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Military Times Poll: Misleading but Praised by FOX Analyst Anyway

Reported by Marie Therese - December 28, 2004

John Gibson's guest on Big Story yesterday (12/27/04) was Lt. Col. Bill Cowan (USMC-Ret), one of the coterie of FOX military rah-rah boys. Cowan generally goes along with the Bush party line, which is the FOX party line. Like many military men Cowan seems to take ANY criticism of the war as criticism of the soldiers, which is, of course, not true. During this interview Cowan applauded the results of the annual Military Times Poll, which, by the admission of the poll's own creators, is based on voluntary responses from its own subscribers, is weighted heavily towards command staff and does not reflect the opinions of the 40% of the fighting force that are in the Reserve units. I saw reports on this on both FOX and CNN and neither station mentioned any of these delimiting facts. Both presented the poll as a rousing endorsement of the Bush administration policies.

During the interview FOX flashed its usual "BIG FACTS" on the lower third of the screen. These were: 63% approve of how President Bush is handling the war. 60% remain convinced war is worth fighting. 66% of combat vets say war is worth fighting. 87% polled are satisfied with their jobs. 25% polled said they'd leave the service.

Cowan gave his imprimatur to all of this, going so far as to hint that many soldiers still believe they are fighting the enemy who attacked the United States on 9/11, an idea that has been thoroughly debunked by the 9/11 Commission, but one which pro-war types drag out in a desperate attempt to justify what is shaping up to be an unmitigated disaster in Iraq. Gibson hopped right on the the Iraq-is-linked-to-Al-Qaeda bandwagon as well.

JOHN GIBSON: "US troops facing terror attacks and fierce battles for the security of Iraq. But morale in the field remains strong. According to a poll conducted by the Military Times, the majority of US troops now serving still believe the war is worth fighting and they support the way President Bush is handling it. Joining me now, retired Marine Lt. Col. and FOX News Military Analyst Colonel Bill Cowan. So, does this surprise you much?"

LT. COL. BILL COWAN: "Not at all, John. We've got a lot of troops out there who came into the military as the result of 9/11. A lot of others who were in the military when 9/11 happened and we don't need the President or the Secretary of Defense actually to go over there to fire up the morale. I think our men and women overseas, as this poll indicates, the majority of them support the war, support what they're doing and are happy being able to support America."

When Gibson went on to note that 20% of the respondents did not support the decision to go to war that being "30,000 troops," Cowan responded that this was the fault of "a mainstream media that's really working hard - and some politicians - working hard to continuously portray a bad side to what's going on over there." He went on to say: "That young soldier you were interviewing just as we headlined here, talking about all the good things that they're doing. Certainly a lot of kids workin' hard over there. My own son over there in Iraq and Afghanistan, a tour in each place. There are days when people get up and they flat out don't want to be there. But you know something like this Osama bin Laden tape that comes out today is a reminder to each and every one, each and every one, that - why they're there, what they're doing and what they have to be doing."

GIBSON: "Speaking of that, let me revisit the bin Laden tape with you. If - does that prove once and for all that Al Qaeda was operating in Iraq? I mean, bin Laden's saying Zarqawi's my guy in Iraq. Zarqawi was there, way before our invasion. Anything else need to be said?"

COWAN (laughing): "That's a great question, John. I'm not sure, I'm not sure that bin Laden's trying to play a little trump card here on Zarqawi, who he knows is really getting all the media attention right now. There's probably a little game going on between the two of them. I would say, even if Al Qaeda was not in Iraq before we went in there - and there's pros and cons about whether they were or not - there's no question that, had Saddam stayed in power, they would have been with him. They would have been with him in a big way and we would have seen the effect of that alliance somewhere down the road, if we hadn't taken action first."

When Gibson asked whether or not the military should even be polling its membership, Cowan said it was "very interesting that they do and it's very interesting that they go right out and publish what their polling numbers find." He was clearly impressed with that fact that 87% of the respondents were satisfied with the job they were doing, although he did mention at this point that it did not include the Reservists.

COMMENT: Notice how Lt. Col. Cowan - who is a bright man - deliberately fudges his answer about whether or not Al Qaeda was in Iraq before our invasion. He KNOWS it isn't true, it's been refuted over and over again, but - desperate to please his FOX masters and whitewash this administration and, maybe, desperate to justify his own son's involvement - Cowan allows himself to be sucked into the world of half-truth and implication.

He makes a breathtaking prediction out of thin air - that Al Qaeda WOULD HAVE joined forces with Saddam even if they hadn't before the war - and uses that to justify the war. Guess he thinks the military should hire Miss Cleo to predict which world leaders will form alliances in the future so we can attack them NOW!

To me, Cowan and Gibson continue to use the same kind of mushy faux facts that got us into this mess in the first place. In my opinion Cowan owes it to his son to speak the truth, even if that truth doesn't please the people paying his salary. There is not one scintilla of evidence that Saddam and bin Laden were becoming buddy-buddy. In fact, the exact opposite is the case. They hated each other.

As for Zarqawi, the administration's been all over the board on him. He has a leg. He has no leg. He was injured in a helicopter attack. He wasn't injured in a helicopter crash. His leg was amputated in Baghdad. His leg wasn't amputated in Baghdad. He's in Fallujah, He's not in Fallujah. He's in Mosul. He's not in Mosul. The only thing they agree on is that Zarqawi ran an Al Qaeda training camp in the northern Kurdish territories. But, THAT piece of information would make the Kurds look bad so it conveniently gets left out of the "fair and balanced" reportage.

This Military Times Poll is nothing but a readers' survey masquerading as a genuine poll. Yet, in spite of this, it has been trumpeted hither and yon as a broadbased indicator of troop support for the war.

I suspect what really scares the administration is that figure of 25% who say they would not re-enlist. That's a very bad sign, indicative of a future wherein we cannot meet our enlistment goals. According to several military analysts on other channels, the situation will become critical in June 2005, when a large chunk of reservists and regular military are scheduled to be released from duty. It should be quite interesting to see what Rummy and the DOD will do then.

Click here for results of the poll: Troops retain strong support for war.

For more on al-Zarqawi go to The most dangerous terrorist.

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