AP Only Telling Half the Story On Soldier's Uncle

The AP’s story on the uncle of Army Pfc. Kristian Menchaca criticizing the U.S. for not “having a plan” pretty much portrays him as a sympathetic fellow. For the purpose of context, I’ll clip the whole thing here:

Missing Soldier’s Uncle Criticizes U.S.

DALLAS — The uncle of a U.S. soldier who disappeared after a firefight in Iraq lashed out at the government Tuesday after learning two bodies had reportedly been found not far from where his nephew and another soldier were last seen.

“The news is going to be heartbreaking for my family,” Ken MacKenzie, uncle of Army Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, told NBC’s “Today” show. “Because the U.S. government did not have a plan in place, my nephew has paid for it with his life,” he said.

MacKenzie said he had not received confirmation from the U.S. military that his nephew had been found. Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Mohammed announced the finding in a statement early Tuesday. U.S. Maj. Doug Powell said he could not confirm the report.

The Iraqi military official said the bodies of Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and Army Pfc. Thomas Lowell Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore., had been found on a street in Youssifiyah, just south of Baghdad. The two had been manning checkpoints in Iraq when they were attacked Friday and another soldier with them was killed.

A group that includes al-Qaida in Iraq claimed Monday it had kidnapped the two soldiers, but it did not name them and the U.S. military was skeptical of the claim. More than 8,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops have been searching for the missing men.

“I think the U.S. government was too slow to react to this,” MacKenzie said. “They should have had a plan in place.”

MacKenzie said the government should have offered a $100 million reward and offered to exchange mujahideen detainees for the soldiers’ lives. It seized enough money from Saddam Hussein to afford it, he said.

In Madras, Ore., Tucker’s hometown, yellow ribbons adorn the trees and store reader boards offer prayers of hope for his safe return.

Tucker’s relatives declined interviews but released the text of a phone message Monday that Tucker recently left on an answering machine, telling his mother to be proud of him.

“I’m defending my country,” Tucker says on the recording. “Tell sis and my nephews hello for me, I’m OK, I’m on my way.”

The family said in a statement that their son had joined the military because he wanted to “do something positive.” They also sent their sympathy to the family of Spc. David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass., who was killed in the attack.

Lyndsay Kowaleski, a high school classmate of Tucker’s, described “a sense of helplessness.”

“Our hearts are broken with our friend being in this situation,” she said.

A sad story to be sure… But the AP story is based on an interview Ken MacKenzie had with the Today show. And a transcript of the show makes the uncle a little less sympathetic and a bit more irrational. Via Newsbusters:

Lauer was interviewing Ken MacKenzie, a well-spoken, well-informed uncle to PFC Kristian Menchaca. Asked Lauer:

“A group linked to al-Qaeda on its website has claimed that they actually took Kristian and another soldier. What’s your reaction to that?”

Replied MacKenzie::
“My reaction is the United States government should have immediately notified these Shura Council mujahadeen that the United States government was offering a $100-million reward and offering to exchange the 2,500 mujahadeen detainees that Prime Minister al-Maliki of Iraq plans to release several weeks from now. I think the U.S. government was too slow to react to this, they should have had a plan in place. Because the U.S. government did not have a plan in place, my nephew has paid for it with his life.”

“Let me just interrupt for a second. Obviously the U.S. has a policy of not negotiating with terrorists. We do have reports that up to 8,000 troops, U.S. and Iraqis, are out searching for your nephew and also reward money is being offered in Baghdad or in the area for any information leading to the finding of your nephew. Are you suggesting that you think the U.S. government should pay a ransom?”

MacKenzie didn’t mince words:
“Yes. The ransom is available from Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party funds seized by the U.S. government. More than $100 billion in cash and gold, that the U.S. government apparently had plans to return to the government of Iraq. I would think that that money, part of it, could be used to pay ransom. That would not be coming out of U.S. taxpayer pockets, by the way. It could be paid out of the bank account where it now reposes. I think that that money should have been earmarked for this type of a hostage situation.”

Lauer again challenged the suggestion:
“Mr. MacKenzie, obviously you are dealing with this as a personal and a family tragedy. I can certainly understand that, but wouldn’t that then make it very profitable for terrorists in Iraq and other parts of the world to kidnap westerners because they could reap huge amounts of money from it?”

“Yes, but they are doing that anyway. I don’t know if that would escalate or encourage them to kidnap more westerners and more U.S. soldiers. But I rather doubt it. My concern is the humanitarian concern.

With all respect due a grieving family member, it’s a good thing this guy’s “plan” never existed. At 100 million bucks per kidnapping, every Iraqi in the country would be kidnapping U.S. soldiers. (Heck, I might snatch a few)

While the media loves to talk about “balance” we got none in this story. (save one line) If the uncle’s criticism of the U.S. not having “a plan” is newsworthy then so too is the context in which his criticism is offered.

The bottom line is this. By selective editing, the AP report -distorted, not reported- the content of the interview.

H/T to talksmack

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