- The Washington Times - Friday, November 4, 2005

In reading the New York Times (if you still bother to read it), always ask: What is the Times not telling me?

The answers are invariably more compelling — and newsworthy — than what the paper actually deems “fit to print.” Let me give you an example.

Last week, the Times published a 4,624-word opus on American casualties in Iraq headlined: “2,000 dead: As Iraq tours stretch on, a grim mark.” The macabre, Vietnam-evoking piece appeared prominently on Page A-2. Those profiled were Marines from the 1st Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment, including Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr. Here’s the relevant passage:

Another member of the 1/5, Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr, rejected a $24,000 bonus to re-enlist. Cpl. Starr believed strongly in the war, his father said, but was tired of the harsh life and nearness of death in Iraq. So he enrolled at Everett Community College near his parents’ home in Snohomish, Wash., planning to study psychology after his enlistment ended in August.

But he died in a firefight in Ramadi on April 30 during his third tour in Iraq. He was 22.

Sifting through Cpl. Starr’s laptop computer after his death, his father found a letter to be delivered to the Marine’s girlfriend. “I kind of predicted this,” Cpl. Starr wrote of his own death. “A third time just seemed like I’m pushing my chances.”

The paper’s excerpt of Cpl. Starr’s letter leaves the reader with the distinct impression this young Marine was darkly resigned to a senseless death. The truth is exactly the opposite.

Late last week, I received a letter from Cpl. Starr’s uncle, Timothy Lickness. He wanted you to know the rest of the story — and parts of Cpl. Starr’s letter the Times failed to include:

“Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this; that is why I’m writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I’m pushing my chances. I don’t regret going, everybody dies, but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it’s not to me. I’m here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark.”

Reader Michael Valois questioned the Times’ reporter, James Dao, about his selection bias and forwarded me the exchanges. A defensive Mr. Dao (who did not respond to my e-mail inquiry) argued “there is nothing ‘antiwar’ in the way I portrayed Cpl. Starr.” Mr. Dao then had the gall to berate the reader:

“Even the portion of his e-mail that I used, the one that you seem so offended by, does not express antiwar sentiment. It does express the fatalism that many soldiers and Marines seem to feel about multiple tours. Have you been to Iraq, Michael? Or to any other war, for that matter? If you have, you should know the anxiety and fear parents, spouses, and troops themselves feel when they deploy to war. And if you haven’t, what right do you have to object when papers like the New York Times try to describe that anxiety and fear?”

Mr. Dao sounds a bit unhinged playing the far-left chickenhawk card. Only people who have traveled to Iraq can criticize a paper’s war-related coverage?

And Mr. Dao is dead-wrong about Cpl. Starr’s presumed “fatalism.” If you don’t believe Cpl. Starr’s words, which Mr. Dao ignored, listen to Cpl. Starr’s father, Brian. I asked him if his son was fatalistic. “I don’t agree at all. Jeff had an awareness of death, but was very positive about coming home.”

Mr. Dao apologized to Mr. Valois for his e-mail’s snippy tone, but apparently feels no shame or sorrow for distorting a dead Marine’s thoughts and feelings about war, sacrifice, freedom.

Will the Times correct Mr. Dao’s grave sin of omission and apologize? Or will the paper just hope you shrug and look the other way?

Michelle Malkin is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of the new book “Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild,” released this week by Regnery.

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