Whose side are they on?

[Posted 9:23 PM by Roger Kimball]

OK, so Scott McClellan holds a press briefing at the White House this afternoon. Several subjects come up: judicial nominees and the filibuster, a highway bill making its way through Congress, and Newsweek, Newsweek, Newsweek. The Drudge Report called it the �Revenge of the Sith Press,� an allusion to the Star Wars movie. Mr. Drudge posts an image of the comic-strip bad guy, Darth Vader. But if this is supposed to be the �Fourth Estate Strikes Back,� poor ole Darth needs a bottle of Geritol. Mr. McClellan suggested that perhaps Newsweek might want to go beyond its mealy-mouthed retraction and, you know, try to repair some of the damage they did by publishing a totally unfounded story based on an anonymous source that the United States military flushed copies of the Koran (�the holy Koran� in Mr. McClellan�s words) down the toilet. The last time I checked, 17 people had been killed in the riots sparked by that story, scores more injured. But so what? Here we have the pampered US media: their enemy is the Bush administration, and if some natives somewhere have to die to embarrass the US government, well, you can�t make an omelette, etc., etc.

Not that I have much time for those rioters--they are murderous thugs. (And, by the way, how many Christian churches or Jewish temples are there in Saudi Arabia? Take your time . . . ) Denis Prager got it exactly right when he asked

Did any Buddhists riot and murder when the Taliban Muslims blew up the irreplaceable giant Buddhist statues in Afghanistan?

Did any Christians riot and murder when an �artist� produced �Piss Christ� -- a crucifix immersed in a jar of the �artist�s� urine?

When all Christian services and even the wearing of a cross were banned in Saudi Arabia? When Christians are murdered while at prayer in churches by Muslims in Pakistan?

Have any Jews rioted in all the years since it was revealed that Jordanian Muslims used Jewish tombstones in Old Jerusalem as latrines? Or after Palestinians destroyed Joseph�s Tomb in 2000 and set fire to the rebuilt tomb in 2003?

It is quite remarkable that many Muslims believe that an American interrogator flushing pages of the Koran is worthy of rioting, but all the torture, slaughter, terror and mass murder done by Muslims in the name of the Koran are unworthy of even a peaceful protest.

�Remarkable� is one word for it. �Savage,� �barbaric,� �evil� are other words.

But back to the Mighty Press with the Big Conscience. After Mr. McClellan had the temerity to suggest that Newsweek might want to help diffuse the homicidal cataract it sparked, one of our Guardians of Free Speech and the Public�s Right to Know (or was it the Public�s Right to No?) asked this:

Q: With respect, who made you the editor of Newsweek? Do you think it�s appropriate for you, at that podium, speaking with the authority of the President of the United States, to tell an American magazine what they should print?
Mr. McClellan instantly tried to say that, no, he wasn�t presuming to tell Newsweek what to print, but that brave speaking-truth-to-power soul showed his mettle by repeatedly interrupting him:
MR. McCLELLAN: I�m not telling them. I�m saying that we would encourage them to help --

Q: You�re pressuring them.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I�m saying that we would encourage them --

Q: It�s not pressure?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, this report caused serious damage to the image of the United States abroad. And Newsweek has said that they got it wrong. I think Newsweek recognizes the responsibility they have. We appreciate the step that they took by retracting the story. Now we would encourage them to move forward and do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done by this report. And that�s all I�m saying. But, no, you�re absolutely right, it�s not my position to get into telling people what they can and cannot report.

You might have thought that would satisfy these chaps, but no: after wandering off onto a few other subjects, they came back to the Newsweek story.
Q: Are you asking them to write a story about how great the American military is; is that what you�re saying here?

MR. McCLELLAN: Elisabeth, let me finish my sentence. Our military --

Q: You�ve already said what you�re -- I know what -- how it ends.

Liz, Liz, whoever you are: you haven�t a clue about how it ends. And by the way, what would be wrong with �a story about how great the American military is�? Is there any better--I don�t mean better as a fighting force--the answer to that is, No, there is no other military that can hold a candle to the United States military. I mean is there any better from the point of view of Liz what�s-her-name, Frank Rich, Dan Rather (remember him?), NPR, CBS, and all the other anti-American American redoubts of Progressive Sentiment? What other military in history has taken the humanitarian care of its enemies that the US forces have lavished on its enemies in these recent conflicts? The brief, but complete, answer is, None. We go out of our way to minimize civilian casualties, to respect the culture and religion of our opponents.

But supposing there was a Private Lamebrain who did flush a Koran or two down the toilet. And suppose Newsweek got wind of it. Should they publish the story? Let me quote from Denis Prager again:

If an American interrogator of Japanese prisoners desecrated the most sacred Japanese symbols during World War II, it is inconceivable that any American media would have published this information. While American news media were just as interested in scoops in 1944 as they are now, they also had a belief that when America was at war, publishing information injurious to America and especially to its troops was unthinkable.
Unthinkable. Why? Because the press then was on our side. Whose side are they on now? I wonder.

Liz and her Ivy-educated, Hamptons-trotting colleagues disapprove of Rudyard Kipling, natch, but reading through the disgraceful comments of the press from today�s White House Press briefing, I couldn�t help thinking of Kipling’s poem �Tommy�:

Yes, makin� mock o� uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an� they�re starvation cheap;
An� hustlin� drunken soldiers when they�re goin� large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin� in full kit.
     Then it�s Tommy this, an� Tommy that, an� �Tommy, �ow�s yer soul?�
     But it�s �Thin red line of �eroes� when the drums begin to roll,
     The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
     O it�s �Thin red line of �eroes� when the drums begin to roll.