May 18, 2004
Hysterically blinded by the Sun

abe-rosenthal.jpgOn some indeterminate date between A.M. Rosenthal's leaving his position at the New York Times in 1999 and subsequently penning his column for the Daily News, Crazy Abe really lost it. I mean, totally, completely, lost it.

How else to explain the tormented editorial screed appearing (via Romenesko) in today's New York Sun? In reading Rosenthal's psychotic litany, we're privy to the Times' former executive editor's musings on the media's coverage of the prisoner-abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib and, in particular, the manner in which the media failed to provide proper context for the abuses and the concomitant photos.

What context, you ask? Perhaps some Sy Hersh-esque examination of abuse-related directives having come from the top down? No? Well, maybe some broader examination of a climate of governmental deception, in the tradition of Rosenthal's own 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning Times coverage of Poland's misdeeds? No, you are soooo wrong, young whippersnapper!

That prisoner-abuse context that the media failed to provide over the past few weeks was Saddam Hussein and his since-toppled government's having used "poison gas on civilians they wanted to eliminate, like the Kurds." Thank you for the refresher course, Abe Rumsfeld.

Furthermore, Rosenthal continues, "We are uneasy even at the very idea of bringing up the mass Iraqi torture and murder. That is an insult to all those murdered masses of Iraqis, Kuwaitis, Jews, and Iranians. It is essential that we remember, ourselves, and the young members of the American armed forces know that they are fighting a government that is fascist in organization and in its slavering sadism."

Bear in mind, then, that the next time you see images of prisoners of war chained to bedframes with panties on their heads, the reason these sundry havoc-wreakers, as well as uncharged shopkeepers and wives of Ba'athist officials, are naked and/or have undergarments covering their visages is due to Saddam's having gassed 100,000 Kurds during the Reagan and Bush I administrations fifteen years earlier. And on a factual basis alone, please disregard Rosenthal's assertions that America's armed forces (his tense, not mine) "are fighting a government", contrary to the image of American forces having helped to famously topple Saddam's statue one year ago, and their current occupation of the Republican Palace in Baghdad.

And back to that "litany" idea again, Rosenthal repeats, "Since the latest torture story, many editors have failed to present background stories about the millions killed by Saddam." That's right, "millions", even though the heretofore-most-liberal estimates of deaths under Saddam's regime maxed out at 300,000 or therabouts. But, much like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's being drastically off the mark a few weeks ago in his own detailing of the number of American military casualties in Iraq, numbers are notoriously flexible when you're trying to provide support for an otherwise reprehensible idea.

Finally, there's this indignant gauntlet from Rosenthal: "In the years before World War II, officials of the New York Times shamed the paper by squeezing stories about millions of Europeans suffering and dying in the Nazi concentration camps, into meager and insufficient space. Years later, the paper tried to find out exactly who made those decisions. It could not, but it published an apology from its heart." Except, as far as "context" is concerned, those were current events at the time.

Dear, sweet, Abe: perhaps newspaper editors can feel comfortable about revisiting the events of the late 1980s on their front pages as they pair those particular Kurdish history lessons with coverage of that era's U.S. government support for both Afghanistan's various insurgencies and Saddam Hussein himself in his war with Iranian Shiite fundamentalists.

See, that's the problem with "context" and "history": unlike President Bush's war of Good-vs.-Evil, there are no absolutes.

Posted in a Grave fashion.

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