Interview with Cliff Kincaid, Accuracy in Media, Contributing Editor

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July 27th, 2004
Transcription by Ray Coleman

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay. So why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself and what you do here at AIM
CLIFF KINCAID: My name's Cliff Kincaid. I'm the editor of the Accuracy in Media AIM Report, our twice-a-month newsletter. I'm the editor of that, plus I write a weekly column and radio scripts that we call Media Monitor, which are distributed to radio stations around the country.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay. And so when you -- Take an issue of liberal bias in the media. Can you kind of give me an overview of what you mean by that?
KINCAID: The liberal bias is reflected in what is called the "mainstream media." We take a look at the major newspapers, the broadcasting networks -- we've been doing this for decades. It's a bias that can best be summarized as a pro-Democratic Party bias, associated with the views articulated by the Democratic Party. And that's fair enough, we just think people ought to know when they're getting bias. And when mistakes are made, the media ought to correct those mistakes. I'm a journalist myself. I have a degree that encompassed a concentration in communications and journalism. And I know from personal experience, when I took my journalism classes -- even then, and I hope I'm not getting too far into past history -- but my journalism textbook was called "Interpretive Reporting" by Curtis McDougal. And we try to make the point to our readers, and to the public that what the American people are getting is not old-fashioned, objective news reporting. They are getting "interpretive" reporting. This is what's been taught for decades. And we see that reflected in foreign policy, domestic and social issues as well. And again, the liberal bias is reflected in how -- mainly when it comes to our national media -- they adopt the positions associated with the national Democratic Party.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And if you look at the instances during the build-up to the war in Iraq -- How do you use liberal media bias to predict the behavior of what was happening?
KINCAID: What we anticipated was that the media would question -- or run articles and stories questioning the administration's policy. And they did some of that. There was quite a bit of reporting about the administration's case, and how they presented it. We really saw the bias, in particular, in coverage of the so-called anti-war protests that were occurring before the war, and after the war started. We saw a definite liberal bias in terms of a failure to tell the American people and the public who was actually behind these demonstrations. The public was told that these were just ordinary people, ordinary Americans, when in fact we have documented in our reports that actual Communist organizations were mainly behind them. The Worker's World Party, for example, working through an international front organization called International ANSWER, put on several of the demonstrations in Washington, DC. We questioned the Washington Post repeatedly, not only with letters and questions and e-mails, but I went to the annual meeting of the Washington Post and asked, "Why they would not tell the truth about the Communists behind these demonstrations?" This is important, because we saw the same kind of slanted journalism during the Vietnam war, when Hanoi was manipulating the so-called anti-war movement here. But by and large, the media would not report how the enemy was active on the home front.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Now, can you describe for me the difference between a correlation and causation?
KINCAID: In terms of what?
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: In -- Just because they were correlated -- How do you eliminate the possibility that people were just going to these anti-war rallies -- that they had no official connection? They were correlated, but they weren't being caused to go to these rallies because they were necessarily Communist.
KINCAID: Well, we never said that ordinary people who simply attended the demonstrations were Communists. We had no evidence of that. But we did have evidence that International ANSWER, for example, was a front group of the Worker's World Party -- no question about that. We had the names of the people, their associations, their backgrounds. We presented that information to the major media, including the Washington Post, which declined to report it for the most part. There was one -- not reporter, but columnist -- Michael Kelly, who actually did a story -- a column, in the Washington Post about this. But that was the exception to the rule. Kelly went into detail about the fact that the Worker's World Party was behind the anti-war protests in Washington DC. Incidentally, Michael Kelly happened to have died during the war in Iraq. And we -- at the annual meeting of the Washington Post -- expressed our sadness and condolences over his passing. He was a tremendous journalist, but he was a columnist. He was not a news reporter. And we were trying to make sure that news was being presented accurately about who was actually behind the protests. Because those people who were coming, thinking that this was a sincere effort to stop the war in Iraq, may have been misled. They may not have attended if they had known that hardcore Communists who had traveled to Havana, Cuba, Pyongyang, North Korea, and even Baghdad, Iraq, had been behind organizing these very protests.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: When you look at the actual coverage though, there was lots of other things that they did not cover. So when you look at what they actually did cover, how do you see a liberal bias in what -- the coverage that they did cover?
KINCAID: All I can comment on are specific examples. If you have some, I'd be happy to comment on them. But I've just given you a specific example of where not only the Washington Post, but the New York Times, and the networks failed to go into detail about hardcore Communists who sympathized with the enemies of the United States actually organizing these anti-war protests. If you have some other examples, I'd be happy to --

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Well, I guess the specifics are, for example, on March 7th, Mohamed ElBaradi said that "The aluminum tubes were not for nuclear weapons destruction" And so then -- Or "for development -- for centrifuge development." But at the same time, the United States government had said, "We have a ten-day ultimatum." And so that report that ElBaradei had said that these aluminum tubes are fishy was not covered.
KINCAID: I don't know if it was or not -- that particular comment by some UN official. All I know is that in the months leading up to the war, there was a lot of discussion and debate -- not only in the press, but in the Congress of the United States. And the Congress ultimately voted for the war. Those who voted for the war included Senator John Kerry. Many Democrats voted for the war against Iraq, operating on the same basic information available to the President of the United States -- as well as to many reporters. They knew about ElBaradi. They knew about the UN's view on this. And they decided to vote for the war. I don't think there was a lack of information. You can cite maybe a specific statement by some UN official here or there that didn't get the prominence you think it deserves. But to say that the American people were somehow denied information about the stakes -- or about what going to war mean, I think is really unfair and inaccurate.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: How could the Congress know about ElBaradei when they weren't even in Iraq in October? The Congress voted on October 10th and 11th --
KINCAID: The Congress knew about the UN's position on Iraq. They knew that the UN Security Council had voted unanimously warning Saddam Hussein about the need to disarm or else he would face "serious consequences." The Congress knew about that. They knew about the UN view. They knew about the views of various officials. The fact is that the US Congress decided to vote to support President Bush to go to war. Whether they were aware in particular of how much coverage ElBaradei got about one statement about aluminum tubes, I frankly don't know. And I don't think it's relevant. Everybody knew the stakes involved when we went into that war. It was adequately covered. But what wasn't adequately covered was the nature of the enemy. And how the enemy would be deployed on US soil to try to undermine support for the war effort. That's where the liberal media really fell down on the job. They didn't tell the truth about the Communists sympathetic to Baghdad who were behind these anti-war protests.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Now, just looking at the timeline, can you tell me when the Congressional vote happened and when the UN Security Council 1441 was passed?
KINCAID: I don't have those figures in front of me, but I don't --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: The UN vote was after the Congressional vote. So how can the Congress know about the UN resolution, which wasn't even passed until November 8th?
KINCAID: The Congress was fully aware of the UN position on Iraq. The UN had been failing to uphold its resolutions on Iraq for ten years. The important point was the President went to the Congress first. He got Congressional backing, and then it was presented to the UN and they backed him unanimously in the UN Security Council. The Congress was fully aware of the UN position on Iraq. And the fact that the inspectors had been effectively kicked out in 1998. I don't think something ElBaradei said later would have made any difference at all because we were operating on the basis of what our own intelligence agencies, and foreign intelligence agencies -- and the UN -- had provided us.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: So from your knowledge of Resolution 1441 -- What is your expertise about international law? Or what international lawyers have you spoken to that get interpretations --
KINCAID: Well, I actually run a separate organization that deals with UN problems. And it's important to consider the international perspective, but the fact is, as Americans, under our Constitution, we have a Congress that decides on matters of war and peace. Bush went to the UN as a courtesy to try to urge them to implement their own resolutions. But personally speaking, I didn't think there was any need for that. Under our Constitution, it's the US Congress that makes these decisions. And what ElBaradei might say later is really beside the point. As Americans, we have to enforce our own Constitution. And Bush to his credit went before the Congress, and he presented them the same information that was given to him. And he found that by overwhelming margins, they decided to support him in the event that he went to war. And that included even Senator Kerry and many leading Democrats.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And so when you look at -- After the resolution was passed in the Congress, then what you're saying ultimately is that international law is seen as a statute and trumped by the war powers act? In other words -- What is your viewpoint on getting explicit authorization from the United Nations?
KINCAID: My viewpoint is that -- Under our Constitution, the president is simply not required to go to the UN for approval before we go to war.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay. So from your --
KINCAID: And I think any objective analysis of the issue would support that. To say that we couldn't act in our own interests until we got the approval of the UN is a far-left point of view held by very few people in this country, and certainly very few in the US Congress. I mean, you may find people like Barbara Lee or Bernie Sanders who hold that view. But I'd be at a loss to name many more than that.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: But after the war, it seems like we needed international help with the -- you know, in Iraq. That it would have been beneficial politically to get a UN resolution. So legally it may not be an issue, but what about politically?
KINCAID: President Bush did get a UN resolution
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: So go into how --
KINCAID: But he didn't need to.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: How did 1441 authorize war?
KINCAID: It threatened "serious consequences," if Saddam Hussein
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm going to be erasing my questions. So just --
KINCAID: Saddam Hussein was threatened with "serious consequences" if he didn't disarm. You see, you have to understand the burden of proof was on Saddam Hussein to prove he didn't have these Weapons of Mass Destruction. He did not prove that. He did not prove he did not have those weapons. And consequently, President Bush challenged the UN to act. But failing that, he acted alone after getting the support of the US Congress. That's entirely consistent with the US Constitution, and I don't think any American could expect anything more than that. Most Americans, certainly, after realizing the extent of the so-called Oil-for-Food scandal involving Saddam Hussein, and apparently Kofi Annan's son, would think that the UN ought to have veto power over what the US does internationally.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And so when you look at the behavior of France -- What comments do you have in regards to the opposition we were facing?
KINCAID: The phenomenon of anti-Americanism around the world, in France and other countries, is a reality. Jean-Francois Revel wrote a recent book on anti-Americanism. And he refers to this as an obsession in Europe. We have to face up to that. But that kind of obsession is evident even in the United States. I certainly saw it when I covered the so-called anti-war rallies in Washington DC -- attended and organized by people who thought President Bush was more of a threat to the world than Saddam Hussein. This anti-Americanism we see in France and other countries is something that goes back a long ways. It's a reality. It's a fact. And the US and the media have to deal with it and explain it.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: John Negroponte sent a letter to the United Nations on March 20th, laying out the legal justification. And I was wondering if you are familiar enough with the legal justification to explain the US position that he laid out.
KINCAID: I'm not here to explain the US position. I thought you wanted to talk about media coverage of the war leading up to the war. But I will say that under our Constitution, there was no need for Negroponte to send a letter to the UN. He may have done that as a courtesy. But it's certainly not required under the US Constitution. The US Constitution sets out the requirements whereby the United States goes to war, and President Bush complied with those.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: So when you look at -- You know, the hook that I'm looking at is that coverage of international law -- that the Bush administration was saying that "This is our interpretation of international law." The media was repeating that. But have you asked the consensus within the scholarly community of international lawyers what they think of it?
KINCAID: We have covered that insofar as --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: I'm sorry -- covered what?
KINCAID: We have covered the international aspect, and the view of those international lawyers who somehow think that the US violated international law is interesting. And it deserves some attention. But I don't see how it's relevant to the Constitutional processes under which the United States went to war. That's something, I suppose, for academic journals. But for the United States, which operates on the basis of the US Constitution, what some international lawyers may think is almost irrelevant.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: I think it's relevant in the sense that the evidence that the administration was presenting from August '02 up until October of '02, that's -- You could make a legitimate case that it was the intelligence's fault. But after that point, after the weapons inspectors were on the ground, you have them going to places that US intelligence had told them to go find these weapons, they weren't there. The aluminum tubes -- discredited by ElBaradei. Niger documents -- discredited. All this evidence is falling apart. And that you have an international skepticism towards the evidence presented as a casus belli to go to war, but yet it fell apart.
KINCAID: Even under the UN's own charter, if you want to keep on that tack, there is a right for nations to engage in self-defense. And I think the President, if he chose to, could cite that particular part of the UN charter in justifying the US going to war in Iraq. But I repeat the critical point is that the US went to the -- that the President went to the Congress of the United States, and got justification there. That's where the media had an obligation, I believe, to make sure the President did not commit US forces without the support -- as required under US Constitution -- of the US Congress. Now, if you want to get into a discussion of how the evidence for the war was treated, I think events have shown that the President's evidence was pretty solid. It's premature to say that there was a massive intelligence failure because stockpiles of weapons have not yet been discovered. To say that was an intelligence failure presumes that we know what happened to the weapons. How do we know that the weapons of mass destruction have not been transferred to another country? How do we know that the weapons of mass destruction are still not buried in Iraq somewhere? We do know that David Kay, who headed the Iraq Survey Group, testified after just three months of looking that there was enough evidence that he found to show that Iraq was in violation of the UN resolutions that so many are so concerned about. And that Iraq did have banned programs -- weapons of mass destruction programs. Charles Duelfer, who took over from David Kay as head of the Iraq Survey Group, has said that "They are still looking at reports of underground or buried caches of weapons -- that weapons of mass destruction may still be buried in Iraq." David Kay said himself that there were reports of mysterious shipments and trucks going out of Iraq before the war that could conceivably have carried some of the WMD to neighboring countries. So don't compound this claim of an intelligence failure by presuming to know that there were not, in fact, any weapons. Because we don't really know for sure that they aren't hidden somewhere -- or have been transferred to neighboring states. As far as the nuclear program is concerned, Mr. Duelfer has confirmed that Iraq did have a prohibited nuclear weapons program. The President's statement in the State of the Union Address about citing a British report that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa was absolutely true. It was absolutely true from the time he made it to the time that we're taking today. In fact, Joe Wilson, the ambassador, who was sent over by his CIA-employed wife to look into this question, actually confirmed that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa. But he did not emphasize that part of his report when he went public and tried to bash the Bush administration. So the fact is that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapons program. He was seeking uranium from Africa. And he was trying to reconstitute this program. And the President had that information. He provided that information to the American people and the Congress, and it has stood the test of time.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: When you look at the actual legal case the Bush administration made to the UN, they didn't try to argue for self defense.
KINCAID: That's up to them. I'm just saying, as a journalist who understands the UN Charter and the US Constitution, that the UN Charter authorizes nation-states to exercise the right of self-defense. If the President had chosen to rely on that, he could have cited that. Perhaps he cited the UN resolutions themselves as a reason to go to war. That's their call, that's not mine. I'm just saying, as a reporter, as a journalist, there was plenty in the UN Charter that could have justified the war on its own. But the key is that the President went to Congress.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: But as a journalist, when the President says, "I have previous authorizations, because of 678 and 687," shouldn't you get into that and see if that's actually true?
KINCAID: Yes, I think that's worthy of attention and comment. But as I say the critical issue is "Did he have the support of the American people and Congress?" And he did.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: So that's all that matters, in the words?
KINCAID: That's not all that matters, but it's the most important. Because under our Constitution the President has to go to Congress when he goes to war, not to the UN.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: From my reading of the press performance, after October 11th, it didn't matter if it was a matter of 'if.' It was a matter of 'when.' Did you see that as well -- that the media was just counting down to war?
KINCAID: You'd have to be more specific in terms of reports or stories or reporters. I can't say as a general rule. Basically, I think most people understood that a showdown was coming. But again the President went to the Congress for the justification -- or the authorization for war, and he got it. And the burden all along, even if you want to cite the UN as a sacred cow, was on Saddam Hussein to disarm. The burden of proof was on him to prove he did not have those weapons of mass destruction -- to prove that he had dismantled or destroyed them. He did not provide that proof.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Well shouldn't the United States provide proof that he does have them in order to go to war?
KINCAID: That wasn't the way it worked. Again --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: I'm sorry.
KINCAID: Under the UN resolutions that so many people put so much stock in, the burden was on Saddam Hussein to prove that he didn't have those weapons. Plus, especially after 9/11, the President was not, I think, prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to Saddam Hussein -- to think that "Well, he may not have those weapons, therefore we shouldn't act." He had plenty of evidence. He had plenty of evidence not only about an Iraqi nuclear weapons programs, but of course, as he stated many times, and the UN had confirmed this as well, Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons before. He had invaded another country. So the President, I think, put forward his case. I think it was subjected to scrutiny by the press. I think the press fell down on its job, though, in reporting the nature of the so-called anti-war movement that emerged in the United States in opposition to the war.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: But that wasn't the majority of their coverage. If you look at how much coverage happened between August of '02 and March of '03, the anti-war -- there was only five anti-war rallies that trickled on Saturdays. And then it may have seeped over. But the majority of the coverage -- if you want to talk about majority of coverage. And you want to prove a liberal bias, I just -- I don't see it.
KINCAID: Well, as I say, I covered personally all of these so-called anti-war demonstrations. And I documented the bias in the AIM Report, our twice-a-month newsletter. We examined how these rallies were covered by the Washington Post, New York Times, and the big TV networks. Sure, these rallies weren't occurring every day of the week. But these were big rallies. They got a lot of attention. And most of the attention was very, very sympathetic -- suggesting that the people behind these rallies were in favor of peace and against war generally, when the fact is that hardcore Communists had organized and manipulated them -- people who despise the United States, who hate America, and want to see America destroyed. These are hardcore Communists in the Worker's World party who sympathize with Castro, Saddam Hussein, and other enemies of America. We thought that information should have been reported to the American people, and in far too many cases, it wasn't.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And so do you see a general -- you know, I see -- I'm looking at television news media, and I see that there is a general lack of debate on anything -- any subject. They can't handle complexity at all. It's not just this. It doesn't mean they're liberal biased. They can't handle a complex issue of "Why are we going to war?" Or, you know, like, there's issues --
KINCAID: Well, I don't know what you were reading or hearing, but I think there was plenty of discussion on why we were going to war. Many months passed before we ever went to war. I can cite specific examples of where the media fell down on the job in terms of telling the truth about who was behind the anti-war protests. But generally speaking, the debate over the war -- whether to go or not -- was covered -- extensively. And the Congress was able to make a decision. There may be some specific information somebody has that they think wasn't reported by some outlet somewhere, and that may be the case. But I don't think the case can be made that we rushed into war so quickly that there wasn't adequate discussion, or debate, or coverage in the media.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Why, from your sense -- Why did we go to war in Iraq?
KINCAID: I think the President made the case that after 9/11, in exercising the right of self-defense, the US could not wait until an imminent threat developed. And there was enough evidence about Saddam Hussein's intentions and designs and weapons that the President felt and believed he had to take action almost immediately. Although he did -- and there are many conservatives who question this -- he did give the UN a chance to take action first. There are many conservatives who think the President waited too long. Perhaps that wait -- while he gave the chance -- gave the UN a chance to respond -- gave Saddam Hussein the opportunity to either bury or transfer some of the weapons of mass destruction, which may still be hidden somewhere -- or may have been transferred out of the country. Again, we don't know for sure. But the President has been criticized -- not in the liberal press -- but by conservatives, some conservatives, for waiting too long. So there was no rush to war. The President made his case, and the Congress backed him.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: From your sense, when do you think the decision was made to go to war?
KINCAID: I have no idea. I don't know for sure. All you can do is read the books that have come out -- the coverage -- and go on the basis of what has been reported. I don't have a firm opinion on that. I don't know exactly when he decided to go to war. It had to have happened sometime after the UN gave Saddam Hussein an ultimatum, and the President decided that Saddam was not going to move forward and prove that he didn't have the WMD.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: But if you look at the legal case, after December 18th is when they had gotten the declaration that they declared was unfinished, and that the scientists were not providing any immediate interviews. That's the only basis of the cease-fire breech that they were claiming. So after -- It wasn't until, that's -- Colin Powell came out and said that 'They have not -- that we have serious concerns about the fullness and accuracy of this declaration that they made on December 7th' -- that's the only standard. It had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. It has everything to do with the arbitrary claims made in 1441.
KINCAID: What the UN required was proof that Saddam Hussein was going to disarm -- that he was going to abandon weapons of mass destruction. That proof was not provided. But that aside, Bush went to the UN as a courtesy to that world body. What counted was he had the authorization of the US Congress to act. For people to dwell on what the UN did or didn't do, or what international lawyers think, is really beside the point for Americans who operate on the basis of a Constitution.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Why did the administration shift the focus to a humanitarian focus? And talk to some of the benefits of the War in Iraq that you see from your perspective.
KINCAID: Our concern has been that the coverage should be accurate. There has been too much coverage after the invasion of this weapons of mass destruction controversy. When as I say, the President's controversial statement in the State of the Union Address about Iraq seeking uranium from Africa was absolutely right -- was absolutely correct. As the President himself has said, no stockpiles of weapons have yet been found. But there's no reason to believe that they won't be found. If you were to come to a premature conclusion about the WMD, you yourself could be guilty of another intelligence failure. As I say, we don't know for sure whether they are buried somewhere, whether they have been transferred out of the country. At the same time, it's clear that one of the justifications for the war that was covered by the press is that we were going to liberate 25 million people from a cruel tyrant, who had killed hundreds of thousands of people and had maintained torture chambers. That's certainly part of it. But when the President went to Congress, I do think the main justification was that Iraq could be a national security threat to the United States. I think that was the prominent justification of the war, and I think it's still valid even at this point.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And when you -- as a journalist -- and you're trying to independently verify information -- or just track it down. When you look at a white paper from the White House, saying -- listing the humanitarian -- the actual violations of humanitarian law -- basically, war crimes that Saddam had committed. Have you tracked those down those sources?
KINCAID: Well, let me tell you what the White House is trying to do. The White House is reacting to media criticism over the so-called missing WMD. So the White House decides to emphasize the humanitarian aspect of the war. The fact that we liberated these people, and eliminated the torture chambers, and we have Saddam Hussein in custody. This is an important point, because it shows how sensitive the White House is to media criticism. If you look, for example, at the controversy over former ambassador Joseph Wilson, you'll see that the administration was on the defensive in regard to his claims, which turned out to be phony, for over a year. The administration backed away and even said at one point that those quote "16 words about Iraq seeking uranium from Africa" shouldn't have been in the State of the Union Address. Why? Even though the statement was true, the White House backed away under an intensive media assault. The White House was on the defensive. That explains a white paper on the humanitarian aspect of this whole thing. The White House gets scared when the power of the liberal media is unleashed against this administration. They should have fought back. They should have fought the media bias more forthrightly. But they chose not to do it -- because they were intimidated. They were scared. They got put on the defensive, when in fact the President's statement in the State Of The Union Address is still true, even after Joseph Wilson has been on the evening news programs -- I forget the exact count, probably 50 or 60 times and has been in the major newspapers probably over a hundred times. Now he's been completely discredited. And the administration is still refusing to make its own case. This is a fact of life in Washington. Faced with a media onslaught, the sharks in the water, any administration tends to go on the defensive and backpedals.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: But this white paper, you're assuming I'm referring to a white paper released after the war. This was released on September 12th, 2002. And what I'm asking is if you're familiar with this white paper, and have tracked down these footnotes.
KINCAID: I don't think I've tracked down every particular document out of the White House. I'm telling you that the justification of the war on humanitarian grounds has been cited all along, and has more prominent in the aftermath of the war, rather than the lead-up to it.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: That's my point, in a way, is that they didn't bring the humanitarian -- There is legitimate humanitarian intervention, but they didn't make that case either before -- to the Congress or to the UN.
KINCAID: Right. I think that's true. But there were various reasons for going to war. And the administration thought that the national security threat was more prominent. Obviously, the United States could go to war in many places around the world strictly on humanitarian grounds, and we just don't do it -- for various reasons. But in this case, the humanitarian reason was one, but certainly not the biggest. I don't know what was said in any particular white paper going into the humanitarian reasons for the intervention. But whatever the administration said on that point has been backed up by the soldiers who are in Iraq, who have come back, and who have talked about, in very positive terms, what they're doing for the people there. And how the people appreciate what the United States has done for them in freeing them from this dictator.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: As a journalist, if you were to get an expert opinion on humanitarian intervention, who would you go to?
KINCAID: An expert opinion on humanitarian intervention? There are lawyers in town at the firm of Hutton and Williams who deal with some of the international law problems. They would be good. There are people on the left like Marjorie Cohn who I've talk to on the radio who might be good. There's people on both sides. People at the Center for Constitutional Rights on the left versus the Heritage Foundation on the right. There are plenty of those quote "experts" to go to. But that begs the question of whether the international justification for this war was the most important one. It was not.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: I guess, where I'm going on the line of questioning is that if you would follow the footnotes, most of them go back to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN Special Rapporteur. Very little first-hand reporting on the humanitarian atrocities that happened. And when I went to Human Rights Watch and asked them their opinion they say, 'You shouldn't consider Iraq a humanitarian intervention because there is no evidence that there was an imminent genocide or ongoing genocide.' No one even attempted to provide any of that evidence.
KINCAID: The opinion of Human Rights Watch on whether the war in Iraq was justified or not is really beside the point. The humanitarian justification had to do with going to war to liberate the people of Iraq, not whether we could prove under the UN's genocide treaty that Saddam was committing genocide. As I say though, the humanitarian aspect was not predominant in the array of arguments that were used before going to war. It is certainly a very beneficial and positive side-effect of the liberation of Iraq that we've put an end to the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, an end to the torture chambers. But the primary reason cited by the President, and backed up by the Congress in going to war was to eliminate a possible national security threat to the United States.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: From your reading, did you -- When they say, 'The regime change was official US foreign policy,' who sets the foreign policy for the United States?
KINCAID: Well, that particular policy was set by the Congress of the United States under the Clinton administration in a bill that was signed by President Clinton -- that official policy of regime change in Iraq. That's how it works under the United States Constitution without regard to what happens at the UN. The President decides, makes policy, with the advice and consent of the Congress of the United States. So regime change had been an official US policy since -- in Iraq since the Clinton administration.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: That's the distinction that I want to make is -- Did the Congress set the policy? Or was it the President that set the official policy?
KINCAID: The Congress passed the bill, and President Clinton signed it. That was official US policy. Now, that doesn't mean that you take any particular approach to effecting regime change in Iraq. Obviously, President Clinton never authorized a full-blown invasion of Iraq, although he did authorize various bombing campaigns in Iraq. But it was under President Bush, obviously, that the United States went to war to effect regime change.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Do you have criticisms of Clinton's attacking -- Operation Desert Fox?
KINCAID: I think at that time there were questions about whether that could have been a "wag the dog" operation. And whether that particular bombing campaign had any real effect. There were questions raised about the justification for that. The President at the time was probably on legal grounds to do it, only because under the War Powers Act, he can commit our forces for a certain length of time before he has to seek Congressional approval. But questions about the motives still remain even today.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: When I was looking over AIM's website -- I'm not sure it this came from you or someone else -- but I saw a little phrase that said, "the illegal war in Yugoslavia." Do you share that opinion?
KINCAID: Yes. I wrote extensively about that. It was an illegal war in Yugoslavia -- under the US Constitution and under US law -- without regard to the UN. And the reason is that President Clinton committed our forces against Yugoslavia even though the House of Representatives later voted not to authorize that war. That made it illegal under the War Powers Act. So that was clearly an illegal war. Now, I think probably -- if I go back in my memory, I remember talking to various so-called international experts who would reaffirm that even under international law. But my point is that the President has to follow the US Constitution and US law. Clinton did not do so in the Kosovo case. When the House of Representatives voted not to authorize that war, legally he should have brought our troops back. He should have withdrawn our troops from the NATO operation in Yugoslavia. He did not do so. That was an illegal war.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: I guess, there's a hierarchy question, because international law once it's ratified by the Congress does become domestic law. So should we follow -- If there's a trumping action -- If the War Powers Act is higher than the statutes of international law, we should ignore that?
KINCAID: I don't think there's any evidence that an international treaty, or so-called international law, would trump US law. I think US law and the US Constitution always remain pre-eminent. And that's why I don't cite anything the UN did to say that Clinton's war in Kosovo was illegal. It was illegal under US law. Not only did Clinton not get the approval of Congress before he went to war, he kept our troops involved in that war after the US Congress failed to authorize it. That was clearly illegal and unconstitutional on Clinton's part. That's very different than what President Bush did in regard to Iraq. President Bush got the authorization of the Congress in overwhelming numbers before he went to war.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: When you look at the media as an institution you are criticizing them, how -- in your experience -- do they react to constructive criticism?
KINCAID: The media react to criticism on different levels. I guess by human nature, like most people, we don't like to be criticized. But one thing we try to do at Accuracy In Media is, if we get criticized and we find the criticism is valid, we will correct our errors immediately. We don't find that's the case with most in the media. Just to give you one recent example, we had criticized USA Today for running a very favorable story -- Pardon me. We had we had criticized USA Today for running a very favorable story about the Joe Wilson book, ironically titled "The Politics of Truth," in which he criticized Vice-President Cheney as being a traitor to the United States. And we confronted USA Today editor Ken Paulsen at the annual meeting of Gannet, the parent company of USA Today, saying, "Don't you think you should have at least gone to Vice-president Cheney for a response, for a comment?" He admitted that that was true, and he later said in an e-mail message to me that his criticism of that piece was that it was not fair in that respect -- that they did not go to Vice-president Cheney for a response to this gross charge that Cheney was somehow a traitor to his country. On the other hand, Mr. Paulsen did not put any credence in some of our other criticisms of USA Today. So our record can be mixed. Sometimes, some media are more open to criticism than others. Sometimes we see corrections of the record. But the reason we have a twice-a-month newsletter, and a daily radio program, and a weekly column is to put out our point of view about omissions, inaccuracies and distortions. And to put the burden on the media to police themselves.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Did you watch a lot of the television coverage leading up to the war? And I was wondering if you could take -- Let's say, for example, the White House beat, and describe to me how in the build-up to the war in Iraq, how liberal bias played out in the White House beat?
KINCAID: Well, I couldn't give you a chapter and verse on any particular reporter at this point. We covered the media in specific cases when something came to our attention. And of course we publicized that in our AIM Report. But granted, there's a lot out there that we -- [interruption] -- Let me just --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay. Go ahead.
KINCAID: We covered the build-up to the war in terms of specifics, but also the general tone. All of this, of course was published in our twice-a-month newsletter, Media Monitors, our daily radio commentaries, and our weekly columns. One incident we focused on in particular during the war, of course, was what happened when Peter Arnett, formerly of CNN, who went to MSNBC --

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Let me just interrupt. Just because I'm stopping on March 19th.
KINCAID: Okay.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: So I'm looking at during the build-up, and I'm just -- Any examples that you can think of -- either White House, State Department or Defense Department -- give me your best argument for liberal bias during this time period.
KINCAID: Our argument, in terms of the liberal bias that we documented, was mainly involving the failure to tell the truth about who was behind these anti-war protests. The reason I keep focusing in on that is that I covered those demonstrations myself. I've been here in Washington for 25 years. I know how these things work. I've covered demonstrations for two decades. I know the names of the players. And we focused in on that because the failures of the liberal media were so blatant, were so obvious -- at least to me, as someone who was there, who covered these activities.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Let me just interrupt, because I've got that two or three other times. I want to ask you -- How do eliminate all other possibilities? That they were just too lazy? Or that they had already decided that war was going to happen, and it didn't matter to even to say what these -- what was going on? It was a realpolitik approach of --
KINCAID: Well, what -- The fact is that reporters can be lazy. They are not open to criticism as well. And we give them an opportunity to respond to our criticisms. We send letters to the editor. We go to the annual meetings. We ask questions of their top editors and publishers. We sometimes contact the reporters themselves. We try to get answers. Was it just laziness? Was it a bias? And it's very difficult to get them to put an explanation on the record. But the fact is that liberal media bias has been a fact of life in the United States -- and especially in Washington DC and New York for decades. We have studies and surveys -- and I'm sure you're going to cite some of those in your film -- demonstrating how this goes back to the time of FDR. The fact is that the journalism profession has been very open to those who have a liberal bias that is reflected in the activities and policies and issues and agenda of the national Democratic Party. This isn't a surprise. This isn't big news. Even the Pew Research Center recently came out with a study noting how few conservatives are actually in the national media. It is incredible how few conservatives go into the profession, and are represented there today.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: I think, if you look at -- Hold on, let me just get my train of thought -- Okay…
KINCAID: Because I've got to go -- quickly.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay, like five minutes. Is there anything else that you can borrow off of the research of the Media Research Center? Or, you know, just --During the build-up, I see that the coverage being driven by the White House -- the reverse inverted pyramid. If you look at the actual coverage of the White House, State Department, Defense Department, it's going to be dictated and predictive of the senior administration officials -- whatever President Bush says -- whatever Secretary Rumsfield says -- whatever Secretary Powell says -- that's going to be the headline. And to me that doesn't indicate a liberal media bias.
KINCAID: The media have an obligation to report the facts. Sometimes they do that within the context of their own bias. They certainly cannot ignore what the Executive Branch is doing. We would fault them if they did ignore what the President said. The American people deserve the full truth about what the President is saying about Iraq. That should be news. But I find no evidence that the media went out of their way to pump up or to promote the administration's case for going to war. To the degree -- To the extent that there were critics of the administration and the Congress, they got attention. They got publicity. But the administration at any particular time -- whether it's a Republican or Democratic administration -- is going to get coverage. That's the nature of what happens here in Washington DC. But the Congress is covered as well. And then I think the media, to try to quote "balance out that coverage," perhaps because they thought it was too administration, would go and cover these anti-war protests -- as if this somehow represented the true sentiments of the American people. That's where we focused our attention. Because the coverage was so bad, was so flawed in terms of -- you can say it was laziness -- But I can't believe that explains how after demonstration after demonstration, the facts about the Communists who organized the demonstrations was ignored.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: But -- They do cover what the administration says, but a lot of times there's not skeptical opinion incorporated within the own -- beat reports of the White House, State Department or the Pentagon, and so --
KINCAID: Well, I don't --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: -- It's the acceptance of the framing that Iraq is the biggest threat. When I've talk to nuclear non-proliferation experts who say that, 'In fact, Iran and North Korea are bigger threats.' So you're accepting the framing of the administration when the media's role is to challenge power, is it not?
KINCAID: I don't think there's any evidence that the reporters for the Washington Post or the New York Times, which are big liberal Democratic Party papers, gave too much leeway or prominence to what the Republican Bush administration was saying. There's just no evidence of that at all. These reporters who are covering the White House or the Pentagon or other beats for the Washington Post and the New York Times are liberals. They are associated with the views of the national Democratic Party. All the surveys show that the major papers -- and the networks are dominated by liberals who are associated with the national Democratic Party. To say that they went into the tank for the Bush administration I think is laughable.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: If you look at Daniel Okrent or Michael Getler or even on some of their admissions apologizing -- that's your evidence. They said, "We were not -- Our coverage was not as rigorous as it should have been."
KINCAID: Those people who are trying to apologize for a so-called pro-war slant to the coverage are just plain wrong. They are wrong. And for the New York Times to issue a virtual apology over their coverage leading up to the war is laughable. The New York Times went out of its way for some strange reason -- which I'll get into -- to bash some of their own reporters. When their own reporters were simply reporting the facts based on the available intelligence and information. What was the reason for the New York Times -- or for the Washington Post for that matter -- trying to apologize for how they covered the war -- or the events leading up to the war? They had come under attack by the liberals and the left-wingers, who didn't want to go to war. And they could see a bias somehow in the coverage leading up to the war. These papers had been attacked unmercilessly by liberal activists and groups like Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, who tried to hit them over the head, saying, "Oh, you were too much pro-administration. You were too pro-Bush." This was all a political strategy on the part of those who opposed the war to try to discredit these newspapers. And unfortunately, you had in the case of the New York Times, their new editor, Bill Keller, falling victim to this campaign and issuing an apology for something that was defensible. The fact is, that the New York Times was relying on the best available information they had. It became fashionable though, for these major liberal papers to step back and say, "Oh, maybe we got too much caught up in this 'Rush to War,' so-called." That was just a desire to appease the liberal and left-wing critics of those papers. And it reminds me of when we were at the Washington Post annual meeting, and I raised the question of why this paper had failed to tell the truth about the Communists behind one of these anti-war demonstrations. And the publisher of the Washington Post, Beau Jones, said, "Oh well, you know, we heard from you, and your criticism. But we heard a lot more from those activists who wanted us to give these demonstrations even more attention and publicity." Well, that shows how they work. If they're getting more e-mails or letters or phone calls from these left-wing and liberal activists, they figure -- even if they're an publisher or editor or reporter -- that they somehow have to mollify or appease these people. Again, that's evidence of how they lose their bearings as objective news reporters.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Now, it seems to me when you're proving your hypothesis, you need to disprove all competing null hypotheses. So how do you disprove that economic influence has no impact on the coverage? Because of smaller newsrooms, the lack of investigative reporters, you know -- Just in any -- It seems like -- How can you eliminate that as a possibility?
KINCAID: I don't understand what the argument is. What is the argument that somehow an economic impact is dictating what?
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: That the smaller newsrooms, that they're going more event-driven coverage and less issue-based coverage. And have more beat reporting and less analysis. Do you see that as a trend?
KINCAID: The problem I find with the press, and the media in general, is that there's too much analysis. What is called "interpretive reporting" has replaced old-fashioned news reporting. Used to be "Who? What? When? Where? Why? & How?" And now it's "Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? & So What?" Which opens the door to the liberal media biases of the particular reporters. Pardon me. The economics, I don't think play a role when it comes to the Washington Post or the New York Times, which are the major newspapers in this country -- the major national newspapers. The New York Times is a very profitable institution. I go to their annual meeting every year, and I have to listen to Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. talk about how profitable the paper -- the company is. How much --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: I'm looking at television
KINCAID: How much money they're making. And yet, at the same time, this was a paper, through its editorial coverage, that was adamantly against going to war in Iraq. It had no influence at all on their editorial point of view. They were against the war. And among their reporters -- my guess is, I haven't interviewed them in detail -- that most of the reporters were probably against the war as well. But they covered it to the extent they could. And yet even that wasn't good enough, as I say, because the Times later would issue this virtual apology for supposedly tilting or slanting its coverage -- or not questioning some of their sources in the build-up to the war. Again, that was an attempt to placate the left-wing critics of the New York Times who are very vocal, and very visible. And they have put a lot of pressure on these papers supposedly to come clean, now that they've raised questions about the aftermath of the war.

ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: But a good example would be March 12th, when Elizabeth Smart was found -- and that's the top news story on all the major -- ABC, NBC and CBS. How could that not be an economic issue? It's infotainment. We're on the brink of war, Elizabeth Smart gets found. How is that liberal media bias?
[Interview Tape Ends]

Does Kincaid really promote accurate reporting in the media?

If asked, even a freshman journalism student will tell you that Cliff Kincaid’s writings appear less about principles but more about passion, perception and prejudices. First, he allows his ideology determine a target around which a narrative can be fixed and then proceeds to find anecdotes to support that.

Take the example of Iraq, a question with precious American lives and replaceable but huge resources at stake. The National Intelligence Estimate comprising 16 intelligence agencies have released its latest report. But it does not point out that the deterioration in Iraq is the media's fault. Kincaid pin's all that on media. He is bent upon in his bid to create a mountain out of matchbox size newly established news channel. Many readers don't get the point as to how a tiny matchbox size channel from thousands of miles away can influence the opinion of the learned and informed American people. Does Mr. Kincaid think that the Americans aren't smart enough or they need to depend on a nanny like him to tell what they should or shouldn't watch.

Security analyst Professor John Mueller, ex-Pentagon Official Karen Kwiatkowski, and former UN Weapons inspector Scott Ritter among others are increasingly questioning if contemporary threat perceptions are backed by any hard evidence. But none of them are ever cited on Accuracy in Media or America's Survival web sites or the documentary Kincaid recently produced. Nor is Kincaid ever found asking CentCom Middle East based Spokesman, Captain Frank Pascual or any other knowledgeable person to verify his claim that it is the bad coverage of Iraq that makes US troops unsafe.

It will be far more appropriate if Cliff Kincaid seeks truth behind vital issues. On most occasions, he either shies away from them or finds a non-issues to hide beneath.Thus he never questions why White House budget director, Rob Portman is asking, in the new budget, for another $365 billion over the next few fiscal years. This comes over the $433 billion that's already been spent, a total of nearly $800 billion.

Kincaid never raise his voice what a lot of people are asking about, is this good money going to improve conditions given the current situation in Iraq? Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the other day: It's doubly shameful because we're trying to restore places like New Orleans and the Gulf Coast here in this country. That's been held up, and this money's being wasted in Iraq. Surprisingly the self-appointed champion of "America's Survival" is found occupied not with what matters most for American but setting up blogs and producing documentaries about a tiny channel thousands of miles away in an Persian Gulf peninsula.