Media Need to Focus on Extremist Acts, Myers Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, June 6, 2005 The media ought to focus on the very real, vicious acts of violent extremists, and not on vague allegations of Koran abuse, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said to reporters here today.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the media should focus on extremists' abhorrent behavior in their attacks in Iraq, "not a couple of incidents where an overzealous guard or interrogator abused a Koran." He talked to reporters at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on June 6 during a visit to discuss military-to-military relationships between the two countries. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said the "press in general seems to relish always emphasizing the negative."
He said one frustration is that it always takes longer to get the facts. The Newsweek piece alleging that guards in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had flushed a Koran down a toilet relied on an anonymous source.
Checking it out required DoD to sort through more than 1.6 million documents and long hours of studying and verifying the facts. But the damage to American prestige had been done by the time U.S. officials could conclude there were isolated cases of Koran abuse - none of which involved flushing the Muslim holy book down a commode.
Myers said people should contrast that with the enemy. "What does the enemy do on a daily basis? And what does the press report about the enemy?" Myers asked. "On a daily basis in Iraq, what the enemy does is kill innocent men, women and children."
Myers noted that Jordanian-born violent extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said that he would kill innocents to try to spark a civil war between Sunnis and Shiias. Extremists under his direction have launched some of the bloodiest attacks in Iraq. Zarqawi and his henchmen have chopped off their victims' heads and put the murders on the Internet for the world to see.
"That's abhorrent behavior," he said. "That's what the press ought to be focused on -- not a couple of incidents where an overzealous guard or interrogator abused a Koran."
Myers said that even in the few cases where Koran abuse is found, America will investigate and punish those found responsible under the rule of law.
"The first time you hear a story," Myers told the reporters, "you ought not to assume the worst."