‘Wash Post’ Hit For Sponsorship Of ‘Freedom’ March

By: Joe Strupp

The Washington Post has no plans to withdraw its co-sponsorship of a controversial Sept. 11 memorial walk being organized by the Department of Defense, according to Publisher Bo Jones. But, he said the paper would pull out if the event turns out to be some kind of pro-war or political march.

“This was part of the memorial of the 9/11 victims and an effort for veterans past and present and that is it,” Jones said about the “Freedom Walk” slated for Sept. 11. “This has nothing to do with politics or the war or support of any political position.”

Still, Jones added that the paper would withdraw support, which consists of providing public service advertising space in the paper, if the event turns partisan. “If I turns out to be a political event, we would disassociate ourselves from it,” he said.

The gathering will culminate in a concert by country star Clint Black, known for a pro-war song “Iraq and I Roll,” which declares, “We can’t ignore the devil, he’ll keep coming back for more.” (See more lyrics below.)

Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie, Jr. declined to comment on the paper’s involvement, other than to say, “it does not affect our coverage.”

But Rick Weiss, a Post science reporter and co-chair of the Washington Post unit of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, noted the hypocrisy of the paper’s involvement, since it bars reporters from participating in partisan events. “It is dismaying, to say the least, that I can be fired for participating in a peace march while my employer feels free to co-sponsor an event that so blatantly beats the drum of war,” Weiss stated.

Weiss stressed that the guild had not taken a position on the issue, but planned to consider it during a leadership meeting on Monday.

John Pike, who has been a defense analyst in Washington for 25 years and runs GlobalSecurity.org, told Knight Ridder, referring to the Pentagon rally, “I’ve never heard of such a thing.” Others worried that it would re-kindle attempts to link 9/11 to the war in Iraq.

The march, which also is receiving sponsorship help from two Washington D.C. radio stations and a television station, has drawn opposition from liberal blogs and some anti-war groups, who contend it amounts to a pro-war demonstration. Others have specifically pointed to the Post’s involvement, claiming that the newspaper should not be part of a potentially political walk.

“This is a terrible thing for The Washington Post,” said Bill Dobbs, spokesman for United for Peace and Justice. “It calls into question the media’s credibility.”

Post spokesman Eric Grant echoed the publisher’s view, claiming the paper’s interest was strictly non-partisan. “The Post’s interest in the event is consistent with our past support of causes relating to the victims of September 11 and honoring veterans of
wars past and present,” he said in a statement. “The walk was never presented to us as a rally to support the war and we would be very disappointed if it took that approach.”

Clint Black’s song, “Iraq and I Roll,” also includes these lyrics:

NOW YOU CAN COME ALONG
OR YOU CAN STAY BEHIND
OR YOU CAN GET OUT OF THE WAY
BUT OUR TROOPS TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE
FOR THE GOOD OLD U.S.A.

YOU CAN WAVE YOUR SIGNS IN PROTEST
AGAINST AMERICA TAKING STANDS
THE STANDS AMERICA’S TAKEN
ARE THE REASON THAT YOU CAN

SOME SEE THIS IN BLACK AND WHITE
OTHERS ONLY GRAY
WE’RE NOT BEGGING FOR A FIGHT
NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY

WE HAVE THE RESOLUTION
THAT SHOULD PUT’EM ALL TO SHAME
BUT IT’S A DIFFERENT KIND OF DEADLINE
WHEN I’M CALLED IN THE GAME

I PRAY FOR PEACE, PREPARE FOR WAR
AND I NEVER WILL FORGET
THERE’S NO PRICE TOO HIGH FOR FREEDOM
SO BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU TREAD

IT MIGHT BE A SMART BOMB
THEY FIND STUPID PEOPLE TOO
AND IF YOU STAND WITH THE LIKES OF SADDAM
ONE JUST MIGHT FIND YOU

I’VE GOT INFRARED, I’VE GOT GPS AND I’VE GOT THAT GOOD OLD FASHIONED LEAD
THERE’S NO PRICE TOO HIGH FOR FREEDOM
SO BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU TREAD

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