Notes, Video & Transcripts from CNN Appearance

A transcript and video clip from this week’s appearance on CNN’s On the Story are available below. The video is a bandwidth hog, please download only if you haven’t seen it…

Transcript of appearance on CNN’s On the Story

Video clip of appearance (low resolution, 10M download)

Here are some of my brief (and I mean brief) impressions of the appearance. I found it very interesting that a large majority of the CNN audience did not “have confidence” in the news they were receiving from Iraq. It would have been interesting to have explored the reasons for this further. After watching the interview again, it was obvious Barbara Starr and I were talking about two entirely different subjects. Ms. Starr was discussing the administration and “strategic communications, information operations, spin, spin, spin,” as well as the difficulties reporters encounter in Iraq. I was discussing how the media has failed to provide the proper context for the war, specifically in military operations, and how their reporting plays into the hands of al Qaeda. There was plenty I wanted to discuss about the media & war reporting, but this was TV, I knew I’d only get a few minutes and had to focus on what I perceive to be a major weakness in the war reporting. This is in itself a major problem with the media’s reporting on the war – particularly in television, where time is at a premium and complex issues are reduced to sound bytes.

Many thanks to reader ‘Lynne’ for capturing the video, and to the AcademicElephant for providing a link to the transcript. The AcademicElephant also discusses the appearance at both his blog and at

Also, many thanks to CNN producer Abbi Tatton for inviting me to appear on the program. Abbi tried to get me on the program while I was in Iraq but we encountered technical problems with getting to a webcam (there just aren’t too many places capable of this in Anbar province).

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


  • dj elliott says:

    Was the invite back legit or did they throw that in for public consumption (spin)? By the way, transcript link is hiccuping for me, not sure which end.

  • Andy Wagner says:

    I saw your note about the appearance just in time to turn it on and watch live. Good job. It’s very hard to turn thoughts into sound bytes and harder when you are up against a professional, like Ms. Starr.
    The purpose blogs like this serve is to bridge the gap between news and history, and to convert sound bytes into context and analysis. Keep up the good work, and if you get the opportunity again, hammer those points home!

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I fixed the link, sorry. As I said, this was the second time I was asked on the program, and the fisrt I was able to make it.

  • pedestrian says:

    Ms. Starr mentioned about the complex situation. As mentioned within the article, the focus was on different topics, with Ms. Starr talking more about infrastructure and civil level events, and also difference between regions. When the issue is discussed and concentrated on one portion of the entire picture, you may have a different picture. That’s the whole story of this issue, people covering different portions of the whole picture, having both good and bad.

  • Capt' Ted says:

    Bill, One recent example of the MSM completely missing out on a significant story, in my opinion, would be the one that recently appeared on the Marine Corps website, “Iraqi’s knock-out 1st independent military operation in Iraq’s al Anbar province” dated 15 March. This is exactly the kind of long-term result we’ve been striving for; finally reach, and you don’t hear it mentioned anyhwere. The perfect story for placing all our efforts in the last year in this area, into the proper context of overall military actions, that you speak of. Keep up the good work,your service an invaluable piece of the big picture that the public so desperately needs to be made aware of.

  • coldoc says:

    It has been my experience that when people say something is “complex” they are really saying they don’t understand the subject. They are lost and searching for a common link. They collect facts and grasp at those they comprehend like a drowning man grasping at straws.
    It is obvious that Ms. Starr is grasping at straws. You offered her a lifeline with your “context” I critique, but I don’t think she saw it. The audience did…

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  • hamidreza says:

    Good point coldoc. “Complex” is a code word to browbeat those they disagree with into silence. Nothing can escape reasonable analytic reduction. Those who wish to obfuscate and call it complexity, are having a lot of trouble digesting the facts, as the facts do not correspond to the ideological models and memes they have constructed for themselves – hence the “complexity”. I.e., that they do not understand the dynamics.

  • Enigma says:

    Ms. Starr’s remarks are just begging for a fisk:
    It’s just hard to know where to begin because I was at that press conference where Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said this. He is extremely frustrated. His view without question is that the lack of support in the United States for the war reflected in the polls is a direct result of negative media reporting, his view. The view of this administration is that this is largely the media’s fault.
    And since everything this Administration says is a lie, then the obvious conclusion is the media is above reproach in their reporting.
    One, you bet the media makes mistakes. There is no question about that. We couldn’t turn out the volume.
    Quantity versus quality, eh? I prefer quality.
    We do news. We don’t do history.
    And THAT’S the problem. Today’s events cannot be properly understood outside their historical context. We cannot understand the world as it is without understanding how it came to be. You would know that if you studied your history.
    Responsible news organizations, responsible organizations correct their mistakes when they make them.
    I’m waiting…
    There is also — I’m not going to be quiet for a couple of minutes.
    Translation: And you just mind your place you pipsqueak little blogger! The adults are in charge here.
    There is also no question that this administration has engaged in what they call strategic communications, information operations, spin, spin, spin.
    News flash! The government engages in information operations. Did it ever occur to you that our enemy does as well? Have you ever wondered how they do that? Does the phrase “useful idiots” mean anything? It would if you read your history.
    And one of the biggest tasks for journalists in covering Iraq is to sort out indeed the spin from the fact.
    Well, isn’t that what journalists are supposed to do?
    And one of the other major tasks for journalists in covering Iraq is to understand that this war is happening to the people of Iraq
    I’m sorry, but that is about the most lame-brain statement I’ve ever heard. Do journalists actually have to take time to figure this out? Do journalists also have to take time to figure out which end of the pencil writes?
    Many of them you bet. live in areas that are relatively safe.
    Where? I never hear about this in the MSM.
    But if there’s an IED, if there are snipers, if you are living in Baghdad and 50 bodies turn up choked and strangled, it’s major combat.
    And today’s “Duh Award” winner is…
    There is no question. As one person said to me, it’s fine to report on the rebuilding of schools.
    Then why not report it?
    But if you are too afraid to send your kid to school, which is the story?
    A classic false dichotomy. How about doing some real investigative journalism and report on how the situation has changed since Saddam was in power? How many schools are open today compared to Saddam’s era? What kind of schools are open today? What do the schools teach today? How scared are parents today to send their children to school compared to Saddam’s era? How many parents under Saddam ever lived to see their children go to school? How many children ever lived to go to school under Saddam?
    So I think reporters feel that on the whole, they have done a responsible job.
    And I don’t. Ms. Starr, Eason Jordan is calling…
    Here at CNN, we have covered many of the positive developments in Iraq. We have covered the elections around the clock when they are going on.
    That’s wonderful. Three events in three years.
    We have interviewed many, many Iraqis endlessly in the last three years.
    Who? From where? Did any of them say anything positive? Did you report it?
    But there is no question. Iraq is a violent dangerous place. And this war is ongoing. I mean, that’s what’s going on here. It’s combat.
    Well, we certainly have a firm grasp of the obvious here. I like Bill’s response response to this, but unfortunately he was cut short by Ms. Starr.
    I think that Iraq has moved far beyond being a U.S. military operation.
    News flash! Yep, you are absolutely right. Of course, you would already know that if you read this blog, or listened to what Rumsfeld and Bush have been saying the last three years. You may not agree with Rumsfeld and Bush. You may not like them, but they have been telling us this for years. As have the bloggers.
    What’s going on in Iraqi society right now is extremely complex.
    [rolls eyes]
    There are many parts of Iraq where people simply for a variety of reasons don’t have electricity, don’t have water, don’t have fuel
    And why not? Could you at least please find out why and tell us? Could it be due to terrorist attacks? Or could it be the result of years of neglect under Saddam as he built himself palaces while his people starved? No, of course not. Why would we think anything as silly as that?
    Stay in their homes because they are afraid to go outside. And yes, you bet. There are parts of Iraq especially in the north where things are getting better. But it’s a very complicated picture.
    [rolls eyes again]
    And there are many things that U.S. troops are doing that are noble and courageous beyond belief, that would absolutely just stun you and bring tears to your eyes.
    Then why don’t you report these things? WHY DON’T YOU REPORT THESE?!? Why do you focus on the bad like Abu Ghraib? Do your viewers know who SFC Paul R. Smith is? Do they know who the other heroes of this war are? Why not? WHY NOT?!?
    And just what is so stunning about the courage and compassion of US troops? Don’t you read your history, or for that matter the MilBlogs?
    And there are many things in Iraq that remain very, very difficult and I would tell you that some of the most senior generals in this country right now say they think Iraq is far from civil war, but they worry that it’s closer to civil war than it’s ever been before.
    Senior generals are paid to worry. That’s their job. If they weren’t worried, I would be. But instead of just telling us how worried they are, how about telling us what exactly they are doing to prevent their fears from being realized? Senior generals do that, you know. They figure out what could go wrong, then they do what they can to see that things don’t go wrong. Wouldn’t that be an interesting story?
    But be warned, MSM. Finding and reporting such answers will require knowing which end of the pencil writes…


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