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Rumsfeld Takes Aim

You might recall that back in October, a Pentagon spokesperson caused a stir for calling on reporters to not treat the 2,000 military death in Iraq as a "milestone." Editor & Publisher reported at the time that U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steve Boylan wrote in an e-mail to reporters that the true milestones of the war were "rarely covered or discussed" and encouraged them to "celebrate the daily milestones, the accomplishments they have secured and look to the future of a free and democratic Iraq and to the day that all of our troops return home to the heroes welcome they deserve."

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld conveyed a similar message during a speech this morning at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, during which he took aim at media coverage of the war in Iraq.
From the speech (NRO's Stephen Spruiell has the full text):

The media serves a valuable -- indeed an indispensable -- role in informing our society and holding government to account. But I would submit it is also important for the media to hold itself to account.

We have arrived at a strange time in this country where the worst about America and our military seems to be so quickly taken as truth by the press and reported and spread around the world -- with little or no context or scrutiny -- let alone correction or accountability -- even after the fact. Speed it appears is often the first goal, not accuracy, not context.

Rumsfeld continues:
Consider this: You couldn't tell the full story of Iwo Jima simply by listing the nearly 26,000 American casualties over about 40 days; or explain the importance of Grant's push to Virginia just by noting the savagery of the battles. So too, in Iraq, it is appropriate to note not only how many Americans have been killed — and may God bless them and their families — but what they died for — or more accurately, what they lived for.

So I suggest to editors and reporters — whose good intentions I take for granted — to do some soul searching. To ask: how will history judge — if it does — the reporting decades from now when Iraq's path is settled?

I would urge us all to make every effort to ensure we are telling the whole story. To take a moment for self-reflection and reassessment.

In the blogosphere, Rumsfeld's comments garnered attention from both sides of the political spectrum. Red State was pleased to see Rumsfeld take the media to task, but predicted that the speech would not get the media attention it deserves: "This would be a very powerful speech if it received any air time at all. We know it won't."

More Red State:

This is the type of communication that resonates well with the American people. It is not pretentious, yet it doesn't assume the audience is comprised of dimwits. Most importantly, though, it provides a perfect analogy to explain the functioning of the media when it comes to reporting on the war.
Think Progress, however, shared a different impression of the speech: "The only thing to pay attention to, it seems, is whatever Rumsfeld tells you."