Hans' News and Politics Blog

A Blog of Conservative News, Politics, and Foreign Affairs

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal – or Media Scandal?
By HansMarc Hurd

By now everyone has been bombarded by the disgusting pictures of prison abuse from Abu Ghraib and had to grapple with how these deplorable acts came to be committed. While the crimes carried out on the prisoners were repugnant, the media for the most part has been rather deficient in its analysis of events, misdirecting attention away from the perpetrators and shifting blame to the Pentagon.
Within days of receiving notification of possible abuses in January Major General Taguba was appointed to investigate the sordid details of the case and the press was notified of the investigation at a press conference in Baghdad.
The investigation was completed in March and a devastating indictment of the both the soldiers accused of the crimes and their command was drawn up. The same month criminal charges were filed against six members of the 372nd MP Battalion.
Yet over a month later the reporters were crying cover up over a story they had ignored up to then. Why, what made the difference? It was the release of pictures that changed the story. Without the pictures the story was not considered worthy of a front-page lead. Once the photographs became public you had something to show on TV and the Front-page, suddenly the press cared about a story they had ignored to date.
It wasn’t long before Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker weaved a tale of widespread abuse of prisoners being an official Pentagon policy, supported only by unidentified sources from the CIA, the very agency that has been competing for control of the interrogation process with the Pentagon. His unsubstantiated account, which has been vigorously denied by the Pentagon, was supported by claims of those accused of wrong doing that they were merely following orders. This sequence of events is not unusual, as it dovetails with a similar treatment by the press to accusations of war crimes in a different war, Vietnam, which still shapes the thinking of many reporters today.
Coincidentally, the same reporter, Seymour Hersh, stands in the center of the affair today, as he did in the exposure of My Lai over three decades ago.
My Lai, a massacre of several hundred Vietnamese conducted by Lieutenant William Calley, who claimed he was acting under orders, shocked the consciousness of the nation when it was revealed. It became common to assume that the commission of war crimes was part of Pentagon policy and anti-war groups were only to willing to supply false confessionals to support those claims. What was an isolated incident was portrayed as everyday occurrences and help turn the public against the war.
The same mindset is at work here. People are accepting unsupported claims of widespread abuse and Pentagon encouragement of such behavior because it suits their world view. To those accused of committing war crimes trying to shift blame becomes the best defense. To ensure they received media attention the defense released the pictures to the press, followed by a publicity blitz by their lawyers. Unfortunately, the majority of the press seemed to have taken the bait.
Specialist Sivits, one of the accused, has since pleaded guilty to the charges brought against him, as far as to the charges of a conspiracy, "our command would have slammed us," he said. "They believe in doing the right thing. If they saw what was going on, there would be hell to pay."
The press, for the most part, seems to have either ignored or downplayed Sivits confession to date. Their own preconceived notions of what occurred are leading them to misrepresent the story. A government conspiracy sells better than a small criminal conspiracy, and is more likely to be rewarded with a Pulitzer. Having to “sex up” the story a little bit to sell it is a small price to pay.

Website Counter
Hit Counters