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What Did CNN Know, When Did It Know It?
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Three
by Brian S. Wise
15 April 2003

Exactly how did CNN become so cozy with the regime in the first place, where secrets the magnitude of political assassination can be offhandedly discussed?

Here is Eason Jordan, chief news executive at CNN, explaining in part why CNN ignored and failed to report various atrocities undertaken by the Hussein regime: “Each time I visited [Baghdad], I became more distressed by what I saw and heard – awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.”  How, pray tell?  “Working for a foreign news organization provided Iraqi citizens no protection.”  From whatever would they need to be protected?  “The secret police terrorized Iraqis working for international press services who were courageous enough to try to provide accurate reporting.  Some vanished, never to be heard from again.  Others disappeared and then surfaced later with whispered tales of being hauled off and tortured in unimaginable ways.  Obviously, other news organizations were in the same bind we were when it came to reporting on their own workers.”
So the upshot is, CNN simply had to ignore Uday Hussein’s plans, as personally explained to Eason Jordan, to not only assassinate King Hussein (of Jordan), but to lure two of his brothers-in-law, who had defected, back into the country and murder them, as well.  Contends Jordan, “If we had gone with the story, I was sure he [Uday] would have responded by killing the Iraqi translator who was the only other participant in the meeting.”  Such a humanitarian gesture – in the end, the two brothers-in-law were lured back into Iraq and summarily executed.  But at least the CNN translator (something of actual importance to the network) went unharmed, even if the ratio of dead innocents to living innocents ended up being two to one.  How many other innocent Iraqis were killed in order to save CNN employees?  No guidance is given, but we are to assume the ratio is much, much greater than two to one.
More: “I came to know several Iraqi officials well enough that they confided in me that Saddam Hussein was a maniac who had to be removed.”  Did Eason Jordan come to a similar conclusion?  We are not directly told, but we can assume this is a fact from the opening line, about how each visit proved more disturbing than the last.  That being the case, why did CNN oppose the war?  Why did CNN not simply employ an all American staff while in Baghdad?  (They may or may not have been allowed to do such a thing by the regime, on this I admit my ignorance.   But Fox News managed to carry on with its coverage of Iraq just perfectly from border countries; my point is not moot.)  Exactly how did CNN become so cozy with the regime in the first place, where secrets the magnitude of political assassination can be offhandedly discussed?
Jordan concludes: “I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me. Now that Saddam Hussein's regime is gone, I suspect we will hear many, many more gut-wrenching tales from Iraqis about the decades of torment. At last, these stories can be told freely.”  At least we can take comfort in the fact Eason Jordan is unburdened, even if the living friends and families of all those killed by the regime, some of whom may have even been saved by CNN saying a word or two, will never be unburdened.

A reader directs my attention to an electronic mail read on the Rush Limbaugh show last Friday; a quick visit to the site uncovers the thing, written by a man named Howard.  “This comes from an organization that will breathlessly report on anything about the Bush administration that they perceive … to have a hint of scandal: Cheney and the energy plan, Lott’s comments, the Bush girls, ties to Enron …. So who is more responsible for the deaths of more people?  Enron, Global Crossing, Exxon, the timber industry, Newt Gingrich, and all the other whipping boys of the left added together, or CNN?”  A fine point, and one to think about.

The CNN matter will not end with the satisfaction of executives being dragged out of offices or penthouses in handcuffs (a.k.a. “The Perp Walk”), this is a gigantic moral failing, not a legal one.  But CNN would be well served to remember that humanity’s first responsibility is to itself – to explain it in a roundabout way, we fought the Iraqi War not only for the Iraqi people, but for ours as well – and that concern for the victimized can extend beyond damage done to a 401(k).

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