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Have the Mainstream Media Ignored Our Heroes?

By Cap Weinberger and Wynton Hall

"Why do media refuse to report anything positive about the War on Terrorism?"

"Why haven't we heard more about the heroic actions of our military serving in Afghanistan and Iraq?"

"Why is the liberal media so intensely hostile to the efforts of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines?"

If you've thought or asked similar questions since the War on Terrorism began, you're not alone. Indeed, it sometimes seems some in the mainstream media have followed a single rule when reporting on our military and the War on Terror: all negative, all the time.

After years of watching and reading coverage of the War on Terror, many citizens, including us, have been awestruck by the lack of balance and objectivity exercised by American reporters and news executives. The dearth of hopeful or heroic stories reported has given viewers a lopsided perspective.

Case in point: the New York Times and their love affair with the Abu Ghraib prison abuses. To date, the New York Times has devoted over 50 front page articles to the story! Currently, not a single individual chronicled in our book, Home of the Brave: Honoring the Unsung Heroes in the War on Terror, - some of the most highly decorated members of the United States military - has received a front-page story devoted to his or her valorous actions. Even when Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the best the New York Times could muster was a story buried on page 13. A nation that ignores or worse attacks its heroes erodes and disparages its own ethos.

Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, has catalogued hundreds of audacious quotes from leading reporters and media executives. Consider the following:

"The reason that the World Trade Center got hit is because there are a lot of people living in abject poverty out there who don't have any hope for a better life....I think they [the 19 hijackers] were brave at the very least." - AOL Time Warner Vice Chairman and CNN founder Ted Turner in February 11 remarks at Brown University, as reported by Gerald Carbone in the February 12, 2002, Providence Journal. The next day, Turner issued a statement: "The attacks of Sept. 11 were despicable acts. I in no way meant to convey otherwise."

Headline: "Our Soldiers in Iraq Aren't Heroes."

"We should not bestow the mantle of heroism on all of them [American men and women in uniform] for simply being where we sent them. Most are victims, not heroes." - CBS News 60 Minutes commentator, Andy Rooney, writing for The Buffalo News, April 12, 2004.

"We all know that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter and that Reuters upholds the principle that we do not use the word terrorist....To be frank, it adds little to call the attack on the World Trade Center a terrorist attack." - Steven Jukes, global head of news for Reuters News Service, in an internal memo cited by the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz in a September 24, 2001, article.

"What drives American civilians to risk death in Iraq? In this economy it may be, for some, the only job they can find." - Dan Rather denigrating the men and women of the Armed Forces by suggesting their decision to serve their nation was a last resort during the CBS Evening News on March 31, 2004, the day four American civilians were killed and mutilated in Fallujah, Iraq.

"The other day, while taking a break by the Al-Hamra Hotel pool...I was accosted by an American magazine journalist of serious accomplishment and impeccable liberal credentials....She came to the point. Not only had she 'known' the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the 'evil' George W. Bush would no longer be running her country. Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. 'Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out.'" - British journalist Toby Harnden, a reporter for the London Daily Telegraph, in an article published in the May 15, 2004, edition of The Spectator, a British-based weekly, recounting a conversation at a Baghdad hotel.

"Like beauty, freedom is a perception that lies in the eye of the beholder, and we ignore other nations' versions at our peril. The most dangerous perception of all may be that one's own side has an exclusive claim to either the truth or patriotism." - CBS News foreign correspondent, Allen Pizzey, preaching moral relativism on CBS's Sunday Morning, October 14, 2001.

"I don't support our troops." - Joel Stein, Los Angeles Times columnist, January 26, 2006

"I decided to put on my flag pin tonight--first time.... I put it on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what bin Laden did to us." - Bill Moyers on PBS's Now, February 28, 2003.

As reprehensible as these quotes are, it is important to remember that these are not the banal protestations of the usual gaggle of American detractors like Barbara Streisand, Whoopi Goldberg, or Michael Moore--individuals whose rants are easily swatted away. These are some of our nation's leading journalistic lights; people whose words ricochet around the globe and often set the terms of debate for world leaders on issues of global concern.

It isn't that liberal reporters are incapable of singling out the actions of U.S. soldiers and featuring them prominently. They do it all the time. The problem is that their knee-jerk response when covering the U.S. military is to only portray members of our Armed Forces as victims or villains. Thus when we hear the words "Abu Ghraib" and "dog leash," our minds instantly snap to the now infamous picture of Army Private First Class Lynndie England tethered to an enemy prisoner.

But what about the words "Battle of Tarmiya"? Do you experience a similar connection to a Marine Sergeant Marco Martinez? Try another one: "Burning tank" and "An Najaf"? Does the image of Army Sergeant Javier Camacho leaping on a flaming tank before muscling open a jammed tank turret and rescuing Private First Class Adam Small instantly come to mind? Or what about "the Saddam Canal Bridge" and "lifesaving valor"? Does your mind's eye immediately paint a picture of Navy Hospitalman 3rd Class Luis E. Fonseca, Jr.? Of course not.

After all, these men are heroes, and if you believe, as many in the elite media seem to, that concepts like "good" and "evil" are subjective and up for interpretation, then the word "hero" is meaningless. And that's the problem.

Many in the media find the word "hero" too black and white, too judgmental, too certain of our nation's purpose and essential goodness. In a world where there is no distinction between good and evil, by definition, heroes cease to exist. That's why the quote from the head of Reuter's News Service, one of the largest and most powerful news organizations in the world, is so revealing. It illustrates that reporters of such ilk draw no distinction between the terrorists and our own soldiers. "After all," they reason, "One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist."

But as Master Sergeant William "Calvin" Markham, put it, "When I hear that kind of thing, honestly, it makes me glad, because it means those individuals have the freedom to think and say what they wish....The media are sometimes a little like how some people are when watching a NASCAR race; they're waiting for the crash. They're waiting for the bad thing to happen. But basically I think they're armchair quarterbacks. They don't see the bigger picture of what we're trying to do."

We agree.

Does America remain vulnerable? Absolutely. Will the War on Terror demand continued sacrifice? Unquestionably. Yet as the brave men and women of the U.S. military march forward to defend freedom and fulfill their duty, so too must we fulfill ours: to pause and offer thanks to those who protect us for their heroism and bravery.

And above all, we must always remember the great and enduring lesson American history teaches: "Ours would not be the land of the free if it were not also the home of the brave."

Caspar W. Weinberger and Wynton C. Hall are the co-authors of the new book, Home of the Brave: Honoring the Unsung Heroes in the War on Terror.

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