Forgotten Front? Have the Media Forgotten About the War in Iraq?

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The following is a transcription of the July 28, 2006 edition of "FOX News Watch" that has been edited for clarity.

ERIC BURNS, HOST: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki was in the United States this week meeting with President Bush, addressing Congress, putting Iraq back on the front pages after an absence of almost three weeks.

Jim, was it inevitable that Iraq, in these past three weeks, would be off the front pages? Or is there something more to it here?

JIM PINKERTON, COLUMNIST, NEWSDAY: I'm not sure it was inevitable. It certainly was unfortunate.

I've said for a long time there should be an hour of coverage every night on Iraq. Good, bad, ugly, it's...

BURNS: ...No matter what's going on there...

PINKERTON: No matter what's going — there's enough stuff going on there — it's this country of 28 million people with 130,000 American troops and a pretty significant U.S. commitment there. It ought to get coverage, and the fact that 100 people a day are getting killed there now is certainly full of consequences for our future.

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: You know, it may be — some people have said, can the media cover this many wars? I think that's a question. I mean, we have so much coverage now of the Middle East, I think it is regrettable to push this off there. Many Americans soldiers there. It's strategic. It's important. Bush is talking about more troops there.

BURNS: But you know what the answer to that question is, Jane? Now the answer to the question is, yes.

HALL: Yes, we should be able to.

BURNS: Twenty-four hours a day, seven - 24 hour/7days a week cable, we can cover two wars, can't we?

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It costs a lot of money. We had a top FOX executive this week explaining — and I think correctly — you can't cover everything. You got Afghanistan — where's the coverage been on that recently?


THOMAS: We haven't had anything from Afghanistan in a longer time. But we haven't had anything in Iraq.

It costs a lot of money. And the realities of coverage is, it costs a ton of money to put your correspondents in the field, equip them properly with the technology and also the defenses to keep them relatively safe. You can't do that in two or three places.

BURNS: Cheaper, Neal, to do it in print.

NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: Yes. Let me introduce another reason: I don't think there's any story anymore. Despite the fact that 14,000 Iraqi civilians have died according to a U.N. report this year, there's no story anymore.

You ..

BURNS: There's no story where anymore? In Iraq?

GABLER: In Iraq. The news covers stories.

BURNS: You mean because it's not changing?

GABLER: Because it's repetition. It's disaster, disaster, disaster and disaster. And there's no interest for the media, and there's no interest for the public because nothing's changing there.

BURNS: But if the media are, as you believe, so opposed to this war...

GABLER: Oh, I don't believe that. I never said that. I would never say that the media are opposed to this war. The media helped get us into this war. Opposed or not, the media facilitated the Bush's administration entrance into this war. They have blood on their hands. I've said it on this show many, many times. They've never apologized to the American people; they've never apologized to the families of the 2,500 men and women who have died — American men and women who have died there. They owe an apology. The New York Times owes an apology. The Washington Post owes an apology. FOX News owes an apology. NBC owes an apology. CBS — they all owe a huge apology.

THOMAS: Don't go through the whole list. There won't be any time.

GABLER: Well, let me keep on going.

PINKERTON: I would say the media oppose the war now.

HALL: There's also the factor of tremendous danger. There is no front in this war for our soldiers or for journalists. We've had —I think news organizations are thinking long and hard. They're using a lot of native Iraqi journalists. It is not exactly easy to cover this. And the American people are horrified by it, I think.

GABLER: It's because you get the same story every day.

THOMAS: I thought the curious element after Maliki's speech to the joint meeting of Congress was the "Democratic response." Now what was that about? It was only carried on C-SPAN, but it was clipped up and it made it into other media reports.

BURNS: Another interesting factor this week, we heard from the top deputy, or one of the top deputies of Al Qaeda this week, Ayman al-Zawahiri. And what was so interesting to me about it was not what he said, which was a threat, you know, the usual kinds of threats that we hear, but the sophistication, the increasing sophistication of the "look" of the threat.

THOMAS: He's got a set! He's got a better set than we have!

BURNS: He's got his own set.

THOMAS: Who's his designer?


HALL: You know who his P.R. guy is?

BURNS: During part of this we could see — not the part we're seeing now, but during part of this — we could see the Twin Towers exploding.

Jim, anything to this? That there seems to this, that there seems to be increasing sophistication, technologically, on the part of our enemies, with regard to media use?

PINKERTON: There's this concept called public diplomacy, which deals exactly with, as we've all said here, the war of images and the war of media and the war of ideas. And the Arabs - you go to say it — with an itty-bitty budget, have been all over it with beheading videos, IED videos, Zawahiri videos, Usama bin Laden videos - they've been pretty darn effective.

THOMAS: There are two tracks with Al-Manar, their TV station, the Hezbollah TV station. They're trying to shore up their own image in their country, and undermine the support in ours.

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