My what a stroke of luck those Abu Ghraib prison photos were for the mainstream press! Just look at all the stories those pictures have permitted them to overlook just during the last few weeks.
Nick Berg’s beheading barely managed a blip. A huge, attempted chemical weapons attack that could have killed tens of thousands in Jordan was thwarted, but was scarcely reported. A monumental train explosion in North Korea, that registered 3.6 on Japanese Richter scales, and apparently took with it a large shipment of weapons bound for Syria, came and went barely leaving a trace. The New York Times felt free to dismiss the discovery of a couple of Iraqi artillery shells loaded with enough sarin nerve gas to kill 15 million adults as containing only a “trace” of the poison.
If not for those photos, the press might have had to spend more time and space telling the story of Libya’s disarmament, or they might have had to start paying attention to the United Nations Oil for Food scandal and its potentially seismic political ramifications.
Instead, the press was handed a few disturbing photos that breathed new life into a story that was in fact months old and used those photos to smear our military, our president and our nation.
The Washington Post’s media reporter, Howard Kurtz, argued that the press was correct not to focus attention on Nick Berg’s beheading, because doing so would hand the terrorists a propaganda victory. Meanwhile, his paper gift-wrapped a huge propaganda victory for the terrorists by running 33 headline stories regarding Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse during the same week that the Al Qaida video was released.
In truth, the larger story of those abuse photos is not what they show, but how we as a nation reacted to them. We were revolted. If the tramps and punks in the pictures showed no shame, we felt plenty of it in their stead.
Contrast that with Islamic reaction to the pictures of those Americans who were killed, mutilated, dragged through the streets of Fallujah, and had their shredded body parts hung on a bridge as trophies. I saw dancing in the streets, not shame. If there was any introspection, it was not shown on Al-Jazeera or Al-CNN, Al-ABC, Al-NBC, Al-CBS, or the Al-New York Times. What we saw was not self-examination, but pride.
As the press fed like sharks on those photos, evil was allowed to slip the noose as Nick Berg’s gruesome beheading was largely ignored. To make it worse, many in the press repeated the terrorist line that the beheading was in reaction to the prisoner abuse photos. This permitted the press to lay the blame for the beheading, not on the killers, but at the doorstep of the Bush administration.
The press managed to forget that Wall Street Journal reported Daniel Pearl was similarly beheaded by the same terrorists long before. The likely motivation in both cases was that the victims were American Jews.
The press should be paying a great deal more attention to the United Nations Oil For Food scandal. Instead, there is willful blindness. For years, Iraq was permitted to sell oil through the United Nations and the money derived from those sales was supposed to benefit the Iraqi people. What happened was that Saddam sold the oil to United Nations bureaucrats and prominent foreign politicians (including possibly some of John Kerry’s foreign leaders) at bargain prices. They resold the oil at market value and split the profits with Saddam.
Considering that there is growing political pressure to turn over as much of Iraq’s reconstruction to this same United Nations, it would seem responsible of the press to investigate and report on this scandal. The French-looking John Kerry has made subordinating our foreign policy to this organized crime syndicate a centerpiece of his proposed foreign policy. Instead, we get silence.
Democratic congressman Tom Lantos of California lamented the embryonic investigations now under way arguing that we should not be doing anything that might undermine the American people’s confidence in the United Nations. It would seem a much more responsible position to verify the trustworthiness of the United Nations before assigning it so much responsibility.
Context matters. As bad as the prison abuse scandal is, it deserves to share the stage with these other, neglected stories.