Dozens of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars gathered in Silver Spring, Maryland last weekend for the Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan hearings (3/13/08-3/16/08), where they offered harrowing testimony about atrocities they had witnessed or participated in directly. The BBC predicted that the event, organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, “could be dominating the headlines around the world this week” (3/7/08). The hearings were covered as far afield as the U.K. (Guardian, 3/17/08), Australia (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/14/08), Croatia (Javno, 3/16/08), and Iran (Press TV, 3/14/08). Yet there has been an almost complete media blackout on this historic news event in the U.S. corporate media.
Despite being noted in the New York Times‘ Paris-based International Herald Tribune (3/13/08), Winter Soldier has yet to be mentioned in the New York Times itself. No major U.S. newspaper has covered the hearings except as a story of local interest; the few stories major U.S. newspapers have published on the event have focused on the participation of local vets (Boston Globe, 3/16/08; Boston Herald, 3/16/08; Newsday, 3/16/08, Buffalo News, 3/16/08).
The Washington Post, too, published their account in the metro section (3/15/08). In contrast, the paper published an article about pro-war demonstrators protesting the Winter Soldier hearings in the A section (3/16/08), despite the fact that they were, according to the Post, “small in number.”
None of the major broadcast TV networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) have mentioned the hearings in their newscasts. PBS has been silent as well.
But for a couple of exceptions (Time, 3/15/08; NPR, 3/16/08), the hearings have been virtually ignored by all but the independent media (Democracy Now!, 3/14/08; 3/17–18/08; In These Times, 3/17/08; Alternet, 3/14/08) and military publications (Stars and Stripes, 3/15/08 and the four Military Times newsweeklies, 3/15/08, 3/17/08), in a pattern reminiscent of the near complete corporate media blackout on the first Winter Soldier hearings. FAIR founder Jeff Cohen (Huffington Post, 3/16/08) traces the beginning of his career as a media critic back to his experience of watching as “one of the rare mainstream camera crews showed up at Winter Soldier… and then abruptly packed up to leave in the middle of particularly gripping testimony.”
While the testimony of soldiers who had served multiple tours of duty was broadcast on Pacifica Radio‘s Democracy Now!, Free Speech TV, and the Real News network, the major broadcast networks and PBS instead devoted airtime to the pro-war assessments of Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John McCain, both of whom have only made brief visits to Iraq (NBC Nightly News, ABC World News, CBS Evening News, PBS NewsHour, all 3/17/08).
Given the common media rhetoric of “supporting the troops” (FAIR Action Alert, 3/26/03), to ignore these same troops when they speak out about the horrors of the war is unconscionable. On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War, it is particularly important that the media reverse this silence, and include the voices of the vets who are speaking out about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan in national news coverage.
Contact the broadcast networks and ask them why they decided to ignore the Winter Soldiers hearings while carrying the less-informed observations on Iraq of John McCain and Dick Cheney.
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