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Saddam Dan Would Rather Have Interviewed
Dan Rather’s interview with Saddam Hussein revealed far more about the CBS anchorman than the Iraqi leader himself. This was not Mr. Rather’s fault completely, however. Very few people tuned in last Wednesday night to ascertain the point of view of a pathological liar. Most were glued to their television sets as voyeurs, marveling at the banality of evil. Hussein did not let them down. He wore a nice suit, walked out of the room to pray midway through the interview, laughed good-naturedly a few times, and addressed a man he once tried to have assassinated as Mr. Bush. No, Mr. Rather was the real disappointment. He failed- like many of us do - to try and expose the easily hidden and inherently evil side of a man.
The fact that Hussein agreed to the interview in the first place is quite significant. Saddam, no idiot himself, clearly knows who his useful idiots are. Iraq did not give prominent coverage to the peace rallies held around the world for nothing. While there are respectable arguments against waging war in Iraq, there is no denying one sure outcome of appeasement: Hussein stays in power. Every action (or inaction) has a consequence: whether intended or not. Just as Hussein knows that most of the Westerners who oppose military action against him are on the left, he is undoubtedly aware of the media bias in America. So a couple of weeks after Iraq expelled Fox News correspondents from Baghdad, Hussein agreed to be interview by a man who once said during the Elian Gonzalez fiasco, “While Fidel Castro, and certainly justified on his record, is widely criticized for a lot of things, there is no question that Castro feels a very deep and abiding connection to those Cubans who are still in Cuba. And, I recognize this might be controversial, but there’s little doubt in my mind that Fidel Castro was sincere when he said, ‘listen, we really want this child back here.’” Surely any man that can convince himself that Fidel Castro deeply cares for the Cuban people is capable of having an open mind concerning Hussein’s humanitarian intentions.
A recent personal experience should shed some light on the interview that took place in Iraq. A couple months ago I had a parent conference with the father of one of my fifth grade students. I had recently learned that this man had just been released from prison for aggravated assault. Teachers told me that he was the main drug dealer for a local gang. An admired member of the PTA he was not. I was actually quite nervous before the conference. At the same time I realized that I had a couple of things going for me. First, I was the man who was helping someone he actually did care about: his daughter. Also, I prided myself on being completely charming with parents. Compliments and respect could appease even the most aggravated mother or father.
I remember that I took this man’s hand in both of my own and told him how pleased I was to meet him. He was respectful and nice, and I soon forgot all the things I had learned about his gang activities. We did touch on some of the problems his daughter was having in class, but we didn’t even come close to addressing their root causes. Neither of us really wanted to face the truth. He wanted me to believe he wasn’t such a bad father. The sad thing was that I wanted and chose to believe the same thing.
The moment Mr. Rather endearingly grasped Hussein’s hand it was clear that the interview was going to be a farce. He was going to treat Hussein as if he were Jose Maria Aznar. Like myself, Mr. Rather had two things going for him. He opposes American removal of Hussein from power and he has a history of being soft with dictators.
I have no doubt Mr. Rather believes Saddam Hussein is a bad person. That is not the issue. His problem, like that of many people on the left, is not wanting to confront the evil in a person. Accepting and confronting are two very different things. Almost every person who opposes Hussein’s removal from power prefaces their arguments by conceding that Hussein is a “bad guy” or “jerk”. However, they rarely give details showing the extent of his evil and they almost immediately drop his name from the conversation after this initial concession. They consequently scoff when supporters of war declare that Hussein has gassed his own people or gets a sadistic pleasure out of having people tortured. By focusing more on the banality of the man, confrontation stops being a moral imperative.
Mr. Rather didn’t come close to confronting Saddam Hussein. Clifford D. May of The National Review has already shown how soft Mr. Rather was by just listing all the questions he asked. Here are a few of the most revealing ones:
Rather: Mr. President, I do appreciate your agreeing to spend an hour, because I want to ask questions in two categories, please.
Rather: Mr. President, you're being very patient with your time, and I want you to know I consider this a solemn moment in history, and, if I may, take time to have you speak to the American people about questions that I know are on their minds. I just want you to know that I appreciate your patience here.
Rather: I understand. Mr. President, if it's necessary for you to forgive me, I hope that you'll forgive me. But I have a couple of - sort of clean-up questions that I'm not clear about. Number one. Will the new proposed United Nations resolution, the one that's just out this week — will this make any difference at all in your position?
Rather: Mr. President, I hope you will take this question in the spirit in which it's asked. First of all, I regret that I do not speak Arabic. Do you speak any — any English at all?
Rather: I understand. Mr. President, again, you've been patient with your time. What is the most important thing you want the p - American people to understand? What's the most important thing you want the American people to understand, at this important juncture of history?
Rather: Well — first of all, I want to be serious that I — I appreciate — your confidence - Mr. President. I'm pausing because I'm tempted to ask a favor of the president. He has surprised me. I wonder for my good health if he could denounce me?
Rather: Mr. President, you've been so patient with your time. I appreciate you (UNINTEL). And I'm gonna —
Rather: I would like very much to see you in the future, Mr. President.
It is clear that Mr. Rather was talking to the person he would like Hussein to be. What a tragedy that he doesn’t realize the real Hussein would rather see him, and all of us, dead.
Aaron is a teacher in South Central Los Angeles. He has a degree in economics from UC San Diego. His articles have appeared on CommonConservative.com, BushCountry.org, CaptoVeritas.com and HourEleven.com.