- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

Compare and contrast

There was a terrific editorial in London’s Daily Telegraph yesterday, urging more attention to the new and latest repression in Cuba. It was aimed at European audiences (and, in part, American ones) and intended to bring attention to the growing plight of dissidents in that totalitarian country. Its message is clear: “It is time to put aside transatlantic disputes about the embargo of Cuba and to concentrate on direct support for Cuban dissidents, prisoners of conscience and their families.”

Europe ought to make it unambiguously clear that Fidel Castro is a dictator, and that for democratic countries a dictatorship cannot become a partner until it commences a process of political liberalisation. At the same time, European countries should establish a “Cuban Democracy Fund” to support the emergence of a civil society in Cuba. Such a fund would be ready for instant use in the case of political changes on the island.” Amen. This notion is given added importance by the fact that former presidents of Poland and the Czech Republic, Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, wrote it. What an appropriate use of their stature and clout.

Compare it with the statements of the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, on a recent tour in Iowa. He used the occasion to claim that the Bush administration “tried to put more arsenic in the water.” That’s untrue, as he surely knows. Two former presidents speaking truth to power. One still engaged in partisan political deception. Makes you proud, doesn’t it?

The BBC implodes

This week was the week in which the BBC essentially capitulated in its war against the Blair government. Under cross-examination, the BBC’s reporter, Andrew Gilligan, admitted a series of what might politely be called “errors” in his claim that the British government had inserted fabricated intelligence findings in its now-famous Iraq dossier, compiled before the Iraq war. The whole notion that the government had lied was revealed as invention: “The allegation I intended to make was a spin. I do regret those words … and I shouldn’t have used them.” Isn’t that a big difference? A government putting the best spin on facts to make a case in a democratic society (that’s called politics) and outright deception? Mr. Gilligan also admitted that he wrongly “outed” the late scientist, David Kelly, as the source of some of the material, to members of parliament. Being pushed into the public realm was the main reason Mr. Kelly committed suicide earlier this year.

Begala award nominee

“Showtime, the cable network, boasts that no fewer than three journalists, including the Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, were involved in assuring the accuracy and balance of the docudrama ‘DC 9/11: Time of Crisis,’ first shown last Sunday while the actual George W. Bush was addressing the nation. But this film, made with full Bush administration cooperation (including that of the president himself), is propaganda so untroubled by reality that it’s best viewed as a fitting memorial to [Hitler propagandist] Leni Riefenstahl.’ — Frank Rich, New York Times, Sept. 14.

The media in Iraq

The best reporter by far on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq unloaded a devastating barrage against his fellow hacks in Editor & Publisher last Monday. The New York Times’ John F. Burns reveals just how compromised and corrupt so many journalists were in Iraq, how willing they were to hide the atrocities of the regime, how their own self-interest trumped the truth:

“Terror, totalitarian states, and their ways are nothing new to me, but I felt from the start that [Saddams Iraq] was in a category by itself, with the possible exception in the present world of North Korea. I felt that was the central truth that has to be told about this place. It was also the essential truth that was untold by the vast majority of correspondents here. Why? Because they judged that the only way they could keep themselves in play here was to pretend that it was okay. There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror. In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people’s stories — mine included — specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper.”

Who was that reporter? Why won’t Mr. Burns name him? This devastating account was largely ignored in the major media. Figures, doesn’t it?

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