The bastion of “liberal” journalism that is National Public Radio aired a short piece on Morning Edition today that was obviously meant to frighten us into taking the officially recognized kind of “terrorism” seriously at the polls (if we can muster the ability to endure the humiliation that is voting). The anchor’s lead-in started out:
Both Iraq and terrorism are top issues in this election. A new video offers proof that there is reason for concern.
I realize that teases need to grip the listener, but do we really need still more “proof that there is reason for concern” about Iraq and terrorism? More troubling than NPR’s alarmism, the segment itself offered no evidence – let alone proof – that there is any more reason for you or me, safe and sound in the West, to be more worried about terrorism or Iraq than we might already be.
The piece revolved around a recently released video the US military claims to have found after raiding a “suspected Al-Qaeda in Iraq safehouse.” The video, linked from the NPR web article, surely is troubling. The video was supposedly found in December, though NPR neglects to mention that the military sat on it in the interim, pashaps waiting for just the right propagandistic opportunity. It shows a dozen or so boys undergoing what appears to be guerrilla training. As NPR correspondent Tom Bowman conveys it:
The boys can be seen carrying pistols, AK-47 assault rifles [and] rocket-propelled grenades. They are led by a man on a series of training exercises. There is a mock assault on a man riding a bicycle; another on a car. The boys also burst into a house, holding guns against the heads of sleeping adults. They chant “god is great” and sing songs. One boy carries an assault rifle nearly as big as he is.
If you want to call that a “terrorist” training video, as NPR obviously does, then you would have to call the activities of US occupation forces in Iraq “terrorism” as well. After all, the depicted activities are regularly carried out – not just in training, but in real life – by American infantrymen in the streets of Baghdad and across Iraq regularly, not to mention by Iraqi government and paramilitary forces. So it takes a certain kind of intellectual dishonesty to separate that video out and call it terrorist training.
Bowman conveys the US military line on this discovery with no apparent awareness of irony:
[Rear Admiral Greg] Smith says the videos were used to indoctrinate children to become part of the jihad movement.
Is that how NPR would describe the US military ads that air on American television stations that serve young demographics? What’s the difference, other than budget? If one is deplorable (which it is), why is the other not? Come to think of it, the American TV spots appear much more propagandistic than anything in the Iraqi video.
In reporting this revelation in the context of a "spate of suicide attacks involving young people," Bowman uses the example of the young women with Downs syndrome who he says “exploded themselves” in Baghdad markets last week. Though I can’t find any news reports citing evidence that the tragic pet-market bombs were not remotely detonated (including NPR’s own inadequate coverage and contemptible commentary), Bowman reports narratively that the women committed the acts themselves.
Bowman’s attention to detail notwithstanding, his identification of a trend is weak, as he seems to understand, noting about two minutes into the segment:
Admiral Smith says the attacks are disturbing, but the military is uncertain if young attackers are part of a growing trend.
Bowman follows up with numerous examples of past participation or use of children in terrorist attacks in Iraq. It’s nice of NPR to explain that, but then why the dramatic tease from the anchor? And just what is this story all about? The word “proof” suggested we were about to learn something that we didn’t already know for sure, yet nothing in this story except the release of undated video is new. It sounds like NPR attended a press conference during which the military gave its preferred line on these matters, and NPR did its best to dutifully create context to justify a whole segment. The more frightened we are, the more we’ll listen, even if the public-radio liberals can’t provide a real reason for us to be more "concerned" than we already were.