No Sign of Widespread Panic

Week_with_bbc_1
Joseph Loconte is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a commentator on religion for National Public Radio.
 
They just couldn’t help themselves. Reprising their role as the nation’s bird-flu emergency alarm system, BBC
editors dispatched reporter Mark Simpson to Leeds last weekend during
Week Two of the outbreak imbroglio. As manifestly carefree shoppers and
restaurant goers strolled past the camera, Simpson summarized the mood:
“No sign of widespread panic.” He said this with a straight face.
 
No
need to again rehearse here the reasons for public calm during this
manufactured crisis. (There is zero—absolutely zero—chance of humans
contracting the virus from this recent outbreak if they simply cook
their birds properly.) See last week’s essay. Nevertheless, BBC
editors kept the issue alive and flapping. This is surprising, since
there’s little evidence that the public has much interest in the story.
The BBC’s own ranking of its
most popular domestic stories included David Cameron’s alleged drug use
as a teenager, snowfall disruptions, a garrulous parrot, and an Easter
egg recall.
Another well-reported story, however, bears a closer look: the news that the U.S. military has accused the Iranian government of supplying roadside bombs to terrorists operating in Iraq. Senior officials told reporters in Baghdad that the bombs had killed more than 170 troops since June 2004. Iran immediately denied the allegations.
Several BBC stories emphasized that these latest charges of Iranian-backed terror are being met by a rich harvest of political agnosticism. One story, “Democrats Wary Over Iran Claims,” began by explaining that Congressional Democrats are urging the Bush administration to be cautious about accusing Iran of fueling violence in Iraq. Senator Chris Dodd reportedly warned that he was “looking at this report with a degree of skepticism.” The quotation that followed, however, was the really provocative one: “I don’t doubt that Iran has been involved to some degree,” Dodd confessed, “and clearly that’s a problem that needs to be addressed…”
Well, now. A leading Senate critic of the Bush administration’s foreign policy, an opponent of the war in Iraq, an advocate of the need to “engage” with Iran and other powers in the region, openly admits that the government in Tehran is helping Shia extremists to kill US soldiers and Iraqi civilians. And yet the BBC story began on a note of doubt about the veracity of the charges. In journalism we call that “burying the lede.”
There are, of course, grounds for caution about US claims of Iranian weapons flowing across its borders. It is hard to overstate the damage done to American credibility because of the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in “,1]
);

//–>

Another
well-reported story, however, bears a closer look: the news that the
U.S. military has accused the Iranian government of supplying roadside
bombs to terrorists operating in Iraq. Senior officials told reporters
in Baghdad that the bombs had killed more than 170 troops since June
2004. Iran immediately denied the allegations.
 
Several BBC
stories emphasized that these latest charges of Iranian-backed terror
are being met by a rich harvest of political agnosticism. One story,
“Democrats Wary Over Iran Claims,” began by explaining that
Congressional Democrats are urging the Bush administration to be
cautious about accusing Iran of fueling violence in Iraq.  Senator
Chris Dodd reportedly warned that he was “looking at this report with a
degree of skepticism.” The quotation that followed, however, was the
really provocative one: “I don’t doubt that Iran has been involved to
some degree,” Dodd confessed, “and clearly that’s a problem that needs
to be addressed…”
 
Well,
now. A leading Senate critic of the Bush administration’s foreign
policy, an opponent of the war in Iraq, an advocate of the need to
“engage” with Iran and other powers in the region, openly admits that
the government in Tehran is helping Shia extremists to kill US soldiers
and Iraqi civilians. And yet the BBC story began on a note of doubt about the veracity of the charges. In journalism we call that “burying the lede.”
 
There
are, of course, grounds for caution about US claims of Iranian weapons
flowing across its borders. It is hard to overstate the damage done to
American credibility because of the failure to find weapons of mass
destruction in

A measure, yes. Let’s hope, however, that skepticism does not morph into cynicism. A BBC Frontline program called “The New Al-Qaeda,” for example, made this jaded pitch to potential viewers over the weekend: “This program examines Pakistan’s military and political strategy, asking what compromises an Islamic state must make in working to a US agenda and whether torture and human rights abuses aren’t too high a price to pay” (italics added). Let’s get this straight: The BBC evidently believes that Pakistan, a blazing beacon of Jeffersonian democracy, is being dragooned into a culture of torture and human rights atrocities by that great crusader against human dignity, the United States. One need not be a robotic defender of the Bush administration to be saddened by the sophomoric sensationalism of this appeal.
But back to Iran: There are plenty of critics of US foreign policy who have no doubts about Iranian designs in Iraq—including members of the Iraqi government. The real danger now is that a mood of cynicism and apathy will blind Bush critics to the nature of the Iranian threat to peace and security in the region.
Liberal and progressive voices made a strikingly similar mistake in the 1930s, as Nazism began its march of aggression in Europe. The appeasement lobby regretted their endorsement of the Great War, the war to “make the world safe for democracy.” They were ashamed of their eagerness to believe reports of the Kaiser’s atrocities, and thus dismissed Hitler’s anti-Semitism as mere bluster. They came to loathe the Treaty of Versailles as a betrayal of their idealism and the source German rage. They loudly repented of their militarism and vowed to avoid another European conflict at all costs. “In an orgy of debunking,” observed philosopher Lewis Mumford in 1941, “my generation defamed the acts and nullified the intentions of better people than themselves.””,1]
);

//–>Iraq (a problem compounded by the Bush Administration’s lymphatic diplomacy). BBC reporters have defensible reasons to treat US accusations about Iranian mischief with a measure of skepticism.

 
A measure, yes. Let’s hope, however, that skepticism does not morph into cynicism. A BBC Frontline program
called “The New Al-Qaeda,” for example, made this jaded pitch to
potential viewers over the weekend: “This program examines Pakistan’s
military and political strategy, asking what compromises an Islamic
state must make in working to a US agenda and whether torture and human rights abuses aren’t too high a price to pay”  (italics added). Let’s get this straight: The BBC
evidently believes that Pakistan, a blazing beacon of Jeffersonian
democracy, is being dragooned into a culture of torture and human
rights atrocities by that great crusader against human dignity, the
United States. One need not be a robotic defender of the Bush
administration to be saddened by the sophomoric sensationalism of this
appeal.
 
But
back to Iran: There are plenty of critics of US foreign policy who have
no doubts about Iranian designs in Iraq—including members of the Iraqi
government. The real danger now is that a mood of cynicism and apathy
will blind Bush critics to the nature of the Iranian threat to peace
and security in the region.
 
Liberal
and progressive voices made a strikingly similar mistake in the 1930s,
as Nazism began its march of aggression in Europe. The appeasement
lobby regretted their endorsement of the Great War, the war to “make
the world safe for democracy.” They were ashamed of their eagerness to
believe reports of the Kaiser’s atrocities, and thus dismissed Hitler’s
anti-Semitism as mere bluster. They came to loathe the Treaty of
Versailles as a betrayal of their idealism and the source of German rage.
They loudly repented of their militarism and vowed to avoid another
European conflict at all costs. “In an orgy of debunking,” observed
philosopher Lewis Mumford in 1941, “my generation defamed the acts and
nullified the intentions of better people than themselves.”

Progressives fulfilled their diplomatic vows, right up to the Munich Pact of 1938—to the ultimate horror and desolation of millions.
This is not an argument for a military strike against Iran. That may, in fact, be the worst possible choice. It is, rather, an appeal for moral clarity about Iran’s religious regime. No one really knows what the Islamo-fascists in Tehran are capable of. But we do know something of the character of its leadership—its internal repression, its willingness to foment terrorist violence, its feverish conspiracy theories, its apocalyptic visions of a messianic imam. We must add to all of this a vicious anti-Semitism. As political scientist Matthias Kuntzel observes in The Weekly Standard, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to believe that he can “liberate” humanity by eliminating the Jews. “The country that has been the first to make Holocaust denial a principle of its foreign policy,” Kuntzel writes, “is likewise the first openly to threaten another UN member state with, not invasion or annexation, but annihilation.” (CAN WE LINK TO THE STANDARD? STORY FROM FEB 19, 2007)
Again, a familiar disease: We face in Iran an ideology that vaunts its contempt not only for the existence of the Jews, but for the democratic freedoms they embody. “The democracies may yet conclude that they will either stay the power of Nazism and Fascism or be destroyed,” wrote Jewish thinker Stephen Wise shortly after Kristallnacht. “Jews may yet come to understand that their position in the world is imperiled as never before in history.””,1]
);

//–>

 
Progressives
fulfilled their diplomatic vows, right up to the Munich Pact of 1938—to
the ultimate horror and desolation of millions.
 
This is not an
argument for a military strike against Iran. That may, in fact, be the
worst possible choice. It is, rather, an appeal for moral clarity about
Iran’s religious regime. No one really knows what the Islamo-fascists
in Tehran are capable of. But we do know something of the character of
its leadership—its internal repression, its willingness to foment
terrorist violence, its feverish conspiracy theories, its apocalyptic
visions of a messianic imam. We must add to all of this a vicious
anti-Semitism. As political scientist Matthias Kuntzel observes in The Weekly Standard,
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to believe that he can
“liberate” humanity by eliminating the Jews. “The country that has been
the first to make Holocaust denial a principle of its foreign policy,”
Kuntzel writes, “is likewise the first openly to threaten another UN
member state with, not invasion or annexation, but annihilation.”
 
Again,
a familiar disease: We face in Iran an ideology that vaunts its
contempt not only for the existence of the Jews, but for the democratic
freedoms they embody. “The democracies may yet conclude that they will
either stay the power of Nazism and Fascism or be destroyed,” wrote
Jewish thinker Stephen Wise shortly after Kristallnacht. “Jews may yet come to understand that their position in the world is imperiled as never before in history.”

Not to worry, though: At the BBC, at least, there’s no sign yet of widespread panic. Yes, there are significant differences between Iranian jihadism and German fascism. And, yes, accusations that Iran is supporting sectarian atrocities in Iraq should be seriously scrutinized. But let’s try directing a little more doubt where it’s needed most—toward a regime that denies the Holocaust ever occurred, even as it threatens to unleash a repeat performance.
Joseph Loconte is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a commentator for National Public Radio. His latest book is “The End of Illusions: Religious Leaders Confront Hitler’s Gathering Storm.”

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//–>

 
Not to worry, though: At the BBC, at least, there’s no sign yet of widespread panic. Yes, there are significant differences between Iranian jihadism
and German fascism. And, yes, accusations that Iran is supporting
sectarian atrocities in Iraq should be seriously scrutinized. But let’s
try directing a little more doubt where it’s needed most—toward a
regime that denies the Holocaust ever occurred, even as it threatens to
unleash a repeat performance.

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One Response to No Sign of Widespread Panic

  1. Simmering says:

    Wow, a reasoned argument! In an age where the modern political debate evolves into, “oh yeah, well you’re a poophead!”, this was quite refreshing. Thank you.

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