Bozell Column: Seeing Moral Grays in 9/11

Picking up the Sunday paper on November 15 could make a reader a little airsick – even while standing in the driveway. The Washington Post "news analysis" on the front page carried the headline "9/11 trial could become a parable of right and wrong: Before worldwide audience, both prosecution, defense seek control of narrative."

Does The Washington Post really think that the death and destruction of 9/11 "could" be right, or "could" be wrong?

Liberals cannot stand it when the national media won’t simply declare contentious debates over and their viewpoint settled truth. Take, for example, the allegedly inevitable impending destruction of global warming. It is the left’s position that the media should conclude one side is right and the other wrong. Conservatives should be ignored when they object. But that’s a debate over the future. It’s grotesque for an American newspaper to publish a "news analysis" that stares 9/11 in the face and said it "could" be a matter of right and wrong.

The Post’s analyst was reporter Barton Gellman, the author of a hostile biography of Dick Cheney (so he does have some definite feelings about who’s evil, after all.) He began by noting the trial of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM for short) would make for "riveting drama." Attorney General Eric Holder proclaimed on PBS it would not be a "show trial," but Gellman echoed the headline: "both sides hope to use the case to define Sept. 11 as a parable of right and wrong."

One might dismiss the willful moral ignorance as a simple journalistic endorsement of anything done by Holder and President Obama. But it sends a clear signal of the differences between the Bush era and the Obama era, and the media’s obvious preference for the latter. Liberal journalists always admonished President Bush for his "arrogance" and "certitude," and this is what they meant: he remained certain that the Americans who died on 9/11 were victimized, and were denied their civil liberties in the most complete and horrific way.

Liberals, on the other hand, have such a talent for finding moral "complexities" that they wind up showing more outrage for the fact that KSM was waterboarded than for the fact that KSM successfully plotted the death of 3,000 Americans. While liberals beat their breasts at the outrageous prospect of KSM being tried by a military commission, most Americans would prefer hustling KSM to the top of the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty and throwing him off.

Putting KSM on trial in a courtroom just blocks from his "accomplishment" is a decision that Holder and Obama made not in the interests of justice, but in the interests of flashiness, showing "the eyes of the world" in the most attention-grabbing, and increasingly tiresome way possible, that they are in no way comparable to Bush.

Liberals find "world opinion" to be a much more desirable and cosmopolitan standard than the worldview of simple-minded Americans. In the Post, Gellman quoted Georgetown law professor David Cole, without even calling him a "liberal," let alone what he should really be called, a radical defender of the civil liberties of terrorists. Cole argued that this trial marks a "sea change," that the sentencing will be "seen around the world as legitimate and not fixed," since the "world" thinks military commissions would be fixed.

Journalists don’t seem to consider whether "the world" is qualified to judge America as right or wrong, when "the world" is full of thuggish regimes that aren’t a fraction as punctilious as Americans are about the rule of law. Should the butchers of Tiananmen Square get to judge us? Should the Russians get to complain after their consolidation of power in the wake of the 2004 Beslan school massacre by radical Islamists? How about most of Europe, Great Britain and a handful of others excepted, that has redefined moral cowardice in the face of radical Islam? They should judge us, too?

Why can’t our media have enough respect for facts and for their fellow countrymen that we can all see a mass-murderer like KSM as a much greater villain than say, our naked-pyramid builders at Abu Ghraib? Will our media show 9/11 footage during this trial near Ground Zero with as much repetitive ardor as they bombarded us with Abu Ghraib clips in 2004?

It’s much more likely that they’ll wonder, in that wonderfully neutral way of theirs, whether Americans or terrorists will "control the narrative." And then we can get back to real problems, like the plight of the kangaroo rat.

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center