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Leftwing Hack By: George Shadroui
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, May 28, 2003


Robert Scheer, the syndicated columnist at the Los Angeles Times, has added yet another milestone in his career as an America baiter who has rarely met a fact he would not twist to further his leftist agenda.

The latest in Scheer lunacy is a May 20 column in which he makes the inflammatory claim that the U.S. military faked the rescue of Jessica Lynch. This allegation, based on the reporting of the BBC, a network that opposed the war and has shown pro-Palestinian tendencies, has been flatly denied by the Pentagon.

This did not stop Scheer from enthusiastically accepting the BBC report without doing any significant research of his own. He simply concludes: "After a thorough investigation, the British Broadcasting Corp., has presented a shocking dissection of the "heroic" (his quotes) rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch, as reported by the U.S. military and a breathless American press.”

To buttress his claims, Scheer turns to a single Washington Post story, in which it was reported that Lynch was fighting when she was captured and had been stabbed and shot. “It has since emerged that Lynch was neither shot nor stabbed, but rather suffered accident injuries when her vehicle overturned,” Scheer points out.

Scheer reports this as if it is a recent revelation when, in fact, the Post and virtually every other major American news agency or network corrected those reports within days as more complete information became available. Scheer surely knows this because an April 2 cutline that appeared on his own newspaper’s web site, latimes.com, clearly states : U.S. Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, 19, on a stretcher inside a U.S. helicopter after her rescue by U.S. special forces-- Army Rangers, Navy SEALS and Marines-- after 10 days of captivity in Nasiriyah. Military sources said U.S. Marines staged a decoy attack to allow the special forces unit to rescue Lynch from the hospital where she had been kept. Officials said Lynch had two broken legs and a broken arm but was in good condition (REUTERS, April 2, 2003).

Note that there is no mention of gunshot or stab wounds. A review of a half dozen other reports that appeared within two weeks of the rescue show the same. None of them repeat the mistaken information. Yet, Scheer cites one early report as evidence that the military had conspired to fool the media and the entire world. If true, the military truly is inept, as the entire world would see Lynch for themselves, thus putting the lie to any such misinformation campaign. It is a ridiculous charge, then, on its face, but Scheer will do anything, even make himself look absurd, for the chance to attack Bush or the military.

Next, Scheer takes aim at an Iraqi man who was given credit for helping the U.S. military find Lynch. While Scheer does not charge the man with lying, he does make the following insinuation: “His credibility as a source, however, is difficult to verify because he and his family were whisked to the U.S., where he was immediately granted asylum and has refused all interview requests.”

Here we have yet another accusation – that the military is hiding the man from view so as to preserve a fictitious account of what occurred. Of course, anyone who has followed the story knows that the media was given total access to the man and conducted lengthy interviews with him in early April. He was then taken out of Iraq in order to ensure his and his family’s safety. Again, this is another example of how Scheer uses a half truth in an effort to make the military look underhanded.

“But where the manipulation of this saga really gets ugly is in the premeditated manufacture of the rescue itself, which stains those who have performed real acts of bravery, whether in war or peacetime. Eight days after her capture, American media trumpeted the military’s story that Lynch was saved by Special Forces that stormed the hospital and, in the face of heavy hostile fire, managed to scoop her up and helicopter her out.”

Scheer does not bother to cite any sources. I wish he had. I have read reports from Reuters,  MSNBC, CNN and the Associated Press and not one of them mentions anything about US troops facing heavy hostile fire. An AP story states that the US military used information from an Iraqi citizen to locate Lynch and then retrieved the bodies of her fellow soldiers who had been killed. A CNN report, published in mid April, states specifically that the hospital in Nasiriyah was for the most part deserted when American troops arrived. An MSNBC report on April 3, the day after the raid, makes no mention of any gun battle. None of this suggests an orchestrated effort to mislead the American people or the world, but Scheer seems to intentionally ignore the overwhelming body of information that does not confirm the BBC version of events.

If there is a fair observation that can be made about the military or the media throughout the war, it is the admirable effort to ensure that false reports did not go uncorrected -- from the nature of Lynch’s injuries to a number of early claims that weapons of mass destruction had been found. In each case, the military quickly set the record straight.

None of this stops Scheer from making up his own breathless scenarios: “Though the Bush administration’s shamelessly trumped-up claims about Iraq’s alleged ties to Al Qaeda and 9/11 and its weapons of mass destruction take the cake for deceitful propaganda – grand strategic lies that allow the United States’ seizure of Iraq’s oil to appear to be an act of liberation – the sad case of Lynch’s exploitation at the hands of military spinners illustrates that the truth once again was a casualty of war.”

Yet, several reports already indicate that the BBC is backtracking. The charge of fakery is now giving way to claims that the military might have been excessively enthusiastic in promoting the Lynch story or might have even, egads, tried to exploit it to build military morale. Only among the anti-war left could such actions be considered offensive. And If it turns out Scheer has compromised the truth with his “fakery” allegations, which is certainly how it looks right now, we won’t hold our breath waiting for him to apologize to the courageous men and women he defamed. His love of truth flows in only one direction – toward those facts that undermine Bush and the US anti-terrorism war.

Yet, Scheer’s career has been built on such tactics, accusing others of lying even as he distorts and fabricates to document their alleged mendacity. Take a March 18 column (and this has been reported elsewhere, such as on the Shark Blog) in which Scheer reports that Donald Rumsfeld said he had "bulletproof evidence" that Iraq was behind the Sept. 11 attacks. In fact, Rumsfeld made no such comment. What Rumsfeld said was that there was "bulletproof evidence" of a link between Al Qaeda and Saddam. Scheer also claims this is untrue, but a number of independent journalists have documented it – including Saddam biographer Con Coughlin.

On March 11, Scheer wrote that the United States would join the ranks of war criminals if a single Iraqi civilian were injured in a war. "Brutal, preemptive and unilateral war under such circumstances is – by the standards of any great civilization or religion – morally indefensible," he argued.

One almost grows weary of pointing out to the likes of Scheer, Mailer, Robbins and Alterman that there was no unilateral or preemptive war. Saddam, in violating the terms of the peace agreement he signed, was fair game under international law. Only the wavering of the United Nations and the Clinton administration enabled him to play games for over a decade while tens of thousands of his own citizens perished because of his vicious regime’s brutality and its misuse of national resources.

Scheer’s charges go from the absurd to the hysterical. He claims in a March 25th column that failure to find weapons of mass destruction will prove that Bush and his policymakers have colonial designs, and this, not the most deadly attack on US soil in history, is what motivated our military and the Bush administration to pursue the war. He makes no mention of the 12 years during which Iraq breached the terms of peace negotiated after the invasion of Kuwait, nor the intelligence from multiple sources indicating Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

On April 29, Scheer claims that Bush deceived the American people about an imminent threat from Iraq. Again, not true. Bush simply said he would not wait until the threat was imminent – "trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option," is the way Bush put it.

Scheer is so relentless in his desire to embarrass the Bush administration that he cannot admit what Chris Matthews, who initially opposed the war, had the guts to stand up and say: the mass graves, the prisons, the torture chambers, and Saddam’s complicity in all sorts of terrorist activity justified taking down the regime. And if the United States fails to find weapons of mass destruction isn’t the most likely explanation that Saddam had them destroyed leading up to the war or smuggled them out of the country, as the New York Times has reported? Or need we recount, again, all the instances in which the regime misled or intimidated UN inspectors?

While Scheer makes all kinds of accusations against Bush and Cheney concerning oil and big business contracts, he has nothing but praise for those countries that opposed the war, many of which, we now know, were selling Iraq weapons and high technologies in direct violation of UN sanctions. He condemns earlier US administrations (of course, he singles out Republicans) for doing business with Saddam, but applauds the French who were, of course, doing business with Saddam even after the illegal and universally condemned invasion of Kuwait.

If you are looking for logic in any of this, it can only be explained by Scheer's near pathological need to portray everything done by the Bush administration and the United States in the worst possible light. It is not human rights or concern for innocent civilians that motivates him, but a leftist political agenda that he has served for some four decades. Since his days as a 1960s radical, Scheer has learned nothing from the liberation of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union or the post-Vietnam war tragedies that occurred in Southeast Asia. He continues to call U.S. involvement in Vietnam criminal even as he sings the praises of such tyrants as Fidel Castro and North Korean dictator Kim Jong II.

Like many on the left during the 1960s, he supported civil rights for blacks, but also embraced the Black Panthers and defended its most notorious leaders. One might forgive this youthful flirtation had he learned from it and repented, particularly given later revelations of Panther involvement in crimes ranging from murder to drug trafficking. But Scheer, unlike his former colleagues at Ramparts magazine, David Horowitz and Peter Collier, has not distanced himself from his earlier actions.

If anything, he has stepped up his reckless attacks on the right. For example, prior to 9/11, he accused the Bush administration of supporting terrorism because it provided $43 million in aid to Afghanistan. As several analyses of this claim have shown, this money was earmarked as anti-famine aid to be distributed by the United Nations. Contrary to what Scheer claimed, it did not represent any major change in US policy as the Clinton administration also had provided millions of dollars in aid. Yet, Scheer made the charge using the most volatile language he could muster: "Enslave your girls and women, harbor anti-U.S. terrorists, destroy every vestige of civilization in your homeland, and the Bush administration will embrace you."

Of course, Scheer had no words of praise for Bush when he drove the Taliban from power after 9/11, thereby making possible the very human rights reforms Scheer advocated by way of his earlier criticism. Instead, Scheer blamed the Bush administration for protecting the Saudis during the first Gulf War and for focusing attention on Saddam, even though his regime was one of the most notorious in the world for its repression, torture and murder. In the fantasy land of Robert Scheer, the United States is always at fault and Republicans are always lying.

Despite his far left perspective, Scheer has occupied one of the most powerful positions at the LA times for more than two decades, a circumstance largely brought on, by his own admission, because of his marriage to a powerful editor at the paper. After a lengthy stint as a national correspondent, during which time he wrote several anti-American books, he was made a columnist. National Public Radio and the Nation have also provided a platform from which Scheer can express his views.

Even so, his twisted journalism is becoming common knowledge and has won him well-deserved criticism from many quarters. The Lynch column simply represents another low in Scheer’s shameful career. It is one thing to be critical of a given policy or president, quite another to distort information iin order to discredit your own country during time of war. That is a kind of self-loathing most Americans do not understand, but for which the LA Times editors seem to have infinite patience.




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