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Digging deeper into coverage of the Navy SEALs trials

By Kay B. Day

After the second of three trials for Navy SEALs facing charges over an alleged Iraqi terrorist, the Associated Press ran a story similar to the first one covering the cases. The second story announced a 'not guilty' verdict for PO 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe.

After I read the first story about PO 1st Class Julio Huertas, I wrote about the extreme bias I perceived in the AP writer’s article about Huertas.

The writer quoted a spokesman from a so-called ‘human rights’ group, Hammurabi. Newsmax described Hammurabi in 2007 as a group of 2, and one of those individuals had been arrested and interrogated at Abu Ghraib.

The AP reporter quoted the Hammurabi spokesman after Huertas was acquitted in Baghdad: “'These trials are just propaganda for their justice and democracy,'" sneered Abdul-Rahman Najim al-Mashhadani, head of the Iraqi human rights group Hammurabi.’”

Hammurabi was also taken seriously by the group the National Endowment for Democracy based in Washington . That politically spawned entity, a product of both major political parties in the US, gave Hammurabi a grant for $29,500 in 2008 and $30,900 in another grant cycle. A lengthy and pedantic explanation of the NED history suggests U.S. taxpayer money has been part of NED funding.

Al Mashhadani gives the impression the trial was not fair, that the defendant didn’t receive his just due. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Huertas and two other SEALs dealt with charges by choosing a military trial instead of a far less serious reprimand. It is true that had they accepted the reprimand route, they probably could have said goodbye to their careers. It is also true that by going to trial, they could have done quite a few years in a military prison—a very serious risk. 

Basically Huertas was accused of covering up for a fellow SEAL. That fellow SEAL was accused of punching the alleged terrorist. The first AP story said photographs after the alleged injuries showed no injuries other than a cut inside the alleged terrorist’s lip.

It must be pointed out that the SEALs could have done all manner of damage to the alleged terrorist and they could have covered by saying he resisted arrest. It must be pointed out also that ‘How to Be a Good Terrorist 101’ teaches detainees to lie and inflict self-injuries and this has been the case going back to the 1940s in Egypt.

The SEALs case aside, it is useful to point out the differences in coverage of two stories. In one, a SEAL faces a military court, is adjudged not guilty and the followup story appears to suggest the outcome was unfair to an alleged terrorist.

I must admit as I read the first story, I perceived the AP writer’s political slant to be left of center. I am not alone in that perception. An earlier story at Newsbusters about this AP writer’s  work suggests the same.

But the slant is not confined to a single reporter or even a single country. In coverage of Afghanistan abou suicide bombings in Kandahar, a recent AP story said, “The rise in violence, especially in the south, has led to a sharp increase in the number of Afghan civilians wounded by roadside bombs, the international Red Cross said Thursday…The Red Cross said a hospital it supports in Kandahar treated nearly 40 percent more patients wounded by bombs in the first two months of the year compared with the same period in 2009.”

And here’s the non-dramatic closure in that story: “At least 2,412 Afghan civilians were killed in fighting last year, an increase of 14 percent from 2008, according to the United Nations. About two-thirds of the civilian deaths were a result of actions initiated by the insurgents.”

‘About’ is a nebulous word. I’d be willing to bet the percentage is higher and I’d be willing to admit that’s just a bet based on common sense. Our military operates under the most restrictive Rules of Engagement (ROE) in history. Those restrictions are a result of leftwing media and leftwing political groups in the US. Adding to the bias are international human rights groups who appear to be unconcerned about damage inflicted by so-called 'insurgents.'
In the AP story about Afghanistan there are no quotes from obscure ‘human rights groups.’ There is no editorializing about the destruction and instability created within a country struggling to achieve a fragile peace. There is no anger expressed or implied towards the ‘insurgents’ who have caused both adult and children’s deaths.

And that, in a nutshell, is a small indicator of the extreme bias media displays towards our military and towards our country.

That bias is a significant factor in eroding the US image.

It is true media should not be a cheerleader, asking no hard questions. But it appears no hard questions are being asked of those who are not only killing civilians, but killing American soldiers and impeding the process of withdrawing our troops.

It is also true that if a news organization permits a writer to editorialize in content presented as straight news, the slant should be disclosed.

Meanwhile PO 2nd Class Matthew McCabe will face a military trial in  Norfolk on May 3.

These men will deal with legal costs for civilian attorneys after the trials end. Defense funds have been established; the fund we are familiar with is administered by Maritime Tactical Security.



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Reader Comments (3)

Long ago I gave up on the AP as a source of hard news. My son was in Najaf in the spring of 2004, after the uprising. Nothing the AP said matched what he told me was happening. Thy used Arab stringers who lied through their teeth. One gets nothing but propoganda from them.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Schuh

John, I have come to that conclusion as well. Some other media are helping me to research coverage. I firmly believe biased media coverage undermines the war effort, endangers troops and has done serious damage to the US abroad. Please thank your son for his service to our country. best, Kay B. Day/editor

April 28, 2010 | Registered CommenterKay B. Day, Editor

Coverage in the Middle East is extremely selective by most reporters. They were all over alleged Israeli atrocities during the last incursion, yet where were they when Hamas was throwing Palestinian Authority supporters off of roofs? Unfortunately, US troops have to deal with a biased press watching their every move. I wish they would send all the reporters home and let our troops finish the job. Thank you to the 3 SEALS. You did what you were asked to do and are now being dragged thru the mud. You have every right to quit the military for how you have been treated, but no, you are quoted as saying you just want to return to your unit. True heroes. Thank you!!

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterthankyou
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