On Tuesday, all three broadcast network evening newscasts devoted full reports to President Obama honoring 24 members of the military – only three still living – with the Medal of Honor. CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley trumpeted how the President "righted a historic wrong. He presented the nation's highest military award to 24 Americans, after a review determined that they had been passed over because they were Hispanic or African-American or Jewish." [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]
However, during the fifth year of former President George W. Bush's presidency, the Big Three channels furiously covered the allegations against several U.S. Marines, who were accused of killing civilians in Iraq in November 2005. Between May 17 and June 7, 2006 – a three week period – ABC, CBS, and NBC devoted three and a half hours of air time to the accusations of misconduct. These same networks aired only 52 minutes of reporting on 20 military heroes from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq during a five-year period between September 2001 and June 2006.
Late Thursday, news broke of the State Department ordering numerous U.S. embassies across the Middle East closed on Sunday, August 4 due to terror threats from Al Qaeda. While the Big Three network evening newscasts all covered the important development that night, not one of them made any mention of the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the consulate in Benghazi, the perpetrators of which remain at large.
By Friday morning, the networks managed to add brief mentions of Benghazi to their reporting. On NBC's Today, chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell noted: "... in the aftermath of Benghazi, the State Department is not taking any chances....Amidst ongoing turmoil across the Middle East, from Cairo's Tahrir Square to the civil war in Syria, and past attacks on U.S. diplomatic posts, from Benghazi, Libya last year..."
CBS used its Sunday evening and Monday morning newscasts to keep the spotlight on the question of a "possible cover-up" surrounding the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Jeff Glor led CBS Evening News with the scoop from earlier in the day on Face the Nation – that a "career U.S. diplomat is raising new questions" about the Obama administration's claim that the attack spontaneously erupted in response to an early protest in Egypt.
Monday's CBS This Morning also aired a report on this latest development on the September 11, 2012 attack. Meanwhile, ABC and NBC have yet to pick up on the veteran diplomat's allegations, despite the fact that he is set to testify publicly to Congress on the issue on Wednesday.
The Big Three networks unequivocally celebrated the end of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy as a "historic moment" on their Tuesday morning programs. CBS's "Early Show" turned to a discharged Air Force major who pushed for further recognition of same-sex couples by the military. NBC's "Today" brought on a homosexual playwright to promote his one-man movie on the policy. ABC's "GMA" only had a news brief on the development, but still highlighted how a magazine is "publishing photos of more than 100 active duty gay and lesbian troops who served in silence until now." None of the programs brought on dissenting voices to advocate the continuation of the policy.
"The Early Show" devoted the most amount of air time to the expiration of the policy, and led the 7 am Eastern hour with a slanted report from correspondent David Martin. Martin played sound bites from President Obama and outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, both opponents of the ban on open homosexuals from serving in the military, but none from supporters:
On Sunday, a Wikileaks document dump revealed files from Guantanamo Bay in which military commanders noted the Finsbury Park mosque in north London was a "haven" for Islamic extremists, "an attack planning and propaganda production base" that recruited jihadists to fight in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But while the American mainstream media have been ga-ga over tomorrow's royal wedding, there's been little if any attention paid to this development by the very same reporters who were packing their bags for London.
A search of Nexis for ABC, CBS, and NBC news transcripts from April 25 through today reveals nothing on the Finsbury Park mosque, although other information from the latest wikileaks dump was discussed.
On Wednesday's CBS Evening News, Pentagon correspondent David Martin reported on the United Nations criticizing U.S. drone attacks against terrorists: "Philip Alston is author of a new U.N. report which argues that drone strikes amount to a 'license to kill' without being held accountable, a license the U.S. would not want any other country to have."
A clip was played of Alston proclaiming: "You've got complete silence from the CIA...they should not be operating major projects which kill people directly." Martin then chimed in: "Think about it, a operation the U.S. doesn't even admit exists has killed more than 500 people."
Martin's report featured another critic of the tactic, the Brookings Institution's Peter Singer, who fretted: "It allows us to carry out acts of war without having to go through some of the debates we would have in the past."
Martin noted that though the attacks are secret, "everybody knows who to blame," followed by Singer arguing the attacks have been "very effective in creating a large amount of anger at the U.S. that may well bite us in the long term." Martin added: "Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, told investigators the drone strikes were the reason he set out to kill hundreds of innocent Americans."
“The Cold War ended more than two decades ago, and today American nuclear strategy finally caught up with history,” as the Obama administration has recognized “the greatest threat is no longer all-out nuclear war, but the chance that just one weapon will fall into the hands of a terrorist or rogue state,” an effusive David Martin declared on Tuesday’s CBS Evening News.
His story, unlike those on ABC and NBC, assumed the new policy -- that ends the threat of using nuclear weapons against a nation that attacks the U.S. with chemical or biological weapons so long as they don’t develop nuclear weapons – reflects unchallenged wisdom and has no detractors.
“For the first time ever,” Martin trumpeted, “the new policy limits the circumstances under which the U.S. would resort to nuclear weapons, assuring nations which do not have them and do not try to get them they have nothing to worry about.” As if they now have a legitimate fear of the U.S. annihilating them with a nuclear attack.
ABC’s Jake Tapper, in contrast, recognized not all are thrilled with eliminating a threat which has kept America safe for decades as he also noted the new policy contradicts what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in 2008:
On Sunday’s 60 Minutes on CBS, correspondent David Martin reported on the "soft approach" to terrorism in Saudi Arabia: "Each time the United States releases Saudis from the prison at Guantanamo, the kingdom dispatches a 747 to Cuba to pick them up...the Saudi government is paying for cars, homes, even marriages for these reformed jihadists."
After explaining that "...more than half the so-called 'detainees' will probably never go before a jury because the U.S. government does not have a case that will stand up in court," Martin went on to describe a Saudi Arabian program for released detainees: "What we found is a rehabilitation program that attempts to make solid citizens out of holy warriors by convincing them Bin Laden has it all wrong."
Not only did Martin highlight the Saudi efforts to "rehabilitate" terror suspects, but he explained: "Some Saudis have been in Guantanamo for seven years, and Dr. Abdul Rahman Al Hadlaq believes the longer a man is there, the harder he is to treat." Martin then asked Hadlaq, a Saudi psychologist who runs the program: "They come out of Guantanamo hating Americans?...Is there evidence that Guantanamo has made them more radical?" Hadlaq replied: "I think so, yes. Because, in their journey, you know, from Afghanistan to Guantanamo, they have faced a lot of torturing. It's so important to deal with this, you know, issue of torture."
In response, Martin added: "‘Torture’ is, of course, a loaded word, but at the very least, the treatment en route to Guantanamo was rough, and provided the raw material for Al Qaeda propaganda videos to drum up new recruits."
Offering a defense of President Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo Bay within the year, on Thursday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent David Martin argued: "During his final years in office, President Bush said repeatedly he wanted to close the prison at Guantanamo, where suspected terrorists were being held indefinitely without trial. Turns out it was his own vice president who stood in the way."
Martin worked to discredit Dick Cheney’s concerns about closing the detention facility: "According to Cheney, 61 of the 530 prisoners released from Guantanamo during the Bush administration have already gone back to terrorism. According to the Defense Intelligence Agency, there are 61 suspected cases of former detainees rejoining the fight, but so far only 18 have been confirmed." Martin then admitted: "Most have subsequently been killed or captured; but some, like this suicide bomber in Iraq, lived long enough to kill again."
In a story on Sunday’s CBS "60 Minutes," on a new non-lethal ray gun developed by the Pentagon, anchor David Martin explained why such a weapon is not yet on the battlefield: "Pentagon officials call it a major breakthrough which could change the rules of war and save huge numbers of lives in Iraq. But it's still not there. That's because, in the middle of a war, the military just can't bring itself to trust a weapon that doesn't kill."
However, Martin later explains that part of the reason for the weapon not being deployed in Iraq is due to political concerns over the potential abuse of such a weapon, especially given the extreme play past abuses have gotten in the media. He talked to Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Sue Payton:
While covering the murder of Marine Maria Lauterbach on Monday’s CBS "Early Show," Co-host Julie Chen used the opportunity to level broad charges against the military and its handling of sexual assault cases: "What did the Marines do to protect her, and when did they do it? It's a question we've heard asked for -- of the military for decades." This was followed by a report by CBS Correspondent David Martin, who agreed with Chen: "You're right, the military has long been accused of mishandling sexual assault reports, and there are now some protective measures in place."
Martin moved beyond Lauterbach, who reported being raped by the murder suspect, Cesar Laurean, last April, to other reports of sexual assault in the military:
MARTIN: Earlier in the Iraq war, revelations that there had been more than 100 sexual assault cases in Kuwait, Iraq , and the rest of the Persian Gulf, coupled with complaints from female service members that the male-dominated chain of command did not take their allegations seriously, brought this charge from Senator Susan Collins.
Back in September, when General David Petraeus reported that the surge in U.S. troops had improved the security situation in Iraq, the big three broadcast networks were openly skeptical.
"Insurgent attacks are down from 170 in January to 120 in August," ABC's Terry McCarthy noted on the September 9 World News Sunday, the day before Petraeus testified before Congress. "But that is still four attacks a day, on average. Iraq remains a very violent place....Life in central Iraq is still deadly dangerous."
Catching up with news from the end of last week, NBC and CBS on Friday night jumped to highlight an increase in Army desertions blamed on the Iraq war, but failed to note the rate has simply returned to its 2001 level or that the number of desertions by Marines, a service also heavily committed to Iraq, has fallen. Brian Williams led the NBC Nightly News with how “the number of desertions from the U.S. Army is way up in the six years we've been at war.” Jim Miklaszewski outlined how “over the past year, 4,698 soldiers were declared deserters. That's an alarming increase of 42 percent over the previous year, but a stunning 80 percent jump in desertions compared to the first year of fighting. As they did during the Vietnam War, many deserters flee to Canada to avoid a military court-martial in the U.S.” Unlike Miklaszewski, CBS reporter David Martin added some perspective by pointing out that “the overall number of deserters represents less than one percent of soldiers on active duty. During the last unpopular war, Vietnam, the desertion rate was five percent.”
Both networks linked their stories to Canada's top court rejecting asylum for two U.S. Army deserters. On NBC, a deserter living in Canada asserted: “The whole reason we're here is because this was a bogus war. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There were no links to international terrorism.” CBS featured another deserter who rationalized: “If I had been asked to go to Afghanistan, I would have gone there. But the Iraq War, I didn't want to have any part of that anymore.”
“Blackwater has a perfect record when it comes to protecting American diplomats,” CBS correspondent David Martin said. “But private security firms, not just Blackwater – but other contractors seen here firing on Iraqi vehicles for no apparent reason – often undermine the larger mission of the American military – protecting the population and winning hearts and minds.”
Erik Prince, CEO of Blackwater USA, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform making the lead story on “World News,” “NBC Nightly News” and “CBS Evening News.”
“Glad to come here and correct some facts,” Prince said to the committee.
But, out of the 13 comments on the three broadcasts from members of the 41-person committee, only one was a Republican. Rep. Christopher Shays was also the only member to say something positive about the company.
Awaiting the presidential press conference shortly before 10:30 this morning, CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric tossed a question to Pentagon correspondent David Martin. But Couric apparently wasn't informed that Martin has lost his voice and was ill-equipped to go live on national television as he could barely whisper the answer to Couric's question.
The July 31 edition of "The Early Show," just like the CBS Evening News broadcast, actually ran the news of two left leaning academics citing progress in Iraq. David Martin’s set up story featured co-author Kenneth Pollack explaining Iraqi improvements.
However, just as correspondent Allen Pizzey refused to mention any improvements, and snidely dismissed John McCain’s positive assessment on Iraq, the CBS crew is often skeptical of any positive signs. Though much more subtle, host Harry Smith displayed some disbelief to guest Michael O’Hanlon.