Skip to comments.Caught In Errors on Afghanistan, Newsweek Passes Off Major Story as Mere 'Analysis'
Posted on 10/20/2006 1:21:54 PM PDT by governsleastgovernsbest
Imagine you're a leading news magazine. You've published a major story claiming that Afghanistan is a brewing disaster in which Al-Qaeda can once again roam with impunity. So bad is the situation, say you, that for purposes of your article you've dubbed the country "Jihadistan."
Now comes the Pentagon, and in painstaking, point-by-point fashion, refutes so many of your article's assertions as to call its overall validity into question. How do you respond?
A. In a rigorous, systematic manner, you contest the Pentagon's arguments and prove that you were correct in the first place.
Or - if you're unable to do that because the Pentagon was indeed right;
B. You correct your original article, or offer the DoD a reasonable amount of space in your pages to make its case.
This of course is not a hypothetical. As I had written here, Newsweek did indeed publish in its international edition of October 2nd a major, 2200-word, story entitled The Rise of Jihadistan, painting a grim, back-to-square-one, portrait of Aghanistan as a largely safe haven for Al-Qaeda.
And the Pentagon did indeed respond with a detailed, point-by-point debunking of the Newsweek story. Here is just one example:
NEWSWEEK CLAIM: "Five years after the Afghan invasion, the Taliban are fighting back hard, carving out a sanctuary where they -- and Al Qaeda's leaders -- can operate freely. Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups now have a place from which to hatch the next 9/11."
PENTAGON RESPONSE: This assertion is contradicted within the same article by Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, Commander, Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan. He points out that al-Qaeda or its successors have nothing like the liberty that allowed them to plot September 11 in the open. He states, "They have no safe haven inside Afghanistan that if we find it, we will not strike against them." It is one thing for al-Qaeda remnants to operate within Afghanistan's borders while being vigorously pursued and attacked by Afghan, NATO, and Coalition forces -- as is happening now. It is quite another thing for a terrorist organization to have an entire nation where they can plan, train, and launch attacks with impunity -- as Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda did in Afghanistan before September 11. There is simply no comparison between the situation in Afghanistan when 9-11 was "hatched" to the situation today.
OK, back to Newsweek's response. Did they go for 'A,' or 'B'? As you might have guessed, Newsweek chose 'C': neither of the above.
As per a letter of October 11th from Newsweek to the Pentgon that this NewsBuster has obtained, a suddenly demure Newsweek now claims that its blockbuster article, presented as objective fact, was merely its "analysis" of the situation in Afghanistan. Newsweek doesn't even attempt to take on the Pentagon's systematic dismantling of its article. Nor will Newsweek agree to a correction or to making available any significant space to lay out the Pentagon case. Instead, while observing that the Pentagon is "free and welcome" to disagree with it [thanks!], Newsweek offers to publish a "concisely" written letter. Consider that by "concise" Newsweek likely means at most 200 words, whereas this NB item itself extends to over 620 .
So here we have a mainstay of the MSM that - when confronted with a serious challenge to its reporting on a matter of crucial national interest - attempts to downplay a major piece as mere "analysis." And rather than either replying seriously to the Pentagon's systematic refutation, or covering those arguments in its own pages, offers the Pentagon no more than the barest opportunity to respond.
Is this evidence of a news organization with a burning desire to get to the truth, or another lamentable example of drive-by journalism?
Finkelstein lives in the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY. Webcasts and podcasts of Mark's award-winning TV show 'Right Angle' here. Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org
So sorry people died when NewsWEAK lied.
Dinosaur Media ping!
It sounds like you turned out fine though. :)
"nattering nabobs of negativism"
Pat Buchanan actually wrote that line for Agnew.
I believe it was William Safire:
Really? I don't think much of Pat these days, but that was a classic for the ages.
We might both be right, although I was watching McLaughlin awhile back when he claimed Pat wrote it and the Irishman just smiled.
"With the help of White House speechwriters Pat Buchanan and William Safire, Agnew developed a distinctive, jeering speech style that mixed some heavy fun into the contempt.
In a 1969 speech against war protesters, he said, "A spirit of national masochism prevails, encouraged by an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals." "In the United States today," Agnew told a 1970 audience in San Diego, "we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism." He went after "pusillanimous pussyfooters" and "vicars of vacillation" and "the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history."
"Pat worked as an advisor and speechwriter for Richard Nixon and was the author of Spiro Agnew's famous "nattering nabobs of negativism" phrase."
"In the modern era, then Vice President Spiro Agnew kicked off the modern era of political pandering with a speech he delivered in Des Moines, Iowa in 1969, written partially by Pat Buchanan. In that speech, Agnew went after "the media," and exploited small town and rural folks' insecurities and suspicion of Easterners and the well-educated in order to deflect attacks on the Presidents' policies. It was in that speech that we were introduced to academics as "an effete corps of impudent snobs." Later, Agnew would regale us with "nattering nabobs of negativism." The message? Hate people who know more than you!"
And finally this from Safire on Meet the Press:
MS. MITCHELL: OK. Now whose alliterative phrase was nattering nabobs of negativism, Mr. Safire?
MR. SAFIRE: Well, Mr. Agnew was kind enough to credit me with that afterwards because Im an alliteration nut.
MS. MITCHELL: This was when you were the speechwriter in the White House.
MR. SAFIRE: Right. And I was on loan to Agnew for that speech. I didnt write the Des Moines speech, Pat Buchanan did that, where he really zapped the press. And again, the Nixon administration in that case got a leg up. And people said, Hey, yeah, were angry at not just Nixon. Were angry at the Congress and were angry at the media.
Interesting, I always thought it was clear that Safire was the author, but now I see Buchanan might well have been involved.
To show how htings have changed, Buchanan spent his appearance on yesterday's Hardball agreeing with Bob Shrum!
"I love you Spartacus"