AC: Continuation of media discussion
ANDERSON COOPER: With us now in Baghdad, "TIME" Magazine's Michael Ware and CNN's Nic Robertson. Also Radio Host and Blogger Hugh Hewitt. He is in Orange County, California. And in Seattle, Michael Yon, a retired green beret, a frequent visitor to Iraq and the author of "Danger Close."
Good to see you all.
Michael, let's start off with you. We just heard Gayle and Kent talk about stories from the war, acts of heroism and kindness, rebuilding bridges that soldiers are doing every day. What did you see while you were there? And why don't you think those stories are getting told?
MICHAEL YON, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED): Well, Gayle and Kent told the truth. That is absolutely the truth. There are a lot of bombs, of course, and a lot of shootings and whatnot -- a great deal. But it's much easier to tell the bad news. It's easy. The strobe light flashes, you know, the bomb goes off, you take a picture, you have a story. It's easy news. It grabs people's attention. And it makes money.
COOPER: Wait a minute. Actually, let me ask you about that. Because what is easy about going, hanging out with insurgents or going out on patrol? Isn't it easier, frankly, to go -- I mean, if reporters are looking for the easy thing, wouldn't they be going to a hospital opening and giving out toys to children and showing that?
YON: Well, yes. That's true and Michael Ware, I'm sure, and Nic Robertson will take issue when I said it's easy, because I spent my time over there, as well, and I'm about to go back. It's certainly not easy, but it's quick.
But Michael Ware and Nic Robertson do dig in. A lot of people don't. And they get in there and they just tell the quick, easy story of what's going on; or the stringer takes a photo, you know, of a car bomb, and they report the story and basically all we get is day-to-day body counts.
COOPER: Michael Ware, what about that? You're the bureau chief for "TIME" Magazine."You spent a lot of time with insurgents. You put your life at risk. Do you also tell what, I guess some people would call positive stories?
MICHAEL WARE, BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, certainly one tries to, Anderson. You tell whatever story comes along. I mean, I've been embedded with the U.S. military countless times and I've produced many stories as a result of that, be it heroism in battle, be it the success of operations, be it the disruption of insurgent networks. And Michael Yon's website, I mean his reporting from Mosul, from within the U.S. military was outstanding. But, I mean, it comes from within a certain prism.
We face a similar constraint. We have our own prism and that is life on the street in Iraq, in Baghdad, and the good and the bad that comes with it. It means we can't travel, but it also means that we're exposed to the raw reality of what it's like for Iraqis.
COOPER: Hugh Hewitt, do you buy that?
HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, Anderson, I don't. Although I think -- I've read a lot of Mr. Ware's work in the last couple days, it's great work. But I think you're missing the point of what happened in West Virginia today. What happened there is a public demonstration of growing contempt for elite mainstream media, because they do have an agenda. The agenda is perceived as being antiwar. It's not Ernie Pyle. It's a lot more like the Vietnam era, and the American people are growing in their conviction that not only is the media not helping win the war, but they are endangering soldiers.
And I'll tell you an important story. I ran into Ed Blecksmith last month in Los Angeles. Ed lost his son, J.P. Blecksmith, a lieutenant in the Marines in Fallujah on 11/11. And he told me that he believes reporting in the war zone is encouraging attacks on the troops because it is encouraging the insurgents to believe that they can win by hanging on.
A point made to me today by Christopher Hitchens and by many others liberal and center observers of the media. The media including the insurgent coverage that Mr. Ware's been involved in, is becoming increasingly irresponsible, and the American people deeply resent it.
COOPER: I want to let Michael Ware respond to it, but first, Nic Robertson, what do you think of that? Do you worry that you're encouraging insurgents?
NIC ROBERTSON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is a huge propaganda war going on here, and the insurgents are certainly very, very aware of what they're doing. They will try and put bombs in front of cameras. They will try and blow up hotels where journalists are. And if they can get something on a website, they will trumpet it right away.
The attacks on a police station two days ago, that was being claimed on al Qaeda website later in the day. Whether or not it was them, is not clear. It's very hard to verify if it was.
I think that we're in danger here of saying -- this is something I think we've all heard of before: don't shoot the messenger. Just because what the message that perhaps appears to be coming across is a negative message, the message with a bad picture. It doesn't necessarily mean the people bearing that message have negative intentions. We come here without an agenda. Our contract, our contract and obligation is to the audience, to inform the audience. And we do nobody any favors by coming here with an agenda or with a view. And I think the reporters that I know here, that's the way we set out to do our job. And we're very aware of what the insurgents want to do. We're very aware of what the Iraqi people think about the incidents. And we do our absolute best to give a very fair, full and accurate picture.
COOPER: Michael Ware, since you spent a lot of time with insurgents, I mean, do you worry that you are just giving them a voice?
WARE: Oh obviously, Anderson. One has to be very careful. But one applies the same journalistic criteria to the insurgents that we apply to the military. I mean, this is war. Propaganda or information operations is an enormous part of that for both sides. Everyone in war lies to you. Everyone exaggerates, underplays and puts their spin.
There's a political aspect to the very nature of war that needs to be capitalized and manipulated by these players. So we need to add these filters and distill the truth ourselves. I mean, just this anti-liberal media campaign that's been driven from where? From within the political landscape of the United States.
I'm in a fortunate position. I am an Australian, writing for an American magazine. I have no stake either way. I can -- I have no agenda to pursue. I just want to know, what is really going on here?
COOPER: Michael Yon, what do Nic Robertson and Michael Ware not get? When you hear what they're saying, what do you think?
YON: Well, I'm not -- I don't think that they not get anything. They both definitely earned their opinions. I mean, these two gentlemen have been out...
COOPER: I think we just lost Michael Yon.
Hugh Hewitt, when you hear Michael Ware speaking and you hear Nic Robertson speaking, your take?
HEWITT: Well, I'm not personalizing it. I think they are fine reporters who do no have agendas. And Tim Blair's a great acquaintance of mine, has great respect for Mr. Ware. Nic does great work.
I'm talking about what happened in West Virginia today. And it ties in back to, for example, the "New York Times" leaking sensitive information about the NSA wiretap of al Qaeda conducting contacts with their agents in the United States. It goes back to what I think was generally perceived as overkill, extreme overkill on Abu Ghraib, the refusal on the part of the American media to ever come to grips with the fact that those were rogue elements in the American military representative of nothing. I hope you can get Michael Yon back on because I think what I would like to ask Michael to confirm is what I've heard time and time again, is the great contempt among American military serving abroad for what they see when they get home or what they see on CNN when they watch it in their bases. They don't believe the media's doing a good job of portraying what's happening there.
And I think the denial in elite media leads to a kind of reaction, counter-reaction so that the contempt grows and disdain for the media grows deeper and deeper.
COOPER: Unfortunately, Michael Yon -- for some reason our satellite is down. So, but Hugh, I want to stick with you on that point.
You know, in the times that I've been in Iraq and you talk to soldiers, sometimes they will say to you, look, you guys aren't showing the full picture. But, one other soldier said to me, you know, everybody sees their own slice of the war. And when you're a soldier and you're in one unit, you're living on a base, you don't really see much about life on the Iraqi streets. I mean some of them obviously do. But often, you're very isolated in what you see.
Is it possible that some people who feel that their viewpoint is not being reflected, maybe they're not seeing the full picture?
HEWITT: Anderson, that's possible. But that's not their major complaint. Their major complaint is that the insurgents are playing the media like a bongo drum and that they have become to become enamored with the idea that they can drive America from the field by creating enough chaos and enough media shots to weaken the will of the American people to persist in the liberation of Iraq.
And that's what Ed Blecksmith was saying. That's what I've heard echoed time and time again, is that the American media is getting Americans killed. They don't care to understand the insurgent point of view. They're terrorists. They don't care to understand what the Baathist or rejectionists believe. They are people who kill civilians and innocent. They certainly don't give a damn about what Zarqawi thinks because he's a cold-blooded killer.
I think this is the message that the media does not get out or is missing.
COOPER: It is a good discussion to have and one we hope to continue to have. We had it last night, tonight and we hope to just keep going with this.
Hugh Hewitt, we'd love to have you on again.
Michael Yon, I don't know what happened with our satellite. Not a plot, I promise. But we will have you on again.
And Michael Ware and Nic Robertson, as always, thank you very much, gentlemen. A good discussion.