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SANDERS: Failure to probe Benghazi a disgrace to journalism
Question of the Day
Today, I am ashamed to be an American journalist.
In October 1956, my friend Shri Mulgaonkar, the leading Indian newsman of his generation, wrote an iconic essay entitled, “Today, I am ashamed to be an Indian.” Mr. Mulgaonkar flayed then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his communist Ambassador to the United Nations V.K. Krishna Menon, who had reached the nadir of their ignominious alliance with Moscow by defending the Soviet assault on Hungarian freedom fighters.
Were Shri still among us, I might well ask him for a Hindustan Times front-page spot for my own screed, “Today I am ashamed to be an American journalist.” For in 60-plus years in newsrooms, I have never seen anything to match the utter media moral collapse in the face of the ominous national security disaster in Benghazi, Libya.
The spectacle of a White House news conference with only eight questions for President Obama resembled nothing so much as one of Charles de Gaulle’s staged events, but with far less Gallic flair. One simpering reporter even began her question with a sycophantic stumbling few words about the president’s continued electoral victories.
The New York Times, once considered a lion of the American press, has ignored the vast national security implications of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, too busy importing as its new chief executive a former head of the BBC who left his former employer drowning in scandal. Somehow, American news companies appear to think installing British hacks (my friend Stuart Varney the exception) in top posts will halt the steady descent of print media into obscurity.
Only Jennifer Griffin, Fox News’ national security correspondent, and her colleague Catherine Herridge, who covers homeland security, are pursuing the story with almost daily exclusives, rescuing the Fox News Channel from the ravages of Bill O'Reilly’s egomaniacal posturings. The two women daily reveal new threats to national security springing from the Benghazi attack.
One had hoped the puerile interest of the mainstream media in the sexual adventures of former CIA Director David H. Petraeus and a coterie of high-ranking officers in Tampa, Fla., apparently leading back to Lebanese influence network, might produce some coverage of real issues. But that seems not to be.
The policy issues posed by Benghazi are almost as limitless as they are germane to national security, but still they elicit no response from most of the media. When Mr. Obama defends propaganda given out by his U.N. ambassador, Susan E. Rice, his own admission that she had nothing to do with the events of Sept. 11 in Benghazi doesn’t provoke further media scrutiny. Why was she then chosen to lead what was obviously a totally false campaign on five TV networks in one day shortly after the assault?
Why was proper security not present, despite repeated terrorist attacks in Benghazi on foreign diplomats? Why had Ambassadr J. Christopher Stevens traveled to Benghazi when his previous calls for more security had gone unanswered? Why was Gen. Carter Ham summarily sacked within less than a year as head of the U.S. military’s African command, amid talk forces under his command might have gone to the rescue of those under attack in Benghazi? What were the two former SEALs on loan to CIA doing in Libya in the first place? They were not there originally for the ambassador’s security, but in fact countermanded orders that they not try to rescue him. Who, indeed, “handed” administration spokesmen a false public explanation of the attack despite instantaneous knowledge it was planned, well-armed, and with clear ties to al Qaeda? Surely all these questions have wide implications for the nation’s security.
The questions — which in a once-vibrant American media would have occasioned dozens of newsworthy stories — remain unanswered. A slovenly, self-infatuated, incompetent, unprofessional, prejudiced and corrupt press corps refuses to do its job.
Thomas Jefferson, that great voice for freedom and a government subservient to the people, said it best:
“The press [is] the only tocsin of a nation. [When it] is completely silenced … all means of a general effort [are] taken away.”
Are we then lost?
• Sol Sanders, a veteran international correspondent, writes weekly on the intersection of politics, business and economics. He can be reached at email@example.com and blogs at yeoldecrabb.wordpress.com.
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