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Selling sex and war as news - Justin Reedy

This plot sounds like it could have come from a John Le Carr? novel.

A British scientist had been testifying to Parliament about the Prime Minister's exaggeration of intelligence in building the case for an unpopular war orchestrated by the UK and American governments.

The scientist is found dead, his wrists slashed in an apparent suicide, only hours after he had sent an e-mail to a reporter warning of the "games" being played by government officials. The BBC reveals the man as their primary source for a scathing report detailing the government's deception.

Sound fishy to anyone else?

To the American media, it most certainly does: CNN spent hours Monday questioning the BBC's journalistic ethics. The British network had cited a senior intelligence source in its report, the talking heads said, and Dr. David Kelly, a former weapons inspector, doesn't fit the bill.

Isn't it great when the mass media in the United States plays its role to perfection by not seeing the forest for the trees? Whether Dr. Kelly was the primary source for the BBC report is immaterial; what's important is there's a wealth of evidence which indicates both Tony Blair and George W. Bush (or their underlings, which implicates the two leaders by extension) exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Officials claimed Hussein's military could launch a biochemical strike in 45 minutes, which is technically accurate if, by 45 minutes, you actually meant 10 years. Is the fault with the officials if we foolish reporters forgot to factor in the time required for research, development, production, training and deployment when reporting on Saddam's capabilities?

But rather than joining the BBC in shining an ever-brightening light on the coalition's deceptive tactics, CNN seems content to report on the backlash toward the British network. They've even paraded out former BBC workers now in the employ of the American "news" organization who contend that the BBC is run by people who want to create news rather than report it. (A pity that our neighbors in the UK don't have an objective network like CNN, or a British equivalent of Fox News, with the Union Jack fluttering in the background during every news report.)

We can be thankful for having such unbiased reporting here in the States, where a president accused of having an adulterous dalliance is crucified on a scale not seen since, well, ever. Countless hours of TV coverage and columns of newspaper text focused on the president's private, um ? life, if you will, and an independent prosecutor who made Himmler look like a Boy Scout was appointed to wreak havoc on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Presidential impeachment hearings were opened for only the second time in this country's history, and the chief executive n who was powerless to lead the country during the ordeal n came within a hairsbreadth of resigning or being booted out of office.

Less than a decade later, another president has been accused of deliberately misleading the American public and the world community (will anyone believe Colin Powell anymore?) about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. More than a hundred Americans have been sent to their deaths, the country has been bankrupted and international law has been broken, all to depose the weak leader of a sovereign nation who was no more dangerous to the United States than a teddy bear with a bad attitude.

You'd think that being accused of such deception would cause a scandal the likes of which we've never seen, but that just isn't the case. And if that's not evidence of a bias in the American media, I don't know what is.

But far from being liberally slanted, the media here is biased toward getting higher ratings. They're fixated on the next big story that will sell, and everyone knows sex and war are the all-time top two.

Sorry, Bill, but getting a little action in the West Wing will keep people tuning in. Sorry, Iraq, but video of bombs destroying your cities, your vital infrastructure and your residents will make us Americans put the remote down for a few seconds longer.

Investigative reports about the administration lying to send us to war would be biting the hands that feed us, don't you know, plus it just won't garner the same ratings as Monicagate and Operation Iraqi Movie Production, or Laci Peterson, SARS and Kobe Bryant.

With our country's propensity for labeling naysayers as unpatriotic seditionists, who can blame CNN et al. for not wanting to criticize the government? If it keeps their ratings high and keeps them off the gallows pole, why wouldn't they want to keep tossing softballs at Pentagon and White House press conferences?

Justin Reedy covers county government for the News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 or via e-mail at jreedy@news-daily.com.