Baltimore Sun
July 13, 2006

Media Mistreat American Troops

By Thomas Sowell

The same newspapers and television news programs that are constantly reminding us that some people under indictment "are innocent until proved guilty" are nevertheless hyping the story of American troops accused of rape in Iraq, day in and day out, even though these troops have yet to be proved guilty of anything.

What about all the civilian rapes that are charged - and even proved - in the United States? None of them gets this 24/7 coverage in the mainstream media.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated example of media hype of unproven charges against U.S. troops.

While military action was still raging in the early days of the Iraq war, there was media condemnation of our troops for not adequately protecting an Iraqi museum from which various items were missing. When the smoke of battle cleared, it turned out that museum staff had hidden these items for safekeeping during the fighting.

Then there was the incident in which a Marine shot a terrorist who was pretending to be asleep, and the media turned that into a big scandal until an investigation revealed how this trick and others used by terrorists had cost the lives of American troops in Iraq.

None of the beheadings of innocent hostages taken by terrorists in Iraq - and videotaped for distribution throughout the Middle East - has aroused half the outrage in the mainstream media as have unsubstantiated charges made by terrorists imprisoned in Guantanamo.

Nor have most of the media become any more skeptical about charges made by these cutthroats in Guantanamo after the claim that copies of the Quran had been flushed down the toilet at that prison turned out to be a lie. The idea of trying to flush any book down a toilet ought to have raised suspicions, but much of the media treat statements by terrorists and their supporters as true and any denials of wrongdoing by U.S. troops as false and a "cover-up."

These are the same liberal media people who claim to be "honoring our troops" when they hype every casualty and make a big production of each landmark death, such as the 1,000th American killed in Iraq, and then the 2,000th.

The multiple-page spread in The New York Times and similarly elaborate coverage of these landmark deaths on liberal television programs show that they had been preparing for these particular deaths for some time. They may well be disappointed if we don't reach the 3,000th American death, since the terrorists have shifted their attacks and now target primarily Iraqi civilians.

We all need to understand the fraudulence of the claim that these media liberals who have been against the military for decades and who have missed no opportunity to smear the military in Iraq are now in the forefront of "honoring" our troops by rubbing our noses in their deaths, day in and day out.

Troops who have won medals for bravery in battle - including one private who won a Medal of Honor at the cost of his life - go unmentioned in most of the mainstream media that are focused on our troops as casualties that they can exploit.

A recent study by the Media Research Center found that the three big broadcast news networks, CBS, ABC and NBC, ran 99 stories, adding up to 3 1/2 hours, about the investigation of charges against Marines in the deaths of Iraqi civilians in Haditha last November.

These remain unproven charges in a country where people on the side of the terrorists include civilian women and children who set off bombs to kill American troops and who lie to discredit those they do not kill.

But the same networks that lavished 3 1/2 hours of coverage on these unproven charges gave less than one hour of coverage to all the American troops who have won medals for bravery under fire.

Every newspaper and every television commentator has a right to criticize any aspect of the war in Iraq or anywhere else. But when they claim to be reporting the news, that does not mean filtering out whatever goes against their editorial views and hyping unsubstantiated claims that discredit the troops.

Those troops deserve the presumption of innocence at least as much as anyone else.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His syndicated column appears Thursdays in the Sun.