Wednesday, June 02, 2004


Bueller... Bueller?

Ben Stein is at it again with the crazy comedy of his. This time, Stein says that "Something is terribly wrong with media coverage of the war in Iraq." Apparently, Stein doesn't think that Americans abusing Iraqis prisoners is worth the outrage. And why not? Well, it doesn't play up the fact that the US is better than Saddam. This seems to be a common chorus from war supporters these days (well... at least we're better than Saddam). I'm sorry, but as an American I think we should hold ourselves up to a little bit of a higher standard than that. But wait, Saddam is not just worse than us, according to Ben Stein he was "a billion times worse." I mean, I'm no mathematician, but that sounds like a lot to me. Stein also wants more attention on what he calls the "big picture" - meaning the bad things that other people are doing, too. This "big picture" method of news is similarly spouted by those who don't want the news to focus only on the bad things in Iraq but show some of the positive things, too. They want "balance." So if things are going bad, they want to hear about the good things, and if things are going well, they certainly don't want to hear about the bad things. Ah, the balance of pro-war propaganda. To sum it up, Stein says:
Media, Congress, get it straight: The U.S. is the main repository of decency on this Earth. The al-Qaida can never defeat us if we are united. But we can defeat ourselves if we begin to think we are the enemy and lose our confidence in our cause. There is no moral equivalency between us and the terrorists. We're the good guys, and if we lose because we didn't play hard enough, it's the end of everything good in our world.
How sick and deluded is this guy? At least we get some true comedy when he calls Al Qaida "the al-Qaida". It's scary to think that people take Ben Stein seriously. The logic of his view is that the US is allowed to do bad things because we are the good guys.

For a more nuanced approach, Ze'ev Schiff (hardly a lefty by anybody's standards) writes that "The occupation will corrupt the occupiers" in today's Haaretz. I think that Schiff is a bit too lenient on Israel's occupation, but it's good to find a voice on the right who doesn't resort to the simple-minded, black and white, good vs. evil spouted by too many. Schiff writes:
The abuse of prisoners detained at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq proves that it matters not if the occupier declares its aim to enforce democracy or uphold human rights, or if it calls itself an "enlightened occupation" - the degradation of prisoners is an almost unavoidable consequence of an occupation regime. In the end, the occupation will corrupt the occupiers.
And while Schiff lauds the "professional disparity in Israel's favor" when it comes to prisoner abuse, he cannot fully excuse the abuses. "[T]here is no doubt that over the years, the occupation has also corrupted Israeli society." And the corruption is not hard to find: Nine more Border Policemen arrested for alleged abuse of Palestinian teenagers is just the latest.

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