- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2003

DOHA, Qatar.
If White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer were to hand a CNN correspondent a news release, and tell him to read it verbatim, and to disguise its source, the odds are the CNN correspondent wouldn't do it, but would be indignant, and that that indignation would spread rapidly throughout the news media. The heavy-handed attempt to "manage the news" would be denounced from every media pulpit in the land.
But this is precisely what CNN has been doing for years in Baghdad.
"I was on the roof of the Ministry of Information…. A producer came up and handed me a sheet of paper with handwritten notes. 'Tom Johnson [then CNN president] wants you to read this on camera,' " former CNN correspondent Peter Collins recalled. "I glanced at the paper…. It was an item-by-item summary of points made by Information Minister Latif Jassim with Mr. Johnson and Mr. Jordan."
"Mr. Jordan" is Eason Jordan, chief news executive of CNN, who confessed recently in the New York Times that CNN's Baghdad bureau suppressed information about Saddam Hussein's crimes.
Mr. Collins, who worked for CNN in early 1993, recalled in an April 16 Op-Ed article in The Washington Times how then-Baghdad bureau chief Brent Sadler had dressed him down for reporting, accurately, that the Ministry of Information's claims that U.S. aircraft enforcing the "No Fly" zone in northern Iraq had attacked Iraqi farmers were lies. On inspecting the site, Mr. Collins learned that the target of the bombing had been two SA-6 anti-aircraft missile batteries.
"Petah, you know we're trying to get an interview with Saddam," Mr. Collins said Mr. Sadler told him. "Your piece last night was not helpful." Mr. Collins decided to leave CNN after his three-month contract ended.
Among the news Eason Jordan acknowledged suppressing in his New York Times Op-Ed was the declaration to him by Saddam's son Qusay that he intended to murder his brothers in law (who had defected to Jordan, but were lured back), and that government thugs had threatened to torture and kill Iraqi employees of CNN.
Meanwhile, CNN's current Baghdad bureau chief, Jane Arraf, was reporting Saddam's 100 percent victory in a presidential election was "a message of defiance to U.S. President George Bush." Had Miss Arraf mentioned that Iraqis who criticized Saddam had their tongues cut out, viewers could have put that "message of defiance" into perspective.
Mr. Jordan did not say whether he knew about the prison for children maintained by Saddam Hussein, but Margaret Wente, a columnist for the Toronto Globe & Mail, is convinced he and other journalists in Baghdad did: "All of them, every one, heard the childrens' screams. But they kept it to themselves," Miss Wente wrote.
Mr. Jordan maintains he had to keep silent, because otherwise CNN could not have brought the world news from Baghdad. But CNN wasn't reporting news. It was telling lies.
CNN "allowed a tyrant to enforce a tyrant's rules on a supposedly powerful American news organization whose currency is truth," the Arizona Republic said in an editorial.
The Republic aside, the disclosures about CNN haven't produced nearly the outrage among other journalists that could have been expected if the network had carried water for the White House or the Pentagon. But, hey, Saddam may be a vicious mass murderer who tortures children. But Bush is a… Republican.
Even without pressure from "minders" from Saddam's Ministry of Information, CNN and other news organizations continue to distort the news coming from Iraq.
The war in Iraq was conducted with remarkably little "collateral damage." But you don't hear a word of that on CNN.
"The most surreal experience of the war has been to watch the good-natured Baghdad crowds streaming out of government office buildings carrying air conditioners and furniture, waving at passing GIs and then to read the feverish commentary about the latest American 'crime': 'failing' to stop 'swarms' of 'frenzied looters,'" the New York Post's Jonathan Foreman wrote from Baghdad.
CNN reported preposterously high estimates of civilian casualties provided by the Information Ministry, without telling their viewers their information came from the same guys who told them the Americans had been slaughtered.
CNN used to be called by some the "Clinton News Network." It might more accurately be described as the "Collaborators' News Network."

Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration and is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.

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