- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President
George W. Bush's nominee to be the Pentagon's chief public affairs official
told Congress on Tuesday he hoped to encourage more positive storiesabout
the Iraq war by encouraging the practice of embedding reporters with U.S.
troops in Iraq.
- Dorrance Smith, a former television producer who spent
nine months in Iraq as a senior adviser for former ambassador Paul Bremer,
also defended his controversial article in the Wall Street Journal in April,
in which he said extremists like Osama bin Laden had "a partner in
Al-Jazeera, and by extension, most networks in the U.S."
- In the article, Smith concluded that the United States
was "losing badly" the battle for the hearts and minds of the
Iraqi people, and said ethical questions were raised by the practice of
U.S. networks airing videos of hostages obtained by Al-Jazeera, a popular
Arab-language television channel.
- He told the Senate Armed Services Committee one way to
get out more positive stories about U.S. troops in Iraq would be to "reinvigorate"
the Pentagon's practice of embedding reporters with military units, which
was widely used during the invasion of Iraq 2-1/2 years ago but is done
only sporadically now.
- "We've got to analyze the security situation as
it relates to the communications environment to see what we can do to get
these stories out in an open and honest way and a timely fashion,"
- Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), the ranking
Democrat on the committee, grilled Smith repeatedly about the Wall Street
Journal article, but Smith said he still believed it was right to question
relations between U.S. networks, Al-Jazeera and extremist groups.
- "I think that it's fair to say that the terrorists
understand that by having film shown on Al-Jazeera it will then be shown
on the networks," he said.
- But he declined to say the U.S. networks were aiding
and abetting terrorism -- a question that he had raised in the Journal
piece -- by airing the videos and failing to report on Qatar's financial
support for Al-Jazeera.
- Al-Jazeera has often shown video of hostages pleading
at gunpoint for their respective governments to withdraw troops. It does
not broadcast footage of killings, which are posted on the Internet by
militants. Washington has accused the channel of biased reporting on Iraq.
- Levin said he remained troubled by Smith's replies, and
would oppose his nomination.
- Republican Sen. James Inhofe (news, bio, voting record)
of Oklahoma blasted U.S. media coverage of the war in Iraq, saying that
it focused mostly on bad news, and said he hoped Smith could "somehow
shame the press" into providing more positive coverage.
- Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (news, bio, voting record)
of Nebraska bristled at Inhofe's charges, saying, "I think the media
has done and continues to do a remarkable job of telling us what we cannot