The Right Coast

May 21, 2004
NPR outdoes itself
By Tom Smith

NPR was in rare form this morning. It featured "An American's Anger at Abu Ghraib," in which somebody-or-other, a former television producer and children's bookseller, explained that she was as angry over the prison abuses as she had been at 9/11. (Scroll down to story on this page.) But, if I understood her point correctly, she's going to channel that anger into being nice to people, or at least some people. But she's really angry.

It really makes me wonder if Osama isn't right -- that America is too soft, too tender hearted, too incapable of resolve, to stand up against a truly ruthless terrorist movement. It reminds me of the scene in Apocalypse Now in which Kurtz tells the story of how the Viet Cong went into a village in which the Green Berets had innoculated the children and cut off all the innoculated arms. Quoting roughly, Kurtz said, "there was this pile of little arms, and it hit me, right here [pointing to the middle of his forehead]" how determined, how pure was the ruthless determination of his enemies.

It's also a very depressing commentary on public life. Heaven knows there is plenty to criticize in Bush's conduct of the war, confusion and cruel behavior in Abu Ghraib not least, but not greatest either, among them. Yet the motives of the war critics seem to be divided between those who genuinely wish for America's defeat, even if that means victory for the religious Nazis for fit their paranoid fantasies about the American right most closely, and opportunists who see defeat in Iraq as the fastest way to get back in the White House.

Just to be clear, I do question the patriotism of the lot of them. Just to be clear, the torture of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib is insignificant compared to 9/11. It does not deserve to be mentioned on the same page. It is not even a footnote. Nobody burned to death. Nobody had to say goodbye to wives and children on a cellphone. Nobody had to reassure his secretary that it was OK, that God would understand if they jumped to their deaths instead of roasted alive in burning jet fuel. Nobody had to choose between their oaths as fire fighters or police officers and seeing their families again. Nobody had to carry their comrades to their graves to the wail of bagpipes. Nobody had to wonder if maybe, somehow, Dad or Mom has escaped and wake up in the middle of the night to wonder still. Nobody died, let alone thousands. That national radio, that you and I pay for, should give voice to such unpatriotic rubbish as comparing Abu Ghraib and 9/11, and that is all it is, is a complete disgrace.