CNN counts the casualties

Posted: Nov 23, 2006 12:01 AM
CNN counts the casualties

I was a speaker on National Review magazine's post-election cruise from San Diego down the west coast of Mexico and back -- an exhilarating week with several hundred congenial conservatives, plus Bill Buckley and a number of towering experts such as professor Bernard Lewis of Princeton, perhaps America's foremost expert on the Islamic world.

The fact that the trip was being taken in the immediate wake of the Democrats' capture of both Houses of Congress didn't dampen the spirits of this bunch of conservatives as much as you may imagine. Many of them saw it coming; most of them thought the Republicans' wounds were largely self-inflicted; and practically all of them were confident the GOP will recover as soon as soon as it reconnects itself to the conservative principles that put it in power in the first place.

My only reservation about Holland America's generally splendid service had to do with its choice of news programs available on the TV sets in every cabin. For a good many years the line has seen to it that CNN is available, and in the days when CNN was the only existing cable news channel that was fair enough. But Fox News Channel has made its appearance in recent years, and has promptly far surpassed CNN in the ratings. This may well be owing to CNN's ever more liberal bias, particularly when compared with Fox's allegedly conservative coverage.

It would be no great ordeal for Holland America to add Fox's news coverage to CNN's on its cruise liners, but of course it would cause an uproar among militant liberals, who not only prefer CNN but would like to strangle Fox in its crib if they could. Thus far, therefore, Holland America has preferred to annoy its conservative passengers in this important regard.

A good example of what we conservatives have to put up with from CNN occurred during our cruise. CNN knows very well, of course, that popular opposition to the Iraq war is heavily fueled by the casualty lists. It is true that combat-related deaths, at around 2,800, are still, after 3-1/2 years, fewer than those sustained in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, alone -- compared with nearly 60,000 in Vietnam, and an average of 6,000 a month for 40 months during World War II. But the figure for Iraq balloons to a more impressive 21,000 if you add combat-related injuries, some of which are, inevitably, horrific. CNN promptly added them, horrific and otherwise, and a big fat "21,000" filled the TV screen.

But CNN was just getting started. With about 150,000 American forces in the theater, there will of course be all sorts of ordinary non-combat-related accidents resulting in death and injury: automobile accidents, slips and falls, and all the contusions and abrasions associated with the inevitable difficulties of living. And beyond that, people will fall ill, with everything from heart attacks to appendicitis. So CNN added to its mix every disabling accident and illness sustained by members of our armed forces in Iraq since the invasion began in March 2003.

Never mind that such casualties could, and in many cases would, have been sustained by these people even if they had stayed in the United States and never laid eyes on Iraq. No such consideration fazed CNN. By adding non-combat injuries and illnesses to its total, CNN managed to inflate it astronomically. The figures "50,000" loomed on the screen.

Does Holland America Line really have to keep on feeding its passengers an exclusive diet of "news" laced with such biased, tendentious baloney?