Brokaw plays dumb to the very end

Published December 2, 2004 3:30PM (EST)

Catching part of Tom Brokaw's farewell telecast on NBC's "Nightly News" yesterday, we couldn't help shaking our heads. Not over the end of a broadcast era, but how Brokaw, the multi-millionaire news reader for General Electric, played the role of weak-kneed Establishment cog to the end. Specifically, his reporting on the U.S.-led debacle in Iraq Wednesday night was laced with such shrieking timidity it made our jaws drop. One day after the curtain came down on the deadliest month in the war -- the 30-day span of November that claimed the lives of approximately 136 American troops as well as robbed the U.S. Treasury of $6 billion -- Brokaw told NBC viewers, "As for what's going on in Iraq right now, as always, it's a mixed message." Huh?

His not-so-bad assessment came just moments after NBC detailed how the Pentagon was scrambling to call up an additional 12,000 troops in what can only be described as a desperate attempt to manufacture some semblance of security before the planned January elections for a country that has transformed itself into a terrorist hotbed. Also, Brokaw's hopeful "mixed messages" comment prefaced an NBC report on how some residents of the bombed out city of Fallujah were trickling back home where they would likely live in refugee camps, be finger-printed, have their retinas scanned by the U.S. military, and told they'd be shot by Marines if they broke curfew.

The occupation, let alone the supposed reconstruction, of Iraq has been a failure, more than 1,200 Americans are dead, tens of thousands of Iraqis have perished, the insurgence continues to multiply, portions of the country remain in tatters nearly two years after the U.S. invasion, while the nearby Middle East -- which was supposed to be transformed by Bush's war of liberation -- suffers through its darkest, deadliest time in decades. Yet Brokaw, well aware of the facts, sticks to the polite, GOP-friendly Beltway spin that tip toes around the truth and pretends that with Saddam Hussein in jail the Iraq war glass remains half-full. What a sad way to end a journalism career.

By Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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