- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2006

A new Hollywood movie about the battle of Iwo Jima opened last week right about the time CNN began airing footage it obtained from terrorists showing U.S. soldiers being killed with sniper fire. It is a fitting contrast. The movie tells the story of the three surviving GIs who were immortalized on film raising the flag over Mt. Suribachi. The CNN tape shows the exact opposite: Instead of heroism, we see unsuspecting American soldiers being dropped one by one. No flag raising, no glory; just another dead U.S. soldier.

Of course the Mt. Suribachi photograph is a distortion. The United States did win the battle, but long after the flag had been raised. In fact, three of the flag raisers would never leave the island alive. In 36 days of fighting, there were more than 25,000 U.S. casualties — one out of every three men — of which nearly 7,000 were killed. By comparison, in the Iraq war’s 1,680 days, the United States has lost 2,800 troops. Yet that single photograph further roused Americans to keep confidence in final victory.

Which brings us to Sen. John Kerry’s defense of CNN’s decision to air the terrorist footage: “As painful as the images of war are, it’s important to understand what soldiers go through.” If there had been a CNN equivalent in 1945, would it have been important to air footage of Japanese machine guns mowing down GIs as they waded ashore? Imagine watching hundreds of Americans being killed in one day of battle. Japan’s imperial government couldn’t have asked for a better propaganda weapon. The impact on a war-weary America would certainly have been emotionally crushing for those with sons and husbands still in battle, and might well have played in to antiwar sentiment. But it is much more damaging today when the nation is not as fully united as it was during World War II.

But let’s take Mr. Kerry and CNN at their word and assume that this type of footage has journalistic merit. It follows that CNN should also have shown its hours of footage from September 11. We’re talking about the people trapped in the World Trade Center who decided to jump and the other grisly images most Americans have never seen. Or what about the tape showing Iraqi terrorists beheading Nick Berg? CNN has kept this footage locked away out of some faux sensitivity for Americans’ fragile spines. The only way one can see the full horror of September 11 and other terrorist carnage is by downloading amateur videos off the Internet.

In a mind-numbing article on Sunday, Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi also defended CNN’s decision, because, as she understands it, Americans are too dim to appreciate the reality of war. “Without a draft, it is easy for the rest of the country to tune out casualties,” she wrote. “Much of what is seen on television makes war feel as bloodless as a video game.”

This sort of forced logic does a poor job of masking CNN’s and its defenders’ real motives. Their goal here is to undermine the war effort, even if that means being a mouthpiece for terrorist propaganda.

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