Jewish World Review July 10, 2002/ 1 Menachem-Av 5762


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With friends like these... | Not long ago, I admired London's far more varied number of newspapers, especially since both up- and downmarket dailies made no pretense of objectivity, unlike the fraudulent New York Times. But in the last six months, a combination of rampant anti-Semitism, declining world influence and extreme jealousy at the United States' shrewd new alliance with Russia has exploded into confetti of sheer propaganda. The Independent's Robert Fisk, a reporter injured in Afghanistan who immediately said afterward he didn't blame his assailants, is only the most prominent ostrich in the British media.

You expect U.S.-bashing from The Guardian, but even The Telegraph and Rupert Murdoch's Times are in a fog when it comes to American politics and policy. In Monday's Times, Roland Watson, a Washington correspondent for the daily, comes up with this doozy: Tom Ridge will replace Dick Cheney on Bush's 2004 ticket. Watson, perhaps a heatstroke victim, wrote: "Since giving up the governorship of Pennsylvania to take up his present role after September 11, Mr. Ridge has had an uncomfortable time in Washington. But he is a decorated Vietnam veteran and pro-choice centrist who is well regarded by politicians of all stripes, and some of Mr. Bush's closest advisers think that he would freshen the Republican ticket."

This is analysis worthy of The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne. First, being "well-regarded by politicians of all stripes" isn't a resume-booster for a Republican candidate. Second, Ridge's mostly pro-choice views would alienate Bush's conservative base; he was more plausible in 2000 when the Texas governor wanted to appear more flexible than previous GOP contenders. But the context is completely different now. Finally, Ridge has been a dud in the charisma department during his so-so stint as Homeland Security head. If Cheney does step down-which I don't believe will happen until after the election-a more logical replacement would be Tennessee's Sen. Bill Frist.

The July 4 edition of the Daily Mirror was a filthy document, one that ought to be placed into a time capsule as a demonstration of just how far America's "special friendship" with England has deteriorated. John Pilger writes: "For 101 days, Royal Marines have been engaged in a farcical operation as mercenaries of the United States whose lawlessness now qualifies it as the world's leading rogue state...

"In recent months, the American rogue state has torn up the Kyoto Treaty, which would decrease global warming [and possibly cause a worldwide depression] and the probability of environmental disaster. It has threatened to use nuclear weapons in 'pre-emptive strikes...' It has tried to sabotage the setting up of an international criminal court, understandably, because its generals and leading politicians might be summoned as defendants. It has further undermined the authority of the United Nations [that impartial body led by the high-living Kofi Chamberlain] by allowing Israel to block a UN committee's investigation of the Israeli assault on the Palestinian refugee camp at Jenin; and it has ordered the Palestinians to get rid of their elected leader in favour of an American stooge...

"There is a desperate edge to most of America's rogue actions. The Christian 'free market' fundamentalists running Washington are worried... I have just visited the United States, and it is clear many people there are worried. And many dare not say so. Their views are seldom reported in the American mainstream media, which is self-censored and controlled, perhaps as never before."

True, some Americans are "worried," but not by the bilge that Pilger lays out. You wonder if Buckingham Palace or 10 Downing Street were bombed to rubble tomorrow by Arab terrorists, what naive journalists in Britain would have to say. Would they advocate that Prime Minister Tony Blair refuse the aid President Bush would instinctively offer? And it's news to me that "Christian fundamentalists" are "running Washington": Last I heard, Sen. Patrick Leahy was still refusing to hold hearings on Bush-nominated judges; presidential candidates John Kerry and Al Gore were making speeches to anyone who'd listen criticizing the GOP White House; and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was calling the President a crook. Some self-censorship.

Although it's clear that journalists don't have a clue about what's really happening at the Pentagon, that doesn't stop them from delivering contradictory stories about the plans for an invasion of Iraq whenever they can get an unnamed source to spill some beans. So, several weeks ago, The Washington Post's Thomas Ricks lit up the Beltway with his piece that no such incursion was in the works. On July 5, the Times' Eric Schmitt detailed extensive plans for just such an offensive. He writes, citing a "person familiar with the document": "The existence of the document, which outlined significant aspects of a 'concept' for a war against Iraq as it stood about two months ago indicates an advanced state of planning in the military even though President Bush continues to state in public and to his allies that he has no fine-grain war plan for the invasion of Iraq."

The days when a president can influence a publisher or influential columnist to withhold information-as JFK did with the Times' Orvil Dryfoos and James Reston in the early 60s-are long gone, and the country's better off for it. There's no need for a covert fraternity between the government and media. But just as Ricks' story was all wet, I think Schmitt was snookered as well. Unless his source-journalists are always looking for the next Deep Throat-is simply a malcontent, it's likely Schmitt was set up, just as Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas Friedman was earlier this year with the Saudi "peace plan" for the Mideast. It's no secret that Bush plans a regime change in Baghdad, and the Times story is helpful in that it prepares the nation for that upcoming war. And the Times' reliance on a two-month-old document, a lifetime ago in the volatile global conflict, just indicates sloppy reporting.

Nevertheless, this blockbuster investigative report naturally led to a Times editorial the next day, the contents of which might as well have been written by the aforementioned Pilger. The paper said: "Congressional leaders, including top Democrats [imagine that!], have rushed to voice approval for the popular notion of getting rid of Mr. Hussein. They have not, however, lived up to their responsibility for demanding a full public discourse about how to pursue this goal with maximum chances of success and minimum risk to American forces, interests and alliances. Discussion of these issues is possible without giving away legitimate military secrets. War with Iraq, if it comes, is still many months away. What is urgently needed now is informed and serious debate."


What possible benefit is there in holding countrywide bull-sessions (or "town meetings," as a former president reveled in) about sensitive wartime strategy? No doubt academia and the media would love to pull all-nighters yakking about the Bush administration's wartime maneuvers, with a John Lennon soundtrack in the background, all with purpose of undermining the President's efforts. What, I ask you, is more ridiculous than the sight of Katie Couric and Matt Lauer questioning the number of U.S. troops needed, highlighting the risk of thousands of body bags returning to the U.S., while Willard Scott changes his weather map to a closeup of Iraq?

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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