Thursday, April 29, 2004

Okay, Boys and Girls, Let’s call this Round 5 of the Berkowitz/Zorn face-off (SEE my blog entries, below, for April 26-28, and Zorn’s for April 27-28 at and I suppose this will be the final round. I will mop up a few items I think Eric Zorn declines to address and tie the discussion into some breaking media actions and then on to bigger and better things. Eric never explained why a fetus, say one in a biology book [for Sam Cook], is gory—but we are just going to have to trust him because- well, Eric says so. Same with Dead Iraqis slaughtered by Saddam; their yearbook photos would be gory? I don’t see it, but Eric is just not going to explain it.

As to Zorn’s contention that the Bush Administation violated its pact with military personnel, Zorn pretty much wants us to take that on faith, too. [Oddly, Zorn tells us that liberals can’t do talk radio because they like to deal with complexities. I don’t think so, Eric]. Zorn doesn’t want to address the issue of whether the Bush administration acted in bad faith by ordering the troops into Iraq, so Zorn just “assumes” the answer. Zorn tells us the Administration made poor, rash and reckless judgments, so that is enough bad faith for him. Let’s see. Iraq had been violating its “peace agreements,” for 12 years, with no less an authority than UN resolutions to support that statement. We asked the UN to deal with this in October, 2002 and 6 months later, it had not. Let’s see, 12 years, 6 months? Rash? Reckless? I don’t think so.

Zorn doesn’t want to refute David Kay’s argument that even without WMD, Iraq, under Saddam, was dangerous and the military action was justified. Nope, Zorn says it was a poor, rash and reckless judgment, so it must have been. Well, that is one way to keep the readers happy with short blog entries.

Apparently, Zorn thinks that when CIA Chief Tenet told President Bush that “It was a slam dunk,” that there were WMD there, the President should have fired Tenet on the spot and said, “George, you ignorant government employee-- you don’t know what you are talking about.” Further, Bush should have been unaffected by (1) President Clinton, the U. N. and all of those who were convinced for the last decade or so that Saddam had WMD and (2) the erroneous policy of Clinton that said it was the policy of the United States to change the regime in Iraq.

Indeed, Zorn would no doubt tell us that Clinton should have fired Tenet long before Bush became President. So, bad faith? Why even ask? The President’s pact with the military personnel and Zorn was broken. Bush said there were WMD; no WMD have been found. It really is as simple as that, in the world of Eric Zorn.

Oh yes, Zorn decides to cite his fellow Tribune columnist, Steve Chapman, but leaves out Mr. Chapman’s conclusion, “At some point, the American people are likely to decide the possible gain is not worth the cost.”
Perhaps, but they have not decided that yet. One reason, perhaps, is that unlike Chapman, they rationally look to see if the ratio of likely future benefits to likely future costs exceeds one. Chapman, at least in the column Zorn cites, seems to look only at the likely costs—as if he thinks the expression is not the benefits/cost ratio, but rather the cost ratio—which is pretty much how the anti-war folks tend to look at the war; ignore the benefits, exaggerate the costs and hope nobody will notice the deficiencies of the analysis.

Which brings us to the present. Nightline, in an effort to boost its sagging ratings, is hyping its show for Friday night, which kind of takes its cue from Michael Moore and his and other morphings of the 530 American soldiers killed by hostile fire since the start of the Iraq war [Nightline says it doesn’t have time for all 700 casualties, so it excludes the accidents and suicides]. True, Koppel’s Nightline will simply broadcast the names and pictures of the soldiers and not morph them into Bush’s cheek, but Koppel is pretty sure the viewers can get his point: “I have always felt… that the most important thing a journalist can do is remind people of the cost of war,” Koppel told the NY Times Bill Carter, NYT, April 28, 2004.

That is odd. I would have thought, unlike Chapman and Koppel, that the most important thing a journalist could do would be to write objectively about the cost and BENEFITS of war. Chapman uses the phrase benefits and costs, but he writes his whole column about the costs. Koppel talks only about the costs.

Carter quotes Koppel some more: “If the motivation to go to War is good, [it] is justifiable; then the cost, whether it is 500, or 5,000, or 50,000 [Lives?] is something people will accept. Should the motivation not be good, then 5 is too many.” What could that possibly mean? The statement is breathtakingly ignorant of any notion of benefit/cost ratios. Or, was it the NYT that screwed up the quote. Between the NYT and Koppel, there is about zero credibility these days.

Carter quotes Leroy Sievers, the Executive producer of Nightline, as denying the Friday program carried any political message. HA, that is a good one. LOL.

Carter, to his credit and unlike Nightline, apparently sought another view. What do you know, maybe there is hope for the NYT, after all.

William Kristol, the Weekly Standard Editor, told Carter the [Nightline] message was clear to him. “This is a statement with a capital S, and it’s a stupid statement.” The program’s conceit, Kristol added, was a selective one, chosen to emphasize the controversy over the war in Iraq, while neglecting to mention the casualties in Afghanistan or those killed by terrorists.

Kristol didn’t say it explicitly but by raising the issue of those killed by terrorists we are starting to get at some of the potential benefits of the War. Is it beyond comprehension for Nightline, Koppel, Chapman and Zorn that our military action in Iraq may result in a much more democratic regime and a stronger economy with benefits more widely dispersed in Iraq than was the case under Saddam. If so, could that have an impact on promoting the concept and perhaps reality of democracy, capitalism and economic opportunity in some other nearby countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine [if you want to call that chunk of land and collection of people a country] and Jordan, just to name a few. And, if that is the case, might that not damp down terrorism a bit, perhaps even terrorism that might cause a loss of lives in the United States, such as the more than 3000 lives lost on 9/11.

Zorn doesn’t seem to mind America being known as a cut and run country that does not keep its word, say, to provide safety and security for the Iraqis. But, is it possible that the United States is distrusted because the U.S. and Bush 41 abandoned the Kurds in ’91. Will we improve our image worldwide by abandoning the Shiites and Kurds to the Sunnis and Saddam loyalists in 2004? Is the World watching? Just a few more questions for Eric Zorn and his colleague, Steve Chapman. I am sorry to make this such a long blog, but you know, Eric, the world is a somewhat complicated and dangerous place—which I thought is what liberals were supposed to keep reminding conservatives and not vice-versa. More role reversal. If Eric’s simplicity approach continues, he just might be ready for Talk Radio.

Jeff Berkowitz, host and producer of ‘Public Affairs,” can be reached at