Jewish World Review April 25, 2003 / 23 Nisan, 5763

Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak

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Consumer Reports


CNN the "Conscience-Not Network"


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | We try hard to not write about themes already commented on by many others. But CNN's kowtowing to the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein over the last dozen years was so deplorable, despicable and disgusting that we find it necessary to chime in.

Alleviation of suffering - isn't that what medical care and what much of life is also about? Should that be the sole role of medicine or do other institutions, such as the media, have some responsibility? Or should having the only non-Iraqi news bureau in Baghdad and exclusive interviews with Iraqi officials be a higher priority, as they apparently were for the Cable News Network - CNN?

Mr. Eason Jordan, the chief news executive of CNN, recently made this startling revelation. He also related some first-hand knowledge about Saddam Hussein's victims never before revealed by CNN.

In an article "The News We Kept to Ourselves" published in the New York Times on April 11, Mr. Jordan "confessed" that he and CNN had kept startling news of the regime's crimes against Iraq's own people despite its obvious news value and obvious importance to world opinion. And this didn't just start yesterday; it started a dozen years ago. We find Mr. Jordan's confession more face-losing than face-saving.

We are not writing about the justifiability of the recent Iraq war but whether CNN shares any culpability for unnecessary human suffering. We wonder, as does Jon Ham of "The Herald-Sun" of Durham, NC, "How many Iraqis were tortured, maimed, raped, beheaded and put in acid baths during the time CNN was soft-selling Saddam's regime to the world?"

On April 15, even the "Washington Post" editorialized "This tale would be disturbing enough on its own, but it is especially worrying because of CNN's special position in the Middle East. It is widely perceived around the world as a voice of the United States. If CNN did not fully disclose what it knew about the Baathist regime, and if CNN deliberately kept its coverage bland and inoffensive, that would help explain why the regime was not perceived to be as ruthless as it in fact was, in the Arab world and elsewhere."

Patrick Henry, on March 23, 1775, debating the relationship of the American colonies to the British crown more than a year before the Declaration of Independence, said ". . . Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings."

Did Mr. Jordan consider himself guilty of ANYTHING, seeing as he did indeed keep back the truth, through "fear of giving offense"?

Despite 13 trips to the area to lobby the Iraq regime for favors, CNN didn't tell these truths until now, to protect CNN-connected persons. Rather than pull the plug on CNN's dealings with the evil regime by closing the CNN Baghdad bureau, Jordan says he chose "to lobby the government to keep CNN's Baghdad bureau open."

CNN and other so-called "news" organizations have ignored the screams of children in favor of their own personal, ideological and business agendas or interests. Margaret Wente of Canada's Globe and Mail painfully touches the heart of the problem in her April 15 article "Saddam's silent collaborators" [http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20030415.cowent0415/BNStory/International]. She describes her surprise on learning about the liberation of more than 160 youngsters from a children's prison in northeastern Baghdad. Back in 1988, former weapons inspector Scott Ritter described these underage prisoners as "toddlers to 12-year-olds," according to Wente.

What if CNN had exposed these horrors to the world when Mr. Ritter described them 5 years ago? Is it possible that international pressure might have caused Saddam to relent? We will never know. But we do know Mr. Jordan did not mention ANY concern for Iraqis except those connected with CNN.

Despite publishing Mr. Jordan's apologia, the New York Times, the Gray Lady of journalism, has not published an editorial comment of its own to date. Is the Gray Lady herself also not expressing her own opinions "through fear of giving offense"?

Although reporters often do need to protect sources and to build relationships with new sources, we find CNN's decision in this case to be way over the line for an organization ostensibly offering the public some approximation of the truth about what's important around the world. This approaches another Holocaust in the sense that countless people suffered persecution, torture and death because of the silence of CNN's network lambs.

Yet this is the same media that normally does not hesitate to put American lives at stake to get ratings by revealing military and other secrets. Why did they choose silence this worst of all times? Why did the lambs "clam up" when it was truly time to talk? If we ever accidentally channel-surf to CNN again, we intend to surf on by.

Will Mr. Jordan be hearing these screams in his dreams for the rest of his life? He should -- unless he's anesthetized his own conscience. Perhaps we're harsh in calling Jordan's purposeful miscalculations holocaustal. Let's ask the children -- those who survived -- what they think.

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Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who comments on medical- legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists. Comment by clicking here.

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