Gazette deleted passages critical of Bush from Baltimore Sun article about Iraq Study Group report

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

The Gazette published a December 7 article from The (Baltimore) Sun about the Iraq Study Group report, but the Colorado Springs newspaper omitted numerous passages from the original article that detailed the report's criticism of the Bush administration and described the escalating violence in Iraq.

On December 7, The Gazette of Colorado Springs (accessed through the newspaper's electronic edition) published an article from The (Baltimore) Sun about the December 6 Iraq Study Group report, but it edited out sentences and paragraphs critical of the Bush administration, as well as information about the escalating violence in Iraq. The Gazette -- which published The Sun article as the lead story on the front page -- also edited out a reference to newly confirmed U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates "acknowledging that the United States is not winning the war" and removed any mention of the administration's "spin" on the report's findings. Moreover, in its version of the article, The Gazette omitted the report's statement that "[m]ost of the region's countries are wary of U.S. efforts to promote democracy in Iraq and the Middle East."

In the original version of the December 7 Sun article, reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis wrote, "The 10-member panel, co-chaired by former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, a Democrat, offered a bleak assessment of the situation in Iraq, in stark contrast to Bush's own declarations about the war." That sentence, as it appeared in The Gazette, read: "The 10-member panel, cochaired by former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, D-Ind., offered a bleak assessment of Iraq."

Although The Gazette included the original article's assertion that the report "was a strong rebuke to the president's approach in Iraq," it omitted two paragraphs from the original version about the White House's claim that the Iraq Study Group's report was not "in any way a rebuke of Bush's policies":

The White House scrambled to put its own spin on the document, elements of which had leaked out in news reports before the official release. Many of the recommendations were things the president supports or has already called for, his aides said, and they strongly rejected the notion that it was in any way a rebuke of Bush's policies.

"It's an acknowledgement of reality," Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said of the report. Its call for a "new way forward," Snow said, is "what the president's been talking about."

The Gazette also cut a paragraph from the original Sun article that noted the report's criticism of Bush's "reliance on what appears to be a dysfunctional Iraqi government":

The group also pointed up a central dilemma facing Bush in Iraq: his reliance on what appears to be a dysfunctional Iraqi government for any resolution to the current crisis. Bush should essentially threaten Iraqi leaders with dire consequences -- the reduction of help from the United States -- to force them to do better, the report said.

The Gazette did include the Iraq Study Group's criticism of the Bush administration for "significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq," which appeared in the Sun article, but it omitted the following paragraph about the escalating violence in Iraq -- including newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' assessment that "the United States is not winning the war":

The report came amid harsh reminders of the violence raging in Iraq, on a day when the military announced the deaths of 10 U.S. forces in four attacks. It painted an unvarnished picture, referring to violence that is "increasing in scope, complexity and lethality" and saying that in some parts of Iraq, "sectarian cleansing is taking place." Its release came as Robert M. Gates, a former panel member, was confirmed to replace Donald H. Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, one day after acknowledging that the United States is not winning the war.

Additionally, while The Gazette noted the report's criticism that "Bush's 'democracy agenda' could compound the difficulty of getting cooperation from Iraq's neighbors," it omitted the report's statement -- included in the original Sun article -- that
" '[m]ost of the region's countries are wary of U.S. efforts to promote democracy in Iraq and the Middle East.' "

In the same edition, The Gazette published a brief Associated Press article about Gates' confirmation by the Senate on December 6. The original, lengthier AP article included Gates' assessment made during confirmation hearings that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq; The Gazette's version, while noting Gates' criticism of the war, did not include this assessment.

As Colorado Media Matters has noted, The Gazette previously has edited wire service articles to remove their references to the conflict in Iraq as a civil war.

From the December 7 Gazette article, "Report: Time running out in Iraq," attributed to The (Baltimore) Sun's Julie Hirschfeld Davis:

President Bush's Iraq policy "is not working" and he is running out of time to salvage it, a bipartisan panel said Wednesday, in a strongly worded report that called for reversals of his most firmly held stances but rejected a quick troop withdrawal.

The Iraq Study Group called for a major diplomatic push -- including one-on-one talks with Iran and Syria, which the president has rejected -- to help stabilize Iraq.

It also advocated a change in the mission of U.S. forces that could allow most combat forces to pull out by early 2008, and for Bush to pressure the Iraqi government to quickly secure its own country or risk losing American support.

Overall, the report was a strong rebuke to the president's approach in Iraq, presented as a last-ditch effort to avoid an unfolding catastrophe that has become the driving reality of Bush's presidency.

[...]

The 10-member panel, cochaired by former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, D-Ind., offered a bleak assessment of Iraq. The situation, they wrote, is "grave and deteriorating," and there is no "magic formula" or "guarantee of success" in Iraq.

[...]

The study group also had harsh criticism for Bush's management of the war. Some estimates put the war's ultimate price tag as high as $2 trillion, it noted, and criticized Bush for "circumvention of the budget process" that obscured the true costs.

The group also faulted the administration for "significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq," suggesting that U.S. measures were expressly designed to play down the number of attacks.

The report was remarkable for what it omitted. It said virtually nothing about establishing Iraq as a beacon of democracy in the region, an idea Bush has described as his broader rationale for the war. It suggests that Bush's "democracy agenda" could compound the difficulty of getting cooperation from Iraq's neighbors.

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