Rumsfeld Says Media Show Only 'Negative' Side of Iraq War
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 28, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld took to the airwaves June 27 to clear up what he characterized as "misinformation" by the media about the war in Iraq, telling radio listeners in Kansas City, Mo., that "the news media seem to want to carry the negative."
During an interview with Jerry Agar of KMBZ News Radio 980, who recently visited Iraq for a first-hand look at conditions there, the secretary addressed a "disconnect" between what's really happening in Iraq and what the American public sees and hears in the media.
"Everyone I talk to who goes to Iraq and comes back, say they are just amazed at the difference between their impressions from what they've heard in the media and see on television, and what they actually saw first hand in Iraq," Rumsfeld said. "I suppose part of that is because the news media seem to want to carry the negative, and the news media doesn't present on television every day the large number of people who are killed in car accidents, or the large number of people who are homicide victims in the United States every day. Maybe if they did, there would be fewer car accidents and less homicides."
But, he added, "they do carry every act of violence that occurs in Iraq it seems, over and over and over."
Rumsfeld said the media don't report that Iraq's schools are open and the hospitals are functioning, "or (that) the stock market's there, or that in large chunks of the country it's relatively peaceful."
"Those things seem not to get emphasized to the same extent that the violence does," he continued. "So the impression that the people have here is of violence, and the impression people have in Iraq is of a more balanced situation."
The secretary also used the interview to set the record straight on media reports that had him saying the war could go on another 12 years.
"Well, the statement is not a statement that I made," Rumsfeld told Agar. "I was asked about insurgencies generically, and I said insurgencies around the world through history have lasted varying times -- two, four, six, eight, 10, 12 years sometimes. I did not predict a 12-year insurgency in Iraq, and anyone who carried it that way was misinformed."
The secretary repeated statements he made on Capitol Hill about troops staying in Iraq until the mission is complete, and that any talks of a timetable for their return would do more harm than good.
"The disadvantages of setting a fixed date for a timetable to leave are obvious," he said. "It tells the enemy all you have to do is wait us out. It tells our forces that are there, that anything they do between now and that deadline date, if they get killed or wounded, it's really not for any purpose of any note, and why should they do that? I just can't imagine why you'd want to go out and try to do your job if you know you're just going to toss in the towel in a matter of weeks."
The message would not be lost on the Iraqi people either, he said. "Obviously, it tells the Iraqi people that the effort that's under way there is likely to fail, and that their future is going to be to turn back to darkness and repression and violence."
The secretary also told Agar he is amazed at the "misinformation that's flying around" in the media concerning detainees at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
He admitted there have been a "few allegations" of misbehavior at the prison, but added, "they have all been investigated, and in any instance where it was validated, the people were convicted and punished."
He also said reports by the media that a hundred people have been killed at the prison is just "utter nonsense."
"There hasn't been anyone that I know of that's died at Guantanamo of anything other than a natural death," the secretary said.
On the issue of how prisoners at the camp should be treated, Rumsfeld reminded listeners that those held there were captured on the battlefield and should be treated as more than "common criminals."
"They're terrorists, trainers, bomb makers, recruiters, financiers, (Osama Bin Laden's) bodyguards, would-be suicide bombers, probably the 20th ... 9/11 hijacker," he emphasized.
"I think they're very different from a common criminal, just as other people in previous wars have felt prisoners of war were different from common criminals," he said.
Rumsfeld also pointed out the camp has been under constant watch by the International Committee of the Red Cross since the beginning, and that more than 1,000 journalists had visited the camp.
"Lawyers for detainees go down there," he said. "Congressmen and senators go down there. I'm amazed at the misinformation that's flying around."
Before signing off, the secretary urged listeners to visit the Defense Department's "America Supports You" Web site to learn of all the support the American public has pledged to U.S. troops and their families.
"They are putting on that Web site all the things that people are doing, ingenious things that people are doing to support the troops, to support the wounded who have come back, to support the families of those who have died, to support the families of those who have people serving in combat zones," he said. "I hope that all your listeners will give some thought, if they'd like to find a way to be helpful, to go into that Web site."