Williams: Like Terrorists, U.S. Special Forces Willing to Go on Suicide Missions

Brian Williams of "NBC Nightly News" surely intended to praise the heroism and selflessness of our various service people. But he employed at best an awkward, at worst an inappropriate and offensive manner of doing it.

On this evening's 7 PM ET edition of Hardball, Chris Matthews mused about the UK-born terrorists whose plot was foiled today:

"Here we have maybe 24 people who have lived in London and England and the free world for all these years that become citizens, subjects of the Crown, and, yet, after having gotten to know us, they want to kill themselves to hurt us. Isn't that an even deeper conundrum here than the chemicals being used in these attacks?"

Williams [appearing from London's Heathrow airport]: "And that, Chris, that last aspect, the willingness to take one's own life -- I always tell people there are guys on our team like that, too. They're called Army Rangers and Navy Seals and the Special Forces folks and the first responders on 9/11 who went into those buildings knowing, by the way, they weren't going to come out. So we have players like that on our team."

Video clip (57 seconds): Real (1.7 MB) or Windows Media (2 MB), plus MP3 audio (400 KB)

Wrong. Our people are highly trained to accomplish their mission in a manner that gives them the best possible chance of survival. Yes, they heroically assume great risks, knowingly putting their lives on the line. It is mistaken for Williams to suggest that their commanders are sending them on suicide missions. Moreover, their goal is to save innocent life. To compare them with terrorists - often young, confused people being exploited by cynical masters who send them to their deaths for the purpose of taking innocent lives - is wrong.

Hat tip to poster 'nutmeg' at Free Republic.

UPDATE: BRIAN BLOGS BACK

Apparently stung by criticism of his comments, Brian Williams has responded with a clarification at the Daily Nightly, the in-house blog of the NBC Nightly News.

Williams accuses people, presumably including me, of having "aggressively misunderstood" his comments. I've never heard that formulation, have you? Sounds like a euphemism for "intentionally misconstrued." If so, why not say it?

Williams makes clear what was never really in doubt: that in his own way he was seeking to praise our people.

Perhaps the most revealing aspect of his entry is Williams noting that his comments were made "during a live interview" with Chris Matthews. Translation: 'Hey, I'm basically just a newsreader. Cut me some slack when I have to think on my feet rather than reading off a teleprompter.' In any case, here's the entire entry [Hat Tip to NB poster d1carter]:

Comments I made during a live interview with Chris Matthews last night have been aggressively misunderstood in the hours since. Here was my point: people always say that our country will be at a disadvantage as long as the "other side" is willing to take their own life for the cause. I was making the point that if that's some kind of litmus test for bravery... or belief in the cause, we have those guys, too. People who fight for us, people who protect us -- know full well that the American cause is worth dying for -- as are our freedoms. People are dying for the U.S. side every day. Laying their lives on the line. And I give thanks for them every day. I was not at all equating the "other" cause with what Americans stand for. I was criticizing the view, expressed by some, that as long as we are fighting the "suicide bomber mentality" we can never get the upper hand, because, as this belief goes, "we aren't willing to give our lives the way they are." Of course we are. The difference is: the folks willing to die for OUR country do so in the act of protecting and defending it -- NOT killing civilians by detonating an explosive and killing innocent people.

I hope that clears it up.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.