- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 28, 2002

The press has done a good job since September 11 in explaining the motivations of the attackers and their logistical roots in Afghanistan, but still chases the "sexy" story at the expense of educating the public, former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson said yesterday.
"I sometimes think technology has caused the media to devolve," said Mr. Richardson, an eight-term congressman from New Mexico and energy secretary and diplomatic troubleshooter under President Clinton. "The press has forgotten its role as a storyteller as it tries to fill air time, to feed the beast of the 24-hour media cycle."
Mr. Richardson, in a session at a media-policy conference on "How to View 9/11 One Year After," said the terrorist attacks and the prospect of military action in Iraq had profoundly rewritten U.S. foreign policy priorities.
Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, said Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, its possible links to anti-U.S. terrorist groups and the unpredictability of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein justified the Bush administration's intense focus on disarming Saddam.
"Some people tell us that Saddam is not suicidal, but his invasion of Kuwait [in 1990] was an extraordinary miscalculation," said Mr. Lugar.
But he warned that the Bush administration faced some hard questions in dealing with the fallout from any military action against Iraq, even if the United States succeeds in eliminating Saddam.
Mr. Lugar said he remained "optimistic" that the United States and its allies could ultimately contain the terrorist threat and "ensure for ourselves and our children safer lives than the hand we've been dealt at the moment."
But others were not so positive.
Lawrence Eagleburger, a career diplomat and briefly secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush, said the U.S. government must think "long and hard" about military action in Iraq and the aftermath.
"I don't want the United States to fall into a kind of hubris that smacks of the Roman Empire," Mr. Eagleburger warned.
Matthew Levitt, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior FBI analyst, said September 11 helped usher in a new age of "transnational radical religious extremism."
Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups today "don't want a seat at the table. They want to blow up the table and everybody seated around it," Mr. Levitt warned.
The remarks were made at the 19th annual conference of the World Media Association, a media-policy foundation established by The Washington Times' founder, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
The two-day conference, which concludes today in Arlington, touched on a wide range of topics dealing with the press and the world in the year since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, from detailed discussions of the threat still posed by terrorist groups such as al Qaeda to broad explorations of the role of religion, ideology and democracy in the global war on terrorism.
Several speakers said understanding the world in the year since September 11 means taking a hard look at the frustrations and motivations of those who were involved in the attacks, without excusing the mass murder they carried out.
University of Maryland Middle East scholar Shibley Telhami said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not the direct cause of the September 11 attacks, but that widespread Arab resentment of U.S. policies in the region and particularly the perceived tilt toward Israel must be factored into any policy for repairing U.S. ties to the Arab world.
Chung Hwan Kwak , president of United Press International and chairman of The Washington Times' parent company, News World Communications, said the secular Western media still had difficulty coming to grips with the large role that religion has played in the September 11 drama and its aftermath.
September 11 "showed the tensions that exist between much of the Islamic world and the United States," Mr. Kwak said. " To understand the conflict in the world today, we must understand the role of religion."

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