A little over three years ago, CBS sent Dan Rather to Baghdad to ask meaningless questions to, and provide a propaganda vehicle for, Saddam Hussein. Last night, Communication for Barbarians Service broadcast Mike Wallace's equally meaningless interview with the Islamic Republic of Iran's fanatical leader.
Interviews with evil leaders are meaningless at best and destructive at worst. Few reporters will ask real questions or challenge the propaganda responses of these leaders. These interviews merely offer them invaluable "humanizing" time and ask questions that reconfirm the low state of television news.
Here are some of the tough questions Mike Wallace asked one of the vilest leaders on earth today: What he thinks of President Bush, why he is concerned about how his jacket looks on television and what he does for leisure. Never once did he challenge Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's attacks on America such as America's loving war, seeking to be an imperial power or oppressing its own people.
When asked about his statements that the Holocaust is a "myth," Ahmadinejad replied, "What I did say was, if this is a reality, if this is real, where did it take place?" Wallace did not respond to the leader of a country saying "if" the Holocaust "is real" with a single question. But he probably laughed more with Ahmadinejad than any American news reporter has ever laughed on camera with the president of the United States.
If CBS wanted anything more than ratings and Wallace wanted to be more than a "useful idiot" (Lenin's phrase for the Western journalists and academics who supported Soviet Communism), here are some questions he should have asked Ahmadinejad:
In countries with a free press and where history is understood as consisting of verifiable facts, anyone who denies the Holocaust, the systematic murder of approximately 6 million Jews by the Nazis, is regarded as either an anti-Semite or a kook or both. You have repeatedly denied the Holocaust. Why should the world not regard you as either a kook or an anti-Semite? And do you understand why most free societies wish to prevent you from acquiring nuclear weapons?
Given that you have announced that you wish Israel to be erased from the map, why would those countries that do not share your desire to extinguish a country not try to prevent you from acquiring nuclear weapons?
In Iran, under your direction, religious police walk around the country monitoring how much skin a woman reveals. Most of the world considers this primitive and another reason to regard you and your regime as fanatical. On what grounds do you support whipping women who reveal their arms in public? And do you understand why such policies help explain why most free societies wish to prevent you from acquiring nuclear weapons?
Why do you believe that millions of Iranians chant "death to America" and "death to Israel" but no Americans or Israelis chant "death to Iran"? Are people more bored in an Islamic republic than in a free society? Does your brand of Islam promote preoccupation with death rather than life? Or is there simply a lot more hatred in your country than in free societies? And do you understand why all this hatred helps explain why societies in which people do not chant death wishes would like to prevent your society from acquiring nuclear weapons?
In Iran, women determined by Islamic courts to have committed adultery have been stoned to death. According to The Washington Times, "The condemned are wrapped head to foot in white shrouds and buried up to their waists. Then the stoning begins. The stones are specifically chosen so they are large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the condemned immediately. They are guaranteed a slow, torturous death. Sometimes their children are forced to watch." Do you believe that this brings world admiration to Islam? And do you understand why most societies in which women who commit adultery are not stoned wish to prevent you from acquiring nuclear weapons?
Last year, a teenage girl who said she was raped by two young men was not only not believed, she was given 100 lashes by your Islamic republic. Many of us find whipping teenagers for having sex, not to mention for being raped, unimpressive. Does this help to explain why societies that do not whip teenage girls are not excited about your country acquiring nuclear weapons?
Last month, a British newspaper, the Sunday Mirror, reported that in your Islamic republic, "16-year-old Atefeh Rajabi was dragged from her prison cell and taken to be executed. The Iranian judge who had sentenced Atefeh to death was left unmoved as he personally put the noose around her neck and signalled to the crane driver. Kicking and screaming, Atefeh was left dangling for 45 minutes from the arm of the crane . . . Atefeh's crime? Offending public morality. She was found guilty of 'acts incompatible with chastity' by having sex with an unmarried man, even though friends say Atefeh was in such a fragile mental state that she wasn't in a position to say no."
Does this help explain why people who don't support hanging young girls from cranes might be concerned about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons?
As it happens, Mike Wallace and CBS News did what they set out to do win in the ratings war Sunday night. But they hurt America and abetted evil in the process. Not deliberately, but knowingly.