WASHINGTON — Our so-called mainstream media have launched a new anti-military feeding frenzy. The furor is over a crude 39-second video showing four Marines apparently urinating on the bodies of three dead Taliban combatants. In hysteric rhetoric akin to "news reports" on the 2004 Abu Ghraib photos, hordes of print and broadcast "correspondents" rushed to describe the viral video, which surfaced Jan. 11, as evidence of an "atrocity" and "desecration" that reflects the "depravity" of our military in general and the U.S. Marines in particular. As usual, the effort to denigrate our armed forces means that the potentates of the press ignored far more important stories.
On Wednesday, before Marine Corps or U.S. officials in Afghanistan could even verify the origin or authenticity of the video, it was up on more than a dozen websites and produced an instant firestorm. Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos described what appears on the video as "not consistent with our Corps values" and ordered an immediate investigation of "every aspect of the filmed event to determine the facts." He pledged, "Once the investigation and preliminary inquiry are complete and the facts have been determined, then the Marine Corps will take the appropriate next steps."
That's what should happen. But that wasn't enough for the masters of the media. Within hours of the video's appearing on the Internet, "reporters" launched a global race to interview any and all who were willing to express righteous outrage over "the actions of our servicemen" and thereby disparage the reputations of the millions of soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines who have served honorably and courageously in more than a decade of war.
By Thursday, with no new facts yet in hand, White House spokesman Jay Carney felt compelled to tell the world that President Barack Obama finds the event to be "deplorable" and "reprehensible." Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's spokesman described the "hideous" incident as "egregious, disgusting behavior." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found a microphone to express "total dismay at the story concerning our Marines."
And as we found with Abu Ghraib and Newsweek magazine's phony 2005 story about a Quran's being flushed down a toilet at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, blanket criticism of U.S. military personnel quickly goes global. In Kabul, Afghanistan, before the nationality of any of the apparently dead enemy combatants could be confirmed, President Hamid Karzai accused "American soldiers" of "desecrating dead bodies of three Afghans."
From neighboring Pakistan, Taliban leaders — who never have denounced the murder, torture or beheading of a single Christian and have killed thousands of innocent civilians with roadside bombs — condemned the video as "barbaric" and claimed: "No religion that follows a holy text would accept such conduct. This inhuman act reveals their real face to the world."
Absent from any of these oft-repeated excerpts is any recognition that the video in question apparently involves just four individuals — five if you count the person holding the camera. Yet even before the perpetrators in the video could be identified by the Marines, the entire U.S. military is indicted once again by media elites for the egregious deeds of a few, without mention that such acts never are condoned by any American commander.
Prolonged commentary and repetitious reports on what investigators now call the "urine incident" have also spiked and displaced stories that warrant extensive coverage. Where are the in-depth "good news" reports on U.S. Navy sailors and Coast Guardsmen putting themselves at risk to rescue Iranian seamen from pirates and a sinking vessel? With Tehran racing to acquire nuclear weapons and threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, weren't Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visits this week to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba worth more attention than a brief mention? In these perilous times, doesn't it matter that preparations are under way for "Austere Challenge 12" — the largest and "most significant military exercise ever conducted by the U.S. and Israel"?
These important events received scant notice in the hysteria over "the video." This indicates an absence of judgment and perspective by those who determine what's "newsworthy" in today's "instant news" environment. Members of the mainstream media inevitably overhype any negative story — true or false — about even a single member of the U.S. armed forces and tarnish all who serve. This blatant anti-military bias is especially evident when producers and editors repeatedly make such atypical events the "lead story" and accord these rare incidents headline treatment for days on end. They must know that demonizing our troops with such nonstop "coverage" is far more effective at demoralizing a nation at war — and destructive to those who fight it — than losing any battle.
Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel, the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance, and the author of "American Heroes in Special Operations." To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.