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CNN Admits It Knew of Saddam's Atrocities
Kept News Secret To Preserve Baghdad Bureau
Commentary on the News
Saturday, April 12, 2003
Jack Kinsella - Omega Letter Editor

In covering Gulf War II, CNN has made a practice of spinning the war news to reflect its liberal-left corporate philosophy, so much so that it has drawn sharp rebukes from podiums from the Defense Department to the Pentagon.

In the weeks leading up to the war, CNN all but ignored the administration’s efforts to make its case for war, giving wide coverage to so-called ‘global’ opposition to US ‘unilateral’ action until Donald Rumsfeld pointedly singled CNN out to remind them that the 45 nations already signed on at the time was hardly ‘unilateral’ and that three nations in what he termed ‘old Europe’ was not ‘global’ opposition.

CNN’s coverage of Iraq in the period between the wars was overwhelmingly sympathetic of Iraq and overwhelmingly critical of the administration – except when Clinton ordered Operation Desert Fox.

In that case, CNN was torn between its sympathy for Iraq and its sympathy for their guy in the Oval Office, who was desperately seeking a distraction from his domestic problems with Monica Lewinsky.

As a result, it was about the only time CNN ever came close to being balanced in its coverage.

In the days leading up to Gulf War II, CNN was only able to find one person in all of America who supported the war, judging from their initial coverage. But they were able to finds lots of people who were against it.

The only veterans of the Gulf War CNN could find were those who remembered the pitiful condition of the surrendering Iraqi soldiers in the last war, portraying their condition as a consequence of American aggression, rather than Saddam Hussein's practice of lavishing luxuries like food on his elite Republican Guards while the conscripts are forced fend for themselves in the desert.

CNN anchors reported US claims against Iraq critically, careful to use lots of ‘alleged’’s and ‘so-called’’s to make sure viewers knew to take it with a grain of salt, while accepting each pronouncement of the UN Security Council as gospel, especially when pronounced by their prophet, Hans Blix.

Skepticism of the administration and admiration of the United Nations was crafted into every story.

CNN’s naysaying has been so pointed and so noticeable that the White House began joking about ‘retired generals embedded with news anchors’ -- a jab at CNN’s General Wesley Clark, who gloomily predicted ‘between two and three thousand’ US losses as a consequence of Rumsfeld’s ‘insistence’ on conducting war ‘on the cheap.’

So it was with considerable surprise that I read Eason Jordan’s op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled, “The News We Kept To Ourselves.” Eason Jordan is the chief news executive at CNN.

Jordan said he knew all along of the atrocities being committed by the Baghdad regime between the wars. He admitted CNN kept quiet about it so CNN wouldn’t lose its offices in Baghdad.

Jordan wrote of one case in which he said, “in the mid-1990's one of our Iraqi cameramen was abducted. For weeks he was beaten and subjected to electroshock torture in the basement of a secret police headquarters because he refused to confirm the government's ludicrous suspicion that I was the Central Intelligence Agency's Iraq station chief. CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk.”

It sounds like a reasonable explanation on the surface. A distasteful bit of self-censorship, but necessary to protect the innocent, in this instance. But then Jordan goes on to explain that CNN had to keep on censoring themselves from reporting anything negative about Iraq to protect all the other Iraqis on CNN’s payroll.

Is it me, or did Jordan just admit that CNN took on a policy of only reporting what Iraq wanted reported in order to protect its Iraqi employees?

It raises an interesting question. If CNN was constrained from reporting anything Iraq didn’t want reported, then CNN was knowingly disseminating Iraqi propaganda and suppressing information that would make Iraq look bad. In effect, CNN was serving as an arm of the Iraqi Information Ministry. (Baghdad Bob?)

Why would they even maintain offices and a presence in Iraq, knowing they were not able to report the truth? What is the point apart from ratings? It seems kind of dishonest, if not downright unethical.

Then Jordan dropped a bombshell, writing, “We also had to worry that our reporting might endanger Iraqis not on our payroll. I knew that CNN could not report that Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, told me in 1995 that he intended to assassinate two of his brothers-in-law who had defected and also the man giving them asylum, King Hussein of Jordan. If we had gone with the story, I was sure he would have responded by killing the Iraqi translator who was the only other participant in the meeting. After all, secret police thugs brutalized even senior officials of the Information Ministry, just to keep them in line (one such official has long been missing all his fingernails).”
“Still,” Jordan continues, “ I felt I had a moral obligation to warn Jordan's monarch, and I did so the next day. King Hussein dismissed the threat as a madman's rant. A few months later Uday lured the brothers-in-law back to Baghdad; they were soon killed.”

Jordan confessed that he “came to know several Iraqi officials well enough that they confided in me that Saddam Hussein was a maniac who had to be removed. One Foreign Ministry officer told me of a colleague who, finding out his brother had been executed by the regime, was forced, as a test of loyalty, to write a letter of congratulations on the act to Saddam Hussein. An aide to Uday once told me why he had no front teeth: henchmen had ripped them out with pliers and told him never to wear dentures, so he would always remember the price to be paid for upsetting his boss.” Jordan is careful to add, “Again, we could not broadcast anything these men said to us.”

The question bears repeating. What in the heck were you doing there, then?

Jordan ends his confession, writing of things he never reported, “but that nonetheless still haunt me. A 31-year-old Kuwaiti woman, Asrar Qabandi, was captured by Iraqi secret police occupying her country in 1990 for "crimes," one of which included speaking with CNN on the phone. They beat her daily for two months, forcing her father to watch. In January 1991, on the eve of the American-led offensive, they smashed her skull and tore her body apart limb by limb. A plastic bag containing her body parts was left on the doorstep of her family's home.”

He concludes, “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.”

It seems fairly obvious that had these stories been told freely throughout the 1990’s, there wouldn’t have been the kind of opposition to the war that greeted the United States when push came to shove over Iraq.

It is even possible that, had the world known what CNN knew, the arguments about US infidels on holy Saudi territory may have fallen on deaf ears and al-Qaeda may have never had the fertile breeding ground it had.

Had the world known of Saddam’s torture chambers, state sanctioned rapes, dismemberments, tortures, murders, had they been presented by CNN with the same dedication and fervor with which they highlight Israeli ‘repression’ of the Palestinians, al-Qaeda might not have enjoyed the popular support it gained in the Arab world.

Even the Arabs are repulsed at what they are learning of life in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Had CNN presented the plight of the Iraqis under Saddam the way they do Palestinians under Israeli ‘occupation’ France, Germany and Russia would have been forced to admit openly they were propping up a brutal dictatorship, instead of dancing around the issue and playing diplomatic games to stall the war and keep Saddam in power.

Instead, knowing what they knew, CNN has been the administration’s chief critic of the decision to remove Saddam. Instead of focusing on the plight of Iraqis under Saddam’s brutal dictatorship, CNN’s war headlines focused on civilian casualties allegedly caused by errant US bombs.

The war is over. And thanks to Eason Jordan’s public confession that it operated as an Iraqi propaganda outlet in exchange for keeping CNN in Baghdad, CNN should be as well.

Related Article: "CNN's Turner Speaks Out On Christian Intolerance"

The following editorial appeared April 14th in the Washington Times.
CNN Knew - Washington Times Op-Ed

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