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Information Warfare: Calling Out the New York Times
   

October 27, 2006: The U.S. Department of Defense is now taking its requests for corrections public through a website known as For the Record. Here, the Department of Defense is openly calling for corrections from major media outlets, and even noting when they refuse to publish letters to the editor.

 

The most recent was this past Tuesday, when the DOD published a letter, that the New York Times refused to run, which contained quotes from five generals (former CENTCOM commander Tommy Franks, current CENTCOM commander John Abizaid, MNF Commander George Casey, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, as well as his successor, Peter Pace) that rebutted a New York Times editorial. This has been picked up by a number of bloggers who have been able to spread the Pentagon's rebuttal - and the efforts of the New York Times to sweep it under the rug - across the country.

 

The Defense Department has been dealing with a number of misleading stories. From Newsweek's misreporting of a Koran-flushing incident (caused by a detainee, not guards as reported by Newsweek), to claims of prisoner mistreatment (often without context, including one instance where a detainee spat on an interrogator), to a massive rewriting of an embedded reporter's report on the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's efforts in Tal Afar, by editors of Time magazine, to the revelations about NSA efforts, the DOD has been barraged by numerous stories, many of which were followed by angry editorials.

 

The DOD is pushing back, not only putting out requests to correct the record (with the refusals published as well), but also citing stories of heroes that the media has failed to cover - usually two or three a week. Among these are accounts of those who have been awarded medals for battlefield bravery, like Navy Cross recipients Robert J. Mitchell Jr. and Bradley A. Kasal, as well as Silver Star recipients Juan M. Rubio, Sarun Sar, Jeremy Church, and Leigh Ann Hester. The DOD has also followed CENTCOM's lead in running pieces on what terrorists actually say - another item largely ignored by the mainstream media.

 

The Department of Defense is acting in an effort to avoid a repeat of the aftermath of the 1968 Tet Offensive. On the battlefield, American and South Vietnamese forces won a victory - effectively destroying the  Viet Cong and crippling North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam. However, media misreporting, including Walter Cronkite's famous mischaracterization of the war as a "stalemate", took away the victory that had been won on the battlefield. Such a scenario is less likely now, largely due to the presence of the internet (including blogs), talk radio, and other news networks - and the Department of Defense is taking advantage of alternative ways to get around the mainstream media. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)