Dereliction of duty

Posted: Aug 30, 2006 10:48 PM
Dereliction of duty

In a time of war, how do democratic governments deal with allegedly unbiased news organizations that may slant their coverage in favor of those who mean to destroy said governments?

Recently, an Israeli air strike hit a vehicle belonging to the Reuters News Agency. Now, this would be the same Reuters "news" Agency that was putting out doctored photos from Lebanon. The same "news" agency that was continually accused by Israeli newspapers of siding with Hezbollah and Lebanon against the state of Israel and her civilians. And this would be the same "news" organization that regularly ridicules the Bush administration in picture and words.

Given that, is there even a remote chance that the Israelis targeted the Reuters vehicle on purpose? Is this how they would respond to slanted news? Hardly. Mistakes happen and the government of Israel has admitted as much by saying the "news" vehicle was moving in an erratic and suspicious manner near some of its troops before it was fired upon.

The same question can certainly be asked about "neutral" United Nations. Since 1978, the United Nations has had an interim force of "peace-keepers" in Lebanon to keep Israel, Lebanon and the terrorists honest. This would be the same peacekeeping force that in 2000, witnessed Hezbollah insurgents kidnap three Israeli soldiers within eyesight of their observation post, did nothing about it other than videotape the crime, and then deny to the government of Israel that they videotaped anything. The soldiers were soon executed by Hezbollah, with the United Nations merely shrugging its shoulders and saying "what could we do?"

Jump ahead to the just-completed war between Israel and Hezbollah. An article in the Weekly Standard says that the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon regularly reported Israeli troop movements on their Web site. They also recorded what kind of weapons the Israeli soldiers had and the location of their safety structures. And yet surprisingly, this same "neutral" organization never once posted a single item on Hezbollah.

Tragically, at the beginning of that same war, an Israeli bomb destroyed a U.N. observation post in southern Lebanon killing at least three U.N. observers. Did Israel target the U.N. post on purpose? Hardly. The Israeli military had discovered that Hezbollah was using the U.N. observation post as a shield from which to fire rockets into northern Israel. The military warned the U.N. of what was happening and advised them to move their people to safety. For whatever reason, that did not happen and the U.N. observers were killed by an Israeli act of self defense.

Israeli newspapers, in addition to accusing Reuters of biased "anti-Israeli" coverage, also went after CNN. It was their belief that CNN (along with the BBC), continually showed civilian casualties in Lebanon while basically ignoring the civilian suffering in Israel. They further felt that CNN, either on its own, or because it fell prey to Hezbollah propaganda, constantly aired footage of a "leveled" Beirut when only a small part of the city was affected.

Does Israel have a case against CNN? Many conservatives here in the United States certainly think so. I for one, am greatly disturbed that they have made Michael Ware, formerly of Time Magazine, a Middle Eastern correspondent. It is my strong opinion that for years, Mr. Ware has glorified the acts various insurgents and terrorists while questioning the honor of American troops and their mission. A reading of his fawning story on these terrorists for Time, "Meet the New Jihad," should send chills down the spines of anyone who is trying vanquish these killers.

In spite of this, and in spite of numerous stories questioning his objectivity, CNN decided to pluck him from Time and give him a much bigger bullhorn from which to spew his anti-American rhetoric. In light of such a move, what conclusions can one draw regarding the motives of CNN?

I have friends at CNN, I have been on CNN a number of times, (maybe not anymore), and I think they often do incredible news stories with amazingly courageous journalists. That said, it doesn't mean they are above reproach or can't make mistakes.

Recently, someone from the network told me that CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour "hated" George W. Bush and considered him an "idiot." If that is the case, she is certainly entitled to her opinions. But if that is the case, should this woman be covering stories that involve Bush policy in the Middle East? Commonsense and journalistic ethics would scream "no," and yet, she is on the air "reporting" on such policy.

The Free World, and most especially the United States and Israel, are at war with cowardly, shadowy terrorists who continually twist Islam to fit their demented vision for an apocalyptic future. As such, it is imperative that news organizations recognize this threat, do not take sides because of political bias, and report to their viewers and readers the facts as they are presented.

It's bad enough when segments of the United Nations become derelict in their duty in the face of such a growing threat. It's quite another, when journalists, either by omission or commission, bring aid and comfort to those who hate liberty and true religious expression.

Worse than bad, it's dangerous. Lives can be taken or saved because of words in a story. Post-September 11, it's imperative that those words reflect the truth.

Douglas MacKinnon served as press secretary to former Sen. Bob Dole. He is also a former White House and Pentagon official and the author of the forthcoming novel, “America’s Last Days.”