Monday, April 3, 2006

Families of American troops are asking national newspapers and television news networks not to ignore the three-year anniversary Sunday of the day Saddam Hussein fled Baghdad and his statue was toppled.

“We are keenly aware that the national media is drawn towards covering milestones and we respectfully request that you not ignore this historic date,” Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission wrote to four news network presidents, National Public Radio and four national newspapers.

Chuck Larson, the founder of the group and an Iraq war veteran as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, said April 9, 2003, was a critical day in the development of democracy in the Middle East.

The Republican state senator from Iowa said Egyptian and Afghan elections and Syria’s withdrawal of troops in Lebanon “all started with Iraqi liberation day, April 9.”

Letters were sent to the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as to ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC.

Two weeks ago, a woman raised the issue of press bias directly to President Bush.

At a town-hall forum in Wheeling, W.Va., Gayle Taylor said her husband had returned from his job as a military broadcast journalist in Iraq with footage of progress being made there, but said television networks “just want to focus on some more bloodshed, or they just want to focus on how they don’t agree with you and what you’re doing.”

She asked Mr. Bush what they could do to deliver their message.

The president said a free press means news outlets can report as they want, but that it is his job to talk about the accomplishments in Iraq. He also encouraged the woman to look at alternatives to the mainstream press.

“There’s word of mouth, there’s blogs, there’s Internet, there’s all kinds of ways to communicate,” he said.

Mr. Larson said Mrs. Taylor’s question was “very representative of what military families and families that have lost loved ones in the war feel.”

He said that when he was in Iraq he tried to get reporters “to leave Baghdad and see some of the successes,” but the reporters wouldn’t go.

Families United includes Gold Star mothers, who have lost a son or daughter in combat, as well as veterans and families of service members.

In a Families United ad that debuted on Minnesota television stations early this year, veterans said news reports aren’t doing justice to the war effort and that the military is in Iraq fighting al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the September 11 attacks.

Those ads were funded by the Progress for America Voter Fund, a pro-Republican advocacy group.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which is the Democratic Party in Minnesota, called the ad “misleading,” and pointed to a television station’s report that said four out of 10 stories about Iraq were positive. Under pressure from the party, some stations took the ad off the air.

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