If Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and all of al Qaeda’s leaders in Iraq and throughout the world laid down their arms and surrendered to American forces, would the media report it as good news?
Judging from the initial press reaction to the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq by the American military on Wednesday, the answer appears to be no.
In fact, this tepid response to the death of the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq – a man who has at times in the past couple of years been depicted as more vital to this terrorist network than the currently in-hiding bin Laden – suggests quite disturbingly that America’s media are fighting a different war than America’s soldiers.
According to NewsBusters, CNN’s senior editor for Arab affairs Octavia Nasr said the following about Zarqawi’s death on “American Morning” Thursday:
"Some people say it will enrage the insurgency, others say it will hurt it pretty bad. But if you think about the different groups in Iraq, you have to think that Zarqawi's death is not going to be a big deal for them."
However, CNN didn’t always feel that Zarqawi’s death or capture would be so inconsequential. Just days after Saddam Hussein was found in his spider hole, Paula Zahn brought CNN national correspondent Mike Boettcher on to discuss a new threat in Iraq. Zahn began the December 15, 2003 segment:
“The capture of Saddam Hussein may lead to renewed attention on the search for Osama bin Laden and other terrorists, and next to bin Laden, there is one man emerging as a major threat. He is believed to be the leader of a group much like al Qaeda, and the U.S. wants to catch him before he strikes again.”
Boettcher entered the discussion:
“The reward for his capture is only a fifth of that offered for Saddam Hussein, $5 million to Saddam's $25 million, but abu-Mus'ab al- Zarqawi, say Middle East intelligence analysts, is emerging as the most dangerous terrorist conducting operations in Iraq, the surrounding region, and perhaps the world.”
Subsequent to this report, Zarqawi’s reward was raised to $25 million, meaning that the importance of his capture increased fivefold. Mysteriously, CNN didn’t see it that way, as, in its view, the death of what was once described as “the most dangerous terrorist” in “perhaps the world” somehow became “no big deal.”
At roughly the same time as Nasr was downplaying Zarqawi’s death on CNN, ABC’s “Good Morning America” was replaying an interview with the liberal activist father of one of the men Zarqawi actually beheaded, American Nicholas Berg. At the conclusion of the video, correspondent Bill Weir stated the following as reported by NewsBusters:
"And we did speak with Nick Berg's father this morning and he says he takes no satisfaction in news of Zarqawi's death there. In fact, he denounces the killing as yet another death in a never ending cycle of retribution and death there as well. And he has been a rather vocal, harsh critic of the Bush administration for, you know, invading this country in the first place and he expressed that again this morning."
A little later on “Good Morning America,” Diane Sawyer invited perennial Bush-basher Richard Clarke on to solicit his opinion of Zarqawi’s death. As reported by NewsBusters, Sawyer asked, “[Is] it any safer in Iraq and will the war end any sooner?" Clarke responded:
“Well, unfortunately the answer is no. This man was a terrible man. He was a symbol of terrorism. He was the face of terrorism, the only real name we knew of an insurgent leader in Iraq. But he commanded only a few hundred people out of tens of thousands involved in the insurgency. And so, unfortunately for the loved ones of troops over in Iraq, this is not going to mean a big difference."
Sawyer incredulously concluded the segment: "So for overall terrorism against the U.S., it's, again, not a major effect."
Yet, on November 21, 2005, Sawyer and the “Good Morning America” team weren’t so blasé about capturing or killing Zarqawi. Quite the contrary, Sawyer began her report that morning:
“Right now intelligence officials are pouring over information trying to decide if it's possible that public enemy number one in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, has, in fact, been killed over the weekend. ABC's chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross tells us what he learned.”
Ross answered: “If it's true it'd be major victory for the US in Iraq.”
This raises a rather obvious question: how does what would have been a “major victory” in November 2005 not have “a major effect” when it actually transpires less than seven months later?
Meanwhile, the Washington Post published an article at its website Thursday morning proudly announcing in its headline: “Insurgent Leader Al-Zarqawi Killed in Iraq.” Throughout the article, Zarqawi was continually referred to as an “insurgent.”
This has been a sticking point with the military for years – media referring to terrorists as insurgents. In reality, the press have been parsing words to intentionally downplay the seriousness of these bad actors.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, an insurgent is a “a person who rises in revolt against civil authority or an established government.” Colonists who rose up against the British to eventually form the United States were insurgents.
This is hardly a description befitting Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, or any of his followers. Yet, such a picture of respect was painted by the Post, and the intention was clearly to downplay the significance of Zarqawi’s death.
As such, it is infinitely clear that the media’s response to what should have been fabulous news out of Iraq Thursday morning was designed to dampen the public’s enthusiasm for the event, while at the same time diminish any positive the Bush administration could gain from this highly successful attack on one of America’s most wanted enemies.
Sadly, such behavior is yet another example of a press clearly acting in their own best interest without regard for that of the American people much in the same way as the politicians they revere.
After all, it has been suggested for many years that members of America’s two major parties base policy decisions almost exclusively on a calculus for re-election. In fact, many experts believe that such strategic planning begins almost immediately after Election Day, and dictates every move these politicians make until the next important first Tuesday in November.
With disturbing similarity, the atrocious behavior of the drive-by media in the past few years makes it quite apparent that the same can be said of most press representatives. To be more precise, since the year 2000, it seems virtually every mainstream report of a current event has been meticulously crafted to further the goals of politicians favored by the media, while acting to thwart the efforts of those whose views are considered to be unacceptable by these supposedly enlightened journalists.
For those who question this conclusion, just imagine all the terrorists and their leaders in Iraq laying down their arms and declaring a truce with the new Iraqi government as the American media question whether this will be good for peace in the region.