Newsday's Pinkerton: Media "frame" Iraq coverage by portraying "the U.S. military" as "evil," "bad people," and "killers"
On Fox News Watch, Newsday columnist James P. Pinkerton asserted that "the press turned on the Iraq war several years ago" and now chooses to "frame" its coverage of the war in two ways: "One is, the U.S. military is evil" and two, "the U.S. military needs to be carefully restrained with legal rules and procedures." Pinkerton suggested the media portray American servicemen and women as "bad people" and "killers."
Discussing media coverage of the Iraq war during the June 24 edition of Fox News Watch, Newsday columnist James P. Pinkerton  asserted that "the press turned on the Iraq war several years ago" and now chooses to "frame" its coverage of the war in two ways: "One is, the U.S. military is evil" and two, "the U.S. military needs to be carefully restrained with legal rules and procedures." Pinkerton suggested the media portray American servicemen and women as "bad people" and "killers," and concluded that "the correct frame" in reporting on controversial events such as the alleged massacre in Haditha, Iraq, would be "this is a war. What do you expect? ... This is a war, and you're going to get Hadithas." Pinkerton's comments came in response to host Eric Burns's suggestion that a "turning point" had been reached in the coverage of the war, with the media becoming "more overt" in their "opposition than ever before to the war."
Later in the program, while discussing the recent disclosure  about a Bush administration program to monitor banking transactions of "people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda," according to government officials as paraphrased by The New York Times, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas  stated that "when you give too much information to the other side, you're simply setting yourself up for another attack or defeat." Responding to a question posed by media writer Neal Gabler, Pinkerton stated: "I'd rather lose our civil liberties than lose the war." Thomas responded: "Amen."
From the June 24 edition of Fox News' Fox News Watch:
BURNS: Murder and charges of murder in Iraq this week. These are photographs of Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker of Madras, Oregon, and Pfc. Kristian Menchaca of Houston, who were kidnapped, said to have been brutally tortured, and then killed by insurgents earlier this week.
And then there was this announcement Wednesday at Camp Pendleton in California.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [clip]: Based on the findings of a criminal investigation, seven Marines and one Navy corpsman have been charged with offenses, including kidnapping, murder, and conspiracy in connection with the death of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdania, Iraq.
BURNS: Two stories, Jane [Hall, Fox News contributor and weekly panelist on Fox News Watch], that give opponents of the war in Iraq more ammunition.
I'm wondering if because of these stories we are closer to a turning point in the press of more overt opposition than ever before to the war.
GABLER: Yeah, I think it's a right-wing frame to say, "Is this a turning point for the media to go overtly against the war?" As if they've been covertly against the war.
Hey, look at -- this -- this press elected George Bush by bashing [former Vice President] Al Gore. This press facilitated our entrance into the war. And just last week, this press acted as if Bush had had a sudden turnaround simply by going to Iraq. As if -- how, by going to Iraq, just going to Iraq -- how does that change anything?
So I think it's just a wrong way of framing the issue. I think they've been reporting the story now more or less straight, with a certain sadness and a certain regret, which is appropriate to both of these stories that you described.
PINKERTON: I'm not sure I entirely agree with Neal on the way the press has covered the Iraq war.
I think the press turned on the Iraq war several years ago.
GABLER: No, the American people turned on the war.
PINKERTON: OK, well, maybe so. But -- but we're talking about the press here. And the press are -- I think that the -- the -- the dilemma here is that the press coverage, to use these words like "frames" that we -- we -- we throw around here, I think they're very important in this -- is there's two basic frames here. One is, the U.S. military is evil. That's one popular frame in the media that this could.
GABLER: Where do you see that?
PINKERTON: Hold on, let me finish
GABLER: Where do you see that?
PINKERTON: That they're bad people, and they're killers.
PINKERTON: The second -- the second frame is, the U.S. military needs to be carefully restrained with legal rules and procedures, and the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] needs -- and the Miranda rights, all that stuff needs to be in there. And we need to have these prosecutions.
PINKERTON: What -- and -- but -- but the correct frame, I believe, is -- it's a -- it's a minority view, but it's correct, is -- there's a fellow named Gary Brecher, who writes a -- an email column called "War Nerd " for a Russian magazine online. And he makes the point, "Look, this is a war. What do you expect? This is not a police action, this is not a humanitarian mission. This is a war, and you're going to get Hadithas."
GABLER: Well, I certainly don't think that a newspaper is obligated to do whatever the administration tells it to do. But frankly, I don't have enough information from the article in The New York Times to make a determination as to whether they're -- they're doing some kind of transgression that will jeopardize the United States. I simply don't have enough information.
THOMAS: Well, I think the White House is right in complaining about this. Up until recently, we had more reticence and more withholding of sensitive information. If the White House, if the administration -- whatever administration -- could make its case that this was injurious. If our -- if our enemies now see the way we are going after them on the front page of The New York Times, the LA Times, The Washington Post, all they have to do is wait a little bit and counteract our counteracting measures.
BURNS: So you feel that way about the story about the phone records, too? That that information shouldn't be out there?
THOMAS: Yeah. Well, look, I think there are some things that can be reported and others not. But -- but when you give too much information to the other side, you're simply setting yourself up for another attack or defeat.
HALL: You know, I think the phone-records story with reportedly millions of ordinary Americans being tapped and considered possible Al Qaeda is one thing. This story, I was a little surprised by it. And I was --
BURNS: Surprised that the Times ran it?
HALL: That the Times -- well, that the Times had the information. As a reporter, I always look to see who talked to them. Not to take away from anything -- they talked to 20 people -- but you read way deep, and it said, some people are concerned about this program, which was temporary and has now become permanent without any discussion of it. That to me is where the story origin -- originated.
PINKERTON: One of the same reporters, James Risen, who did the NSA wiretap story a few months ago -- as I said at the time with that story, it is yet to be shown that we can win a war against an adversary with this media climate and culture in terms of reportage, what can be leaked, what can be revealed.
BURNS: Quickly, do you fault the media for this?
THOMAS: Yes. Say yes.
PINKERTON: If we lose -- if we lose the war, that would be bad.
GABLER: But what if we lose all our civil liberties?
PINKERTON: Well, I'd rather -- I'd rather lose our civil liberties than lose the war.