- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The same newspapers and television news programs that are constantly reminding us that some people under indictment “are innocent until proven guilty” are nevertheless hyping the story of American troops accused of rape in Iraq, day in and day out, even though these troops have yet to be proven guilty of anything.

What about all the civilian rapes that are charged — and even proven — in the United States? None of them gets this 24/7 coverage in the mainstream media.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated example of media hype of unproven charges against American troops. While military action still raged in the early days of the Iraq war, there was media condemnation of our troops for not adequately protecting an Iraqi museum from which various items were missing. When the smoke of battle cleared, it turned out members of the museum staff had hidden these items for safekeeping during the fighting.

Then there was the incident when a Marine shot a terrorist pretending to be asleep and the media turned that into a big scandal until an investigation revealed how these and other tricks used by terrorists had cost the lives of U.S. troops in Iraq.

None of the brutal beheadings of innocent hostages taken by terrorists in Iraq — and videotaped for distribution throughout the Middle East — has aroused half the outrage in the mainstream media as unsubstantiated charges made by terrorists imprisoned in Guantanamo.

Nor have most of the media become any more skeptical about charges made by these cutthroats in Guantanamo after the claim that copies of the Koran had been flushed down the toilet at that prison turned out to be a lie.

The idea of trying to flush any book down a toilet ought to have raised suspicions but much of the media treats statements by terrorists and their supporters as true and any denials of wrongdoing by American troops as false and “a cover-up.”

These are the same liberal media people who claim to be “honoring our troops” when they hype every casualty and make a big production of each landmark death, such as the 1,000th American killed in Iraq and then the 2,000th.

The multiple-page spread in the New York Times and similarly elaborate coverage of these landmark deaths on liberal television programs show they had been preparing for these particular deaths for some time.

They may well be disappointed if we don’t reach the 3,000 American deaths, since the terrorists have shifted their attacks and now target primarily Iraqi civilians.

We all need to understand the fraudulence of the claim that these media liberals who have been against the military for decades and who have missed no opportunity to smear the military in Iraq are now in the forefront of “honoring” our troops by rubbing our noses in their deaths, day in and day out.

Troops who won medals for bravery in battle — including one soldier who won a Congressional Medal of Honor at the cost of his life — go unmentioned in most of the mainstream media that focuses on our troops as casualties they can exploit.

A recent study by the Media Research Center found that the three big broadcast news networks — CBS, ABC and NBC — ran 99 stories in 31/2 hours about the investigation of charges against Marines in the death of Iraqi civilians in Haditha last November.

These remain unproven charges in a country where people on the side of the terrorists include civilian women and children who set off bombs to kill American troops and who can set off lies to discredit those that they do not kill.

But the same networks that lavished 31/2 hours of coverage of these unproven charges gave less than one hour of coverage of all the American troops who have won medals for bravery under fire.

Every newspaper and every television commentator has a right to criticize any aspect of the war in Iraq or anywhere else. But when they claim to be reporting the news, that does not mean filtering out whatever goes against their editorial views and hyping unsubstantiated claims that discredit the troops. Those troops deserve the presumption of innocence at least as much as anyone else.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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