Last night I saw Larry King interviewing the commander of the attack that killed al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaida in Iraq who personally beheaded Nicholas Berg.
King literally started the interview with Lieutenant General Gary North of the United States Air Force (his official designation is Combined Air Forces Component Commander) asking, “How did we pull this off general?”
Have we completely abandoned the idea of “a need-to-know” basis? Does the media have any boundaries left? Better yet, why was North made available to the media?
It’s absurd that military attacks now come complete with the equivalent of a post-game news conference. Just because technology makes it possible to cover a war in this way doesn’t mean it should be. I’m still struggling with the concept of reporters embedded in military units. Seeing video of bombs hitting their target are almost commonplace.
Now, it seems, the media is determined to take it further. How far are we from post-flight questioning of bomber pilots?
The argument against what I’m saying is that the public has a right to know. It’s an argument that has already cost lives, and helps make wars about individuals.
Our military knew al-Zarqawi helped killed Berg because the murder was taped. It was taped because the terrorists knew it would be aired in the United States. It’s actually considered restraint on the part of news outlets not to have aired the actual beheading. As revolting as Berg’s murder was, it was one more example of the media creating news.
While killing al-Zarqawi has been cause for awkward celebration, the thought comes to mind that the very thing that made him a target, or at least recognizable to the U.S. public — television — is now a tool of terrorism.
Every video Osama bin Laden puts out reaches the news. Every rant by Saddam Hussein is aired over and over. Reports of what the 9/11 terrorist that went to trial had to say flooded our TV screens.
Terrorists don’t want to kill one American. They want to kill all of us. Killing one of us on video is about sending that message, and the same desire to hear how we pulled off a military operation allows their message to be broadcast far and wide.
Instead of doing whatever it takes to support our country’s efforts to fight terrorists, we soak up every detail. The problem is that the same desire to defend our right to know seems to be more important than defending our country.