Special Gloat and Quote Edition: Media's Erroneous Predictions -- 04/09/2003 CyberAlert

Special Gloat and Quote Edition:
Media's Erroneous Predictions

Though more fighting lies ahead and there are certainly still pockets of Saddam Hussein loyalists who pose a threat to our troops, the jubilant crowds filling Baghdad streets today, culminating in the toppling of a huge Hussein statue downtown, certainly undermines and contradicts much of the fearmongering and dire forecasts advanced by the media about Iraqis supporting Hussein and being willing to take up guns themselves to defend him.

Since time is of the essence as I wanted to get this out before the end of the business day in the East, below is basically an archive dump of what we've found in a cut and paste review of past CyberAlerts and Notable Quotables.

I've placed an * on the left by the most ridiculous assertions and now foolish looking ominous warnings issued by journalists.

To save time, instead of organizing the quotes by topic, I've simply put them into three archive collections:

1) Quotes from Notable Quotables last year and early this year which now look, if they didn't already at the time, really foolish.

2) More recent quotes collected for consideration for inclusion of the new edition of Notable Quotables we're sending to the printer tonight.

3) Relevant CyberAlert items from this year.

Notable Quotables quotes from last year and early this year, as gathered by the MRC's Tim Graham, and listed in date order from oldest to newest:

+ "Even the optimists say if it were to go on for months, if Saddam Hussein eludes capture, then the cost to the American economy is likely to be heavy."
-- ABC's John Cochran, World News Tonight, August 22, 2002.

+ "Now to the increasingly angry U.S. rhetoric against Iraq. The former South African President Nelson Mandela said today he is appalled by the U.S. threats. He said an attack would cause international chaos."
-- ABC's Elizabeth Vargas anchoring World News Tonight, September 2, 2002.

+ "We begin with that moment when Wile E. Coyote looks back and sees the Road Runner standing at the edge of the cliff -- which means he isn't standing on anything but thin air. Seems a bit like where the Bush administration is tonight, scrambling to get back onto solid ground after the Iraqi offer to let UN weapons inspectors come back into the country. The President is trying to shift the spotlight back to Iraqi misbehavior. The Secretary of State, meantime, is in New York trying to keep members of the Security Council from taking an Iraqi 'yes' for an answer, but momentum is gathering."
-- Aaron Brown on CNN's NewsNight, September 17, 2002.

* + "Many Iraqis believe America's true motive is to remove Saddam Hussein from power, install a puppet government and seize Iraq's vast oil wealth. On the streets, many see Hussein's offer to allow the inspectors back as a wise, brave decision showing strength."
-- NBC's Ron Allen reporting from Baghdad for the September 17, 2002 Nightly News.

+ Iraqi citizens are preparing to go to the polls to decide whether Hussein stays in office."
-- Preview of an October 14, 2002 segment on CNN's American Morning with Paula Zahn posted on CNN's Web site.

* + "Seven years ago, when the last referendum took place, Saddam Hussein won 99.96 percent of the vote. Of course, it is impossible to say whether that's a true measure of the Iraqi people's feelings."
-- ABC's David Wright in Baghdad on ABC's World News Tonight, October 15, 2002.

+ "It's official, yet still unbelievable. Saddam Hussein re-elected to another seven-year term as President in a referendum where he got 100 percent of the vote! The celebrations were genuine, but already the validity of the vote is being questioned. The Bush administration dismissed the vote as not credible."
-- NBC's Keith Miller on the October 16 Today.

* + "Defiant Iraqis lined up to show their support for Saddam Hussein Tuesday as Western powers were deadlocked over how to deal with the veteran leader they say threatens world security.... Iraqis were in a festive mood as they turned out to vote in a presidential referendum Saddam is sure to win."
-- Reuters reporter Nadim Ladki in an October 15, 2002 dispatch from Baghdad.

* + "Iraqi reverence for President Saddam Hussein is rarely more expressive than when their leader calls a referendum. 'To paint for the President for this special day is important,' explains artist Abdul. 'It shows our love to him.' Amid even bolder demonstrations of devotion to the Iraqi leader, students at
Baghdad's fine arts school, too young to vote in the last referendum in 1995, appear eager now."
-- CNN's Nic Robertson in Baghdad, on American Morning, October 14, 2002.

+ "On the streets of Baghdad, the word to the U.S. is essentially, 'Put up or shut up!' People here just don't believe their President is hiding weapons of mass destruction. These men say the inspectors have found nothing because Iraq has nothing to hide, that the U.S. government's real agenda is to seize
Iraq's oil fields."
-- NBC's Ann Curry on Today, February 5, 2003.

+ "If War Happens, Another Quagmire?"
-- On-screen graphic during CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports on February 26.

+ "I put this [flag pin] on as a modest riposte to men with flags in their lapels who shoot missiles from the safety of Washington think tanks, or argue that sacrifice is good as long as they don't have to make it....I put it on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what bin Laden did to us."
-- Bill Moyers on PBS's Now, February 28.

+ "Iraq's leaders are calling the inspectors' report objective proof this country is disarming. And America's ultimatum is no surprise here because many Iraqis believe whatever they do, the United States will find a reason for war....Tonight, word of America's new deadline and threat of war fazed no one at this Baghdad cafe. 'America is a terrorist country,' he [one Iraqi man] says."
-- NBC's Ron Allen reporting from Baghdad for the March 7 Nightly News.

* + Diane Sawyer: "I read this morning that he's also said the love that the Iraqis have for him is so much greater than anything Americans feel for their President because he's been loved for 35 years, he says, the whole 35 years."
Dan Harris in Baghdad: "He is one to point out quite frequently that he is part of a historical trend in this country of restoring Iraq to its greatness, its historical greatness. He points out frequently that he was elected with a hundred percent margin recently."
-- Exchange on ABC's Good Morning America, March 7."

Recent quotes collected by the MRC's Rich Noyes, who provided some catchy headlines for them:

+ CPR For Dying Regime
"Within the United States there is growing challenge to President Bush about the conduct of the war and also opposition to the war. So our reports about civilian casualties here...help those who oppose the war...."
"Clearly, the American war planners misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces....And I personally do not understand how that happened, because I've been here many times and in my commentaries on television I would tell the Americans about the determination of the Iraqi forces, the determination of the government, and the willingness to fight for their country. But me, and others who felt the same way, were not listened to by the Bush administration...."
"Now America is re-appraising the battlefield, delaying the war, maybe a week, and re-writing the war plan. The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance now they are trying to write another war plan."
-- NBC/MSNBC/National Geographic Explorer correspondent Peter Arnett's comments on Iraq's state-controlled television, March 30.

* + Get Out the White Flags
"With every passing day, it is more evident that the failure to obtain permission from Turkey for American troops to cross its territory and open a northern front constituted a diplomatic debacle. With every passing day, it is more evident that the allies made two gross military misjudgments in concluding that coalition forces could safely bypass Basra and Nasiriya and that Shiite Muslims in southern Iraq would rise up against Saddam Hussein. Already, the commander of American ground forces in the war zone has conceded that the war that they are fighting is not the one they and their officers had foreseen. 'Shock and awe' neither shocked nor awed."
-- R. W. Apple, Jr., in a March 30 news analysis in the New York Times.

+ Decrying the U.S. Military's "Shameful, Medieval" Tactics
"Why didn't the U.S. and British military develop some new tactics and strategies so that we could avoid this shameful situation where the people of Basra are besieged, where the people of Baghdad are besieged? Because you know, we talked about British and American blood being spilled here but for the long term security of the American people, to try to rebuild the image of the United States abroad, it's how much Iraqi blood is spilled that really matters here. And there is too much civilian death going on here and the U.S. military flunked, flunked the test of devising a way to have an inside-out removal of this regime instead of setting up these almost medieval siege situations."
-- History Channel host Arthur Kent, who covered the first Gulf War for NBC News, on CNN's Larry King Live, April 5.

* + Looking Forward to a Long War
John McWethy: "As the U.S. begins to really squeeze Baghdad, U.S. intelligence sources are saying that some of Saddam Hussein's toughest security forces are now apparently digging in, apparently willing to defend their city block by block. This could be, Peter, a long war."
Peter Jennings: "As many people had anticipated."
-- ABC's World News Tonight, April 4.

+ Conventional Idiocy
"Steadfast, but his war cluelessly flings open the gates of hell, making any sort of victory Pyrrhic."
-- Newsweek's April 7 "Conventional Wisdom" column, explaining why President Bush deserved a "down arrow" for the week.

"British P.M. can actually explain this thing coherently. He's Churchill to Bush's Red Buttons."
-- The next item in the same column, assigning an "up arrow" to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"Tells Meet the Press just before the war, 'We will be greeted as liberators.' An arrogant blunder for the ages."
-- The next item in the same column, assigning a "down arrow" to Vice President Dick Cheney.

+ "Patriots" Who Use Fellow Iraqis as Hostages and Human Shields
"Given that level of fight that has been seen in the Iraqis...does the President have any judgment as to whether these aren't just soldiers who are being terrorized to fight, and not just essentially gangsters who are loyal to Saddam, but these are Iraqis who believe they are acting as patriots defending their country from an invasion?"
-- ABC's Terry Moran questioning White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer at a televised briefing on March 28.

+ "A War of Conquest"
"The danger is that we can win the military victory and lose the peace. I think the measure of resistance that we've seen, and the kind of fighting, bodes ill for the occupation...and I know we want to call it a liberation, but I think this looks more like a war of conquest than a war of liberation."
-- Newsweek's Eleanor Clift on the Fox News Channel at about 11:30am ET on April 3.

CyberAlert items from the past few months, starting with Dan Rather foreseeing average Iraqi citizens taking up guns on he streets to battle Americans. These items are a mix of table of content listing and excerpts from items. For each, I've added the link to the full CyberAlert item:

* + January 24 CyberAlert: For Wednesday's 60 Minutes II on CBS, Dan Rather relayed the pro-Saddam Hussein and anti-U.S. comments he gathered from the streets of Baghdad last week. While he occasionally tossed in some caveats about how "Iraqis are restricted in what they can say publicly," he nonetheless treated the proclamations of the oppressed and ill-informed people as newsworthy as he relied on a Hussein political crony for expert guidance on the feelings of the Iraqi people.

Rather opened the 12-minute long piece by ominously warning: "For the Americans to win this time, Iraqis say, they will have to wage a perilous battle in the streets of Baghdad and if it comes to that, the civilians we spoke with say they will fight, too."

Rather proceeded to show a woman teaching others how to use a Kalishnikov in order "to protect the homeland." Rather marveled at how "everyone we met in Baghdad talks the Saddam line," including "Iraq's version of liberated women," who "are all Saddam supporters, and they don't trust the American government." One woman charged: "Who's a terrorist, you or us? You want to grab us, you want to eat, you want to eat our happiness."

Passing along anti-Israel propaganda, Rather highlighted how "most Iraqis, including these students at Al-Mustansiriyya University, say that pain is caused by Israel and the United States and has in fact strengthened their support for Saddam." Rather added that a "soft-spoken professor" believes the United States "deserved" September 11th.

At a gun store, Rather pumped a shotgun the Iraqis he talked to claimed they would use to shoot Americans. As he held a weapon in his hands, Rather explained how he "found Iraqi civilians out buying weapons" since "people think war is coming and they want to be ready."....

Woman showing how to use gun. Rather: "Officials did allow us to take pictures of civilians they said are getting ready to fight. People like Kareema, a teacher, who is giving a different kind of class at the elementary school in the town of El Dora. She's letting her fellow teachers in on the finer points of loading and using a high-powered Kalishnikov....Some of the kids hanging out for the teaching session are too young, even by Iraqi standards, to handle Kareema's Kalishnikov, so she says she will teach them to throw stones at the Americans, Intifada style.
Rather to Kareema: "Why are you teaching how to use this weapon?"
Kareema, through translation added later: "To protect our homeland."
Rather: "If the war happens, would you fight?"
Kareema: "Of course, of course. Even my kids will fight."

Rather: The alleys are dark and impenetrable, even in the day time. This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Baghdad, with very narrow streets and locked passageways. Easy to get pinned down, hard to escape, unless you know the way, and a perfect place for Saddam to ambush the invaders."

For more see the January 24, 2003 CyberAlert item.

* + February 11 CyberAlert: For Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer also walked the streets of Baghdad relaying Iraqi propaganda. She came across some children who called America "bad" and she sang "Itsy Bitsy Spider" to them. In return, "I got a song back. It is a song about Saddam Hussein, his strength and their desire to protect him." She moved on to show how supposedly typical Iraqis have supplies in their homes, "enough to stay in the house for a year if they had to -- and a gun" with which the resident "says he's ready to repel anybody, Americans or any other soldiers."

For more see the February 11, 2003 CyberAlert item.

+ February 27 CyberAlert: ABC offered sympathetic looks on Wednesday at the efforts of "human shields" in Iraq. On World News Tonight, Dan Harris profiled "a substitute English teacher from Milwaukee," who "became so convinced that a war with Iraq would be unjustified...that he sold his stake in a local record store and came to Baghdad." Harris relayed how "human rights lawyers say if the Pentagon bombs places inhabited by human shields that...would be a war crime." Harris worried about how the human shields have the "problem" of "how to avoid being tools of the Iraqi government." On GMA, Diane Sawyer interviewed two human shields in Iraq.

For more see the February 27, 2003 CyberAlert item.

+ February 28 CyberAlert: Reporting Thursday night on how Iraqi TV had shown the Rather/Hussein interview "on all four channels," Mark Phillips relayed Iraqi public opinion endorsing their dictator's idea and castigating Bush as a "coward," as if Iraqis express their true feelings to Western camera crews.

Over video of people watching the interview in a restaurant, Mark Phillips insisted on the February 27 CBS Evening News that "there was little doubt expressed about how their President did or what they thought of the White house rejection of Saddam's challenge to President Bush for a televised debate." Phillips featured just one soundbite, a man declaring of Bush in English: "I think he's coward."

* Phillips portrayed a Baghdad populace preparing to personally fight the imperialist American invaders. Over video of people carrying rifles and firing them off, Phillips asserted: "At gun stores in town, business in brisk. If there is to be street-fighting here, the people, as well as the army, seem to be getting ready."

For more see the February 28, 2003 CyberAlert item.

* + March 6 CyberAlert: ABC and CBS on Wednesday morning treated an officially organized march in Baghdad by employees of the Hussein regime, police officers and firefighters, as a newsworthy "show of support for Saddam Hussein" and a display of how Iraqis will "fight to the death" any American invaders.

An impressed Dan Harris reported on Good Morning America how "they marched with guns, they rode on motorcycles, in cruisers, on horses, and on the backs of pickup trucks. There were firefighters, too, and men wearing masks, a sign that they're willing to die for President Saddam Hussein."

CBS's Lara Logan contended that the parade was part of an effort by the Iraqi regime to "reassure" a public apprehensive about an invasion.

During GMA's 7am news update, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, news reader Liz Cho announced over matching video: "We begin with a huge protest in Baghdad. Thousands of armed Iraqi police officers and firefighters marched in a show of support for Saddam Hussein. Many say they're willing to fight to the death against a U.S. invasion and vowed to become martyrs in suicide attacks."

During the 8:30am newscast Cho repeated the item: "Thousands of armed Iraqi police officers and firefighters marched this morning in a show of support for Saddam Hussein. Many said they were willing to fight to the death against a U.S. invasion and vowed to become martyrs in suicide attacks."

In between, Dan Harris in Baghdad handled the story during the 8am update: "In Baghdad, more preparations for war: A parade of police officers, pledging to repel any invaders. They marched with guns, they rode on motorcycles, in cruisers, on horses, and on the backs of pickup trucks. There were firefighters, too, and men wearing masks, a sign that they're willing to die for President Saddam Hussein."

Harris added: "There's been a very noticeable increase in the police presence on the streets of Baghdad in recent days. The officers seem to have two goals: One, to say that they're ready to fight the Americans and, two, to say to the people of Baghdad that if anybody's thinking about using this crisis as an opportunity to challenge the government, it won't be easy."

For more see the March 6, 2003 CyberAlert item.

+ March 23 CyberAlert: ABC decides celebrating Iraqis were a ruse. Iraqis "tore down a picture of Saddam Hussein and jumped in the streets" when coalition forces arrived in Safwan -- "at least for the cameras," Peter Jennings snidely added before turning to ABC's John Donvan who maintained that when he went to Safwan "I didn't see anything like that." In a piece for Saturday's World News Tonight, Donvan claimed that he found "hostility towards the coalition forces, towards the United States, towards George Bush" as the residents wanted to know: "Are you here to steal our oil?" and "When are you going to get out?"

For more see the March 23, 2003 CyberAlert item.

+ March 23 CyberAlert: Celebrating how the "right to assemble against the government is one of the signature freedoms that makes America America," ABC reporter Chris Cuomo late Saturday morning offered a very benign description of the goals of the anti-war protesters: "They want government accountability, they want environmental justice and, most of all, they're calling for peace." Cuomo trumpeted how in "American history protests like this have been prescient indicators of the national mood" so, he advised, "the government may do well to listen to what's said today."

For more see the March 23, 2003 CyberAlert item.

* + March 25 CyberAlert: Suggesting success in Iraq "will come as a significant cost" in U.S. lives, Ted Koppel promised at the end of Monday's Nightline to do his best "to give you the truth." But, picking up on the Jack Nicholson line, "you can't handle the truth," Koppel expressed "the hope that you can handle it."

Wearing a camouflaged jacket and with tanks in the background, Koppel, who is embedded with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, offered a lecture at the end of the hour-long Nightline: "The U.S. military is approaching a new and tougher phase of its mission, and so are the journalists traveling with them," Koppel began before contending that U.S. superiority in the air and in armored ground units is no insurance against casualties. Koppel contrasted the current tough fight with earlier, easier battles in Panama, Haiti and Bosnia.

Koppel contended: "The U.S. military has only just begun to engage the first of the enemy's strongest and most capable divisions. There is no reason to believe that ultimately, perhaps even in the next week or two, U.S. forces will not prevail. But success will come at a significant cost. Forget the easy victories of the last twenty years; this war is more like the ones we knew before. The President has determined that U.S. security and national interests are at stake. Such determinations always carry with them a high cost in blood and treasure. Watching that unfold on your television screens, sometimes watching it live, as it's happening, will not be easy for you. Telling you if and when things are going badly for U.S. troops, enabling you to bear witness to the high cost of war, is the hard part of our job. In a famous couple of lines from the movie A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson, playing a Marine Colonel, snarls: 'You want the truth? You can't handle the truth.' Well, this is no movie. We'll do our very best to give you the truth in the hope and the belief that you can handle it."

For more see the March 25, 2003 CyberAlert item.

* + March 26 CyberAlert: On Tuesday's Good Morning America, Charles Gibson pressed General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, repeatedly about how the U.S. has an "inadequate" number of troops to fulfill the mission. An hour later, Diane Sawyer asserted that Americans expected that "American troops would be treated as liberators in the streets." She wanted to know: "What happened to the flowers expected to be tossed the way of the Americans? Was it a terrible miscalculation?"

She soon proposed to a guest expert in Kuwait: "Did American officials miscalculate the way the Iraqi people really feel about Saddam Hussein?" And, less than a week into the war, she wondered if "this is going to be a long, protracted, quagmire of a war?"

For all the details and quotes see the March 26, 2003 CyberAlert item.

* + March 27 CyberAlert: Barely a week into the war, with coalition forces sweeping through Iraq, ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS's Lesley Stahl decided to raise the ghost of the Vietnam quagmire. Jennings teased Wednesday's World News Tonight by hyping how "one Marine" told an ABC reporter that given the landscape, weather and guerrilla tactics, "sometimes" Iraq "feels like Vietnam." The night before, on CBS's 48 Hours, Lesley Stahl asked a Vietnam vet: "You fought in Vietnam. Are you getting any feelings of deja vu?"

For more see the March 27, 2003 CyberAlert item.

** + March 27 CyberAlert: Stahl versus Powell and Powell wins a knockout on points. In an interview which aired on Tuesday's 48 Hours and Wednesday's Early Show, Lesley Stahl pounded away at Secretary of State Colin Powell over problem encountered in the war as if the coalition were losing. "We're beginning to hear that this force isn't massive enough," Stahl argued before fretting about how "the rear is exposed" and chastising Powell: "But you can't get your supplies" delivered safely.

Stahl: "The Powell Doctrine in military terms is that you throw a massive force, if you're going to go to war, make it huge. There are now criticisms, we're beginning to hear, that this force isn't massive enough."
Powell: "It's nonsense. It's the usual chatter, I mean we have commentators everywhere. Every General who ever worked for me is now on some network commenting on the daily battle and, frankly, battles come and wars come and they have ups and downs, they have a rhythm to it. The Powell Doctrine was you use decisive force, and the plan that General Franks and his commanders have put together is a decisive force that will get the job done. So don't let one day's ups and downs suggest that the battle isn't going well. The United States armed forces with our coalition partners, the British principally and the Australians, have gone 300 miles deep into Iraq in a period of five days. That is a heck of an achievement."
Stahl: "Yeah, but our, the rear is exposed."
Powell: "It's not. Exposed to what? Exposed to small-"
Stahl: "Exposed to fedayeen, exposed-"
Powell: "Fine. So? We'll get them in due course. They are not exposed to a massive Iraqi army that is operating in a coordinated way that can assault our flanks and stop our assault."
Stahl: "Are you saying you're not worried or concerned about guerilla warfare?"
Powell: "Of course we are and that, and we're trained to handle this, but this chatter for the last 24 hours that everything is coming apart because on Sunday we took a few casualties. The casualties for this operation have been low. You don't want to slow your advance to go into a particular city and spend all your time rooting out people that you will get in due course. They're not threatening the advance."
Stahl: "But you can't get your supplies, well you can't-"
Powell: "Who says?"
Stahl: "-can't get the humanitarian-"
Powell: "Who says?"
Stahl: "-well you can't get the humanitarian aid in there."
Powell: "Only because the minefields haven't been cleared at the port of Umm Qasr, but our troops are being supplied and water is slowly being restored to places like Basra. It's up to 40 percent of the water capacity now and that was a question of fixing the pumping stations in Basra. And as soon as the mines have been cleared, the ships are waiting to deliver the humanitarian supplies to Umm Qasr and the situation will change rapidly."

For more see the March 27, 2003 CyberAlert item.

+ April 3 CyberAlert: Richard "Peter Arnett" Engel. Peter Arnett may no longer appear on an American television network, but the freelancer in Baghdad picked up by ABC, Richard Engel, acts like Arnett's protege.

In a piece ABC found credible and newsworthy enough to justify time on Wednesday's World News Tonight, Engel relayed how "6,000 Arab and Muslim volunteer suicide bombers" have arrived in Baghdad and he showed video of a 150 of them being "paraded by Iraqi information officials around the hotel where journalists are staying."

Arnett had a "baby milk factory," Engel has a "maternity hospital." He asserted: "Iraqis are growing increasingly enraged by the mounting damage to civilian sites -- including this maternity hospital." After the obligatory video of an injured child, Engel went to the streets to gather public opinion: "I asked this man if he thinks the war is about liberating him from Saddam's brutal regime. 'Liberation?' he asked me. 'Who asked for America to liberate us?'"....

For more see the April 3, 2003 CyberAlert item.

* + April 5 CyberAlert: "I am as wary of pro-Saddam sentiment as I am of pro-United States sentiment," World News Tonight Executive Producer Paul Slavin told Friday's New York Times in suggesting a moral equivalence in how it is rational for an Iraqi citizen to be just as intimidated by Hussein's thugs as by American soldiers. "If I had a bunch of fedayeen and Republican Guard around me, I'd say, 'Yeah Saddam!' But if I had a bunch of American soldiers around me, I'd say, 'Yeah America!'"

For more see the April 5, 2003 CyberAlert item.

> That should be enough media foolishness to satisfy your appetites for now.

-- Brent Baker