Bush, media responsible for biased Iraqi coverage

On the eve of the Iraq invasion, the Department of Defense ordered a clear directive: “There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein (Germany) airbase or Dover (Del.) base, to include interim stops.” This order effectively censored images of flag-draped coffins from appearing in the war coverage. The tactic was a blatant attempt to help the Bush administration influence public opinion, or pass the “Dover test,” as the Pentagon has coined it.

The ban on media coverage of returning dead bodies began during the George H.W. Bush administration when television stations split the screen between one of his news briefings and arriving coffins. The ceremonies ban has only been enforced during the Persian Gulf War and the war in Iraq. To strengthen his policy, the current president has not attended a single ceremony for returning dead soldiers – the first president to do so in at least 24 years.

The media, though perennially accused of liberalism, has mostly fallen in line with the current Bush administration’s objectives. Editor and Publisher Magazine, a trade journal, recently revealed the majority of major news outlets are not reporting the total number of wounded soldiers in Iraq. The magazine said media coverage typically only covers injury of soldiers as related to specific incidents. Consequently, most citizens would be surprised to discover that, as of Oct. 20, approximately 1,927 soldiers have been injured in Iraq. Of the total U.S. forces wounded, 70 percent of cases could result in brain injury.

Scrupulous consumers of the media are best served by pursuing a combination of small and large news outlets. Iraqbodycount.net is an online database that estimates the number of civilian deaths in the war and links to other relevant, but little-reported, press releases. For example, Human Rights Watch demanded last week that the military investigate civilian deaths in Iraq. At this time, the military does not even keep track of civilian deaths. The story received minimal coverage in the national press.

As candidates prepare for the next presidential election, we expect some underreported stories to resurface. Democratic candidates are desperate for ammunition to wage against the Bush administration. Once again, the mainstream media will show itself as a follower of trends, easily influenced by politics and not principle.