The Media and the War on Terrorism

The Media and the War on Terrorism

Stephen Hess
Marvin Kalb
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 307
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  • Book Info
    The Media and the War on Terrorism
    Book Description:

    These candid conversations capture the difficulties of reporting during crisis and war, particularly the tension between government and the press. The participants include distinguished journalists -American and foreign, print and broadcast -and prominent public officials, past and present. They illuminate the struggle to balance free speech and the right to know with the need to protect sensitive information in the national interest. As the Information Age collides with the War on Terrorism, that challenge becomes even more critical and daunting. "We are very careful in what we talk about publicly. We do not want to paint a picture for the bad guys. So we don't talk very much at all about what we're going to do going forward." -Victoria Clarke, Department of Defense "This was a war that was very different. It was conducted primarily by about 200 to 250 special forces soldiers on the ground. There were no reporters with those soldiers until after the fall of Kandahar, until the war was essentially over. There were no eyes and ears, and that's the way the Pentagon wants it." -John McWethy, ABC News "I covered Capitol Hill for a very long time and was always astounded by the nonpolitical motivation of a lot of people that are up there who really do want to make the world better, want to make the U.S. better. So don't come away believing that because there are political implications that there are always political motivations." -Candy Crowley, CNN "There is a feeling among the community, Muslim Americans, and also overseas that we might become the new enemy. But so far nobody knows whether it is just because of the war or if it's going to last." -Hafez Al-Mirazi, Al-Jazeera

    Cosponsored with the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School, Harvard University.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-9603-9
    Subjects: Political Science, Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xx)
    Strobe Talbott

    As a former reporter and diplomat, I feel a special connection with a book that brings together sixty-nine journalists, government officials, and scholars to examine reporting, policymaking, and the connections between reporting and policy in this time of crisis. The issues and perspectives aired in the pages that follow seem all the more immediate to me, since I’m writing this foreword with the television in my office tuned to CNN, which is providing live reports from reporters “embedded” in U.S.-led units fighting their way toward Baghdad.

    The history ofThe Media and the War on Terrorismunderscores the special convening...

  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    For a generation, until the collapse of the Soviet Union, American news organizations reported on the world largely through the prism of the cold war. Particularly on the TV networks’ evening news programs, where stories have to be short and preferably dramatic, the East-West conflict was a useful framing device.¹ Moreover, the epicenter of the struggle was in Europe, the part of the world that most Americans care most about and whose cultures American journalists were more apt to understand and whose languages they were more apt to speak.

    But after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, international news...

  5. PART ONE The Media and the Government:: World War II to the End of the Twentieth Century

    • 2 Lessons of Wars Past
      (pp. 17-29)
      Peter Arnett, Stanley Karnow, Ted Koppel, Daniel Schorr and Barry Zorthian

      We have no crystal ball to tell us the future, but we can learn from the past. It was in this spirit that we convened a panel of four distinguished war correspondents and one former government spokesman on October 31, 2001, for the first in a series of twenty Brookings/Harvard forums over the following year. The five panelists were

      —Peter Arnett, who covered seventeen wars, won the Pulitzer Prize for his reportage from Vietnam and garnered worldwide attention for his live reports from Baghdad during the Persian Gulf wars in 1991 and 2003

      —Stanley Karnow, who started covering Asia in...

    • 3 Presidential Press Secretaries
      (pp. 30-46)
      Joe Lockhart, Michael McCurry, Dee Dee Myers and Ron Nessen

      Did you know that lies come in several flavors, none of them tasty to the official liar or the press? Did you know that leaks come in many shades and varieties, all woven into the very fabric of Washington’s running game of press-and-politics? And did you know how difficult it is even to define a leak?

      For the one person in Washington with the distinct pleasure—and pain—of speaking officially for the president of the United States, namely, the presidential press secretary, no day passes without the double temptation of lying or leaking, in one form or another. Most...

    • 4 National Security Decisionmakers
      (pp. 47-62)
      Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, James R. Schlesinger and R. James Woolsey

      Gather three former senior government officials around a table to discuss matters of national security. Listen. Then let your mind wander back to Thomas Jefferson, especially on the issue of a free press, and you’ll understand. For it was Jefferson who set the example for almost every other official who has held great power in governing this country and in the process has had to contend with a rambunctious press. In office, Jefferson extolled the virtues and values of a free press; once out of office, he rarely wasted an opportunity to criticize it, saying on more than one occasion...

    • 5 The CNN Effect
      (pp. 63-82)
      Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Claus Kleber, Steven Livingston and Judy Woodruff

      It’s called “the CNN effect.” And for a time, during and immediately after the Gulf war in 1991, it was associated only with CNN—the effect of live and continuous television coverage of foreign affairs on the conduct of diplomacy and the waging of war. CNN covered the war, beaming its signal into foreign and defense ministries all over the world. Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense in the first Bush administration, often acknowledged that he got more timely, relevant information from CNN than he did from U.S. diplomats. Soon, with the explosion of violence in Mogadishu, mass starvation in...

  6. PART TWO War in Afghanistan:: The Early Stages

    • 6 The Pentagon and the Press
      (pp. 85-94)
      Victoria Clarke, Pentagon Military Officials and Washington News Bureau Chiefs

      According to one highly experienced Washington bureau chief, the Pentagon and the press are “two great institutions . . . that have totally contradictory objectives and purposes.” The Pentagon must protect the safety of the troops and the security of the operation, says Tom DeFrank, of theNew York Daily News, and “basically doesn’t want us around.” But the press has the responsibility of covering the conflict, so it must be “around.” The result, in DeFrank’s view, is an “insoluble problem,” likely to last as long as the war—any war—lasts.

      And yet, in this war against terrorism, these...

    • 7 Three Months Later
      (pp. 95-110)
      Victoria Clarke, Michael Getler, Bernard Kalb and Sanford J. Ungar

      It was time for another check on relations between the Pentagon and the press. On November 8, 2001, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, Victoria Clarke, and a group of her aides had met with Washington news bureau chiefs to discuss ways of improving coverage of the war against terrorism, focusing at the time on Afghanistan. Now it was January 9, 2002, two months later. On this occasion she met with three veteran journalists who offered rich and relevant assessments of the Pentagon’s wartime “management” of the media, a concept Clarke repeatedly rejected as an accurate description of...

  7. PART THREE The Journalist’s Dilemma:: Three Stories

    • 8 The Hart-Rudman Commission Report
      (pp. 113-123)
      Thomas Kunkel, Susan Page, Warren B. Rudman and Bob Schieffer

      On January 31, 2001, an eye-opening report described as “the first comprehensive rethinking of national security since 1947” was released, warning that foreign terrorists would attack and kill many Americans—in the United States—and soon. However, there was nothing eye-opening about the coverage of the warning. Most Americans never heard of the report until after the 9/11 attacks. The media were asleep. How come?

      The U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, which produced the report, was co-chaired by two former senators, a Republican from New Hampshire, Warren Rudman, and a Democrat from Colorado, Gary Hart. On February 6, 2002,...

    • 9 The Anthrax Attacks and Bioterrorism
      (pp. 124-144)
      Ceci Connolly, Susan Dentzer, Kevin Keane and Jonathan B. Tucker

      Less than a month after 9/11, with the nation still in a state of shock over the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the American people suddenly faced the terrifying possibility of another form of terrorist attack—bioterrorism. First in Florida and soon after in Washington and New York, twenty-two Americans were hit by potentially deadly anthrax infections. Seven died, and approximately ten thousand people who might have been exposed to anthrax bacteria took antibiotics as a preventive measure.

      Was this the work of a lone fanatic? Or was it the work of al Qaeda, a frightening follow-up to...

    • 10 Dissent
      (pp. 145-160)
      Alex Arriaga, Peter D. Hart, Mark Jurkowitz, Geneva Overholser and Robert Siegel

      In wartime, dissent carries an additional nuance—it not only denotes a difference of opinion, it suggests the minority squaring off against the majority, righteously arguing its case. Like the Supreme Court justice who registers a dissenting opinion, the dissenter, even the lone dissenter, has the right in a free country to register his or her opposition to the majority opinion of society and to government policy. So it was during the Vietnam War, frequently enough that dissent in war came to be seen as a natural appendage of public opinion in recent American history. So the question arose, after...

  8. PART FOUR Reporting from the Field:: Three Sites

    • 11 Afghanistan
      (pp. 163-182)
      Michael Gordon, Carol Morello, Lois Raimondo, Tom Squitieri and Kevin Whitelaw

      It’s one thing to talk about a war; it’s another thing to cover one. According to theAmerican Journalism Review, Afghanistan was “one of the most dangerous assignments in modern times.” Eight reporters were killed there during the U.S.-led offensive against the Taliban in the fall of 2001, and Daniel Pearl of theWall Street Journalwas murdered in neighboring Pakistan. War in the first years of the twenty-first century emerged less as a conflict between states, the traditional form of warfare, than a conflict between stateless, rootless warriors and their proclaimed enemy, which could be a state, a combination...

    • 12 The Middle East
      (pp. 183-197)
      Glenn Frankel, Todd Purdum, David Shipler and Robin Wright

      Almost from September 11, 2001, day one of the war against terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian war has struggled to find its place in this conflict. Is it distinct, entirely separate from the larger, global war against terrorism, or is it part of it? If it is, how does it fit, and how is it to be managed? To the reader of a newspaper, one war often becomes hopelessly entwined with the other. The Bush administration has tried valiantly to keep them in separate files, but that has been a losing proposition. When Israelis retaliated for suicide bombings by terrorists associated with...

    • 13 Foreign Correspondents in Washington
      (pp. 198-220)
      Hafez Al-Mirazi, José Carreño, Yasemin Çongar, Toby Harnden, Rudiger Lentz, Jean-Jacques Mevel and Andrei K. Sitov

      Even if there were no war against terrorism, the world would still be wired; and the report of a foreign correspondent in Washington would have clout not only in his or her own capital but in others around the world. But in this war against terrorism, Washington is the key beat, the place where news is made and public opinion formed, almost on the hour. The views of foreign correspondents therefore are of crucial importance. How do they go about getting the news they transmit to the world? Are there angles of special interest in Russia, Mexico, France, Turkey, or...

  9. PART FIVE From Different Perspectives

    • 14 Public Diplomacy or Propaganda?
      (pp. 223-236)
      Karen DeYoung, Thomas A. Dine, Joseph Duffey and Christopher Ross

      Throughout the cold war, the United States and the USSR were engaged in many battles. One of them was for “the hearts and minds of the people.” Critics undercut and undervalued that battle, describing it as nothing more than “propaganda.” By attaching a pejorative connotation to the word, they displayed their distaste for the effort.

      When the war against terrorism erupted on 9/11, the United States found itself in another war for the hearts and minds of the people—this time, of the Arab and Muslim peoples. The U.S. government tried to sanitize the process by describing it as “public...

    • 15 Congress
      (pp. 237-249)
      Candy Crowley, Thomas Donilon, Mort Kondracke and James Lindsay

      During the Vietnam War, Congress played a major role in debating and directing the policies of the Johnson and Nixon administrations. On several occasions, it even played a crucial role. For example, in 1964, Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf resolution, granting almost unlimited power to the president to fight the war in Vietnam. Almost ten years later, after a decade of bloody conflict, frustration, and domestic demonstrations, Congress passed another resolution, which had the effect of restricting the president’s ability to continue the war.

      So it was not surprising that immediately after 9/11, Congress passed a resolution similar to the...

    • 16 Public Opinion
      (pp. 250-262)
      Jill Abramson, David S. Broder, Margaret Carlson, Andrew Kohut, William Kristol and Tom Rosenstiel

      Presidents often say that they don’t govern by polls. That is, of course, the right thing to say, but it rarely reflects the political reality of everyday life at the White House. Polls have become essential tools for measuring public opinion; politicians use them, political science professors use them, the press uses them. The events of 9/11 were followed by a spike in many measures of public opinion, but none greater than the spike in the degree of public trust in big government and big media—a newly reawakened trust that was to dissipate within a matter of months.


    • 17 Overview
      (pp. 263-272)
      Lloyd N. Cutler, Lee H. Hamilton, Harry C. McPherson and James Sasser

      The “wise men,” as a Washington phenomenon, emerged in the tumult of the Vietnam War. During the Tet offensive in early 1968, President Lyndon Johnson summoned a group of former government officials to the White House to consider alternative strategies for ending the war. These officials were dubbed “the wise men,” not because their recommendations proved to be brilliantly prescient, but because everyone in Washington needed another perspective on the never-ending conflict in Vietnam.

      So, on May 29, 2002, we invited four “wise men” to discuss the war on terrorism, nine months after 9/11 rearranged America’s national and international priorities....

  10. PART SIX 9/11 and Beyond

    • 18 Running toward Danger
      (pp. 275-296)
      E.J. Dionne Jr., John McWethy, Alan Murray and Alicia C. Shepard

      One year after 9/11, a book entitledRunning toward Danger: Stories behind the Breaking News of 9/11was published. Written by Alicia C. Shepard and Cathy Trost, it was a song of praise to the reporters who covered the terrorist attacks on the United States, a remarkable story that this generation of journalists may regard as their Pearl Harbor.

      On September 19, 2002, the last of our twenty panels was convened to honor the book and the journalists—and to look beyond 9/11 to the brief “spike” in public approval of American journalism: the dramatic rise following 9/11 and then...

  11. Index
    (pp. 297-307)