hate to admit this as a print reporter, images do sear into peopleís mind more than words. Nick Utís photograph of 9-year-old Kim Phuc became synonymous with the Vietnam War. She was the terrified little girl running naked, covered in napalm. Television images of caskets and body bags also changed public opinion about the war.

Unfortunately, the US government forbids such photographs being taken of returning coffins. Their excuse is concern for the families of the dead soldiers, but we all know that if they were really concerned they wouldn't have sent those soldiers to Iraq in the first place. Obviously it's really a coverup.

But, of course, such images would create pressure on the administration, too. ďRestricting access to Dover is part of a piece,Ē says veteran war correspondent George Wilson, who did two tours in Vietnam. ďItís designed to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Thatís not limited to this administration, but it has accelerated.Ē

Brant is concerned that Americans don't have any sense of the "steady trickle of killed and wounded". I think she comes to that conclusion because if they did have "any sense" they'd realize that we must do whatever is necessary to make it stop, which means to pull out of Iraq.

It doesn't seem to have occurred to her that the majority of Americans fully understand that we're taking casualties in this war, but also understand that it's a price we must pay. It's terrible and horrible and dreadful and awful but also unavoidable, and no matter how bad it might be it is not as bad as what would ultimately happen if we did what Brant clearly wants.

There are people who are so convinced of their conclusions that they assume that no other answer is possible. If others seem to disagree, it's because those others just aren't fully aware of the situation, and must have it explained to them. And if the others still don't seem convinced, then it will get explained again, and again, only louder each time.

It doesn't occur to such people that someone else might have just as good an understanding of what's going on but still come to a different conclusion. Brant doesn't seem to recognize that someone can have exactly the same data but still come to different conclusions.

It amounts to a failure by such people to understand their own inductive reasoning process. Without going into too much detail, induction is not objective, and two people can work from the same data and arrive at different inductive conclusions because they may place different values on different parts of that data. Brant thinks that dead and wounded American GIs is the most persuasive piece of information in this case, and doesn't understand that a lot of us consider other things to be more important. If we don't agree with her, she assumes it's because we don't know that Americans are dying in the war. It's inconceivable to her that someone might well know that and yet continue to support the war.

Photos of coffins might well influence a few people, but I don't think it would have the effect she thinks it would overall. If the press was given access and started printing such photos, and she didn't then observe the political change she expected, I think she'd start lamenting the fact that they weren't permitted to print photographs of American battlefield corpses, just to make the image even more vivid.

I don't want our people to die in Iraq. I hate the fact that it's happening. I wish it weren't necessary. But I also think it is necessary that we take that risk, because I think it would be even worse if we didn't do it. 103 American GIs dying in Iraq is a terrible thing. Thousands of Americans dying in the next major terrorist attack against us would be even worse.

Brant thinks we can get peace by ceasing to fight. I think that if we don't take the war to our enemies, at a time and place of our choosing which is to our advantage, they'll bring the war to us, at a time and place most to our disadvantage. The war won't end just because we refuse to actively fight it.


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Captured by MemoWeb from http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2003/10/BiasedreportingfromIraq.shtml on 9/16/2004