Often, the most amazing thing you’ll see on television news or read in a newspaper isn’t the news itself. It’s the reporter’s reaction to the news.
Take the attempt, on June 29, of some terrorists to detonate a car bomb in London. They failed. As the investigation continued, the country’s new Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, had a message for her countrymen.
“As the government, the police, the security services have made clear and as the prime minister reiterated this morning, at cabinet, we are currently facing the most serious and sustained threat to our security from international terrorism,” Smith announced.
Seems pretty straightforward. But CNN’s talking heads were taken aback.
“But, Christiane, both of our ears perked up when we heard her say the cabinet is currently facing the most serious and sustained threat of international terrorism,” anchor Kiran Chetry observed. “She did,” responded reporter Christiane Amanpour. “She said the prime minister reiterated that that is what Britain faces and using the word ‘international,’ which I think is interesting right now.”
Actually, what’s “interesting” is that anyone’s ears would perk up upon hearing that the British government considers terrorism the major threat. After all, most of us in Britain and the U.S. understand that international terrorism remains the greatest threat to our security.
Most of us, that is, except journalists. “We all know that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter and that Reuters upholds the principle that we do not use the word terrorist,” Stephen Jukes, the wire service’s global head of news, explained back in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks. Many journalists seem to think there are no enemies in the world, just friends we haven’t met yet.
The problem probably stems from the fact that they see themselves not as Americans or Brits, but as citizens of a “global village.” That may be why in the months after 9/11, ABC News told its employees not to wear American flag pins. “We cannot signal through outward symbols how we feel, even if the cause is justified,” said ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider.
This attitude allows journalists to listen to even the discredited regimes. Consider the July 1 story in The Washington Post’s Outlook section entitled, “Iran Has a Message. Are We Listening?”
In that piece, Newsweek editor Michael Hirsh describes his recent visit to Iran, when he was rewarded with an interview with Gen. Mohsen Rezai, the secretary of Iran’s important Expediency Council.
“Rezai’s intention was clear: No matter what question I asked, he somehow managed to bring the discussion back to Tehran’s need to find its way out of its dangerous stalemate with Washington,” Hirsh writes. Not to be to flip, but solving that problem’s easy. If Iran wants to settle its differences with the U.S. it merely needs to end its nuclear program (as virtually the entire world insists it should) and allow international organizations to dismantle its facilities.
This wouldn’t be unprecedented. South Africa once secretly built six nuclear weapons, yet dismantled them peacefully. And Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan all inherited nuclear weapons when the Soviet Union collapsed, yet they all decided to give those weapons up.
Hirsh goes on to quote Rezai, who of course tries to pass the buck. President Bush “has started a cold war with Iran, and if it’s not controlled, it could turn into a warm war,” the Iranian insisted. This statement, of course, ignores the fact that it’s the Iranians who’ve launched attacks on Americans.
“I’m not sure who it is in Iran, but I know Iran is causing problems in my battle space,” Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the commander of coalition forces in the region south of Baghdad, told CNN on July 8. “Those EFP munitions, we can trace those back to Iran, no doubt.” The U.S. says it doesn’t have any plans to invade Iran, but Iran clearly has a plan that allows it to kill Americans.
Still, Hirsh is ready, even eager, to give men such as Rezai credibility. “If America pursues a different approach than confronting Iran, our dealings will change fundamentally,” the Iranian claims. That led Hirsh to conclude, “new noises are clearly coming from Tehran. Washington should listen.”
Of course, the only sound we need to hear from Iran is silence. If it would shut down its nuclear program, stop attacking Americans in Iraq and stop “meddling into the internal affairs of Iraq,” (as Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie put it on CNN), American relations with Iran would indeed improve.Sadly, none of that’s likely to happen in the real world