September 15, 2001
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Today's New York Times waddles in with a dispatch from Israel reporting that journalists who tried to report on a rally in the West Bank in support of the terrorist attacks said they were threatened by "Palestinian gunmen." The Associated Press reported this on Wednesday, and USA Today reported it on Thursday. Smartertimes.com on Thursday complained, "Nowhere in the Times is there any mention of the fact that the Palestine Liberation Organization threatened the life of an Associated Press freelance cameraman who taped the Nablus demonstrations." An editor at the Times who was asked about the matter Thursday in an e-mail from a reader replied by offering the excuse, "Unlike Smartertimes, The Times can print things only if we know them to be true."
No mention in today's Times of a rally of what the Associated Press reports were "About 1,500 Palestinians, many supporters of the Islamic militant group Hamas," who "marched in a Gaza Strip refugee camp on Friday, burning Israeli flags and carrying a large poster of Osama bin Laden." The AP reports that "After the rally, plainclothes Palestinian policemen questioned several journalists, including staffers of foreign news agencies, and confiscated videotape and film as well as camera equipment. An Associated Press Television News video was among the materials taken, and an AP photographer was warned by officials not to publish pictures of the bin-Laden poster." Today's Washington Post reports the news of the Gaza rally, but the New York Times omits it.
If the same three-day delay the Times applied to the news of the Nablus incident applies to the Gaza incident, then Times readers can expect the Times to carry the news of the Gaza incident on Monday.
Today's Times dispatch from Israel is relegated to the World/Nation section rather than being up front in the "A" section with the rest of the news about the terrorist attacks. As a result, many readers are likely to miss it.
Disconcerting: The lead editorial in today's New York Times says that "Some of the initial war talk we have heard from Washington is disconcerting." The Times singles out for criticism the deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, who spoke of "ending states who sponsor terrorism." "That may work as a form of intimidation, but we trust he does not have in mind invading and occupying Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan, as well as Afghanistan, nations with a combined population of more than 160 million people," the Times writes.
Of course you don't have to invade and occupy a country to change its regime. America fostered regime changes in communist Poland and in communist Nicaragua by aiding the democratic resistance forces in those countries. The example of the rollback of the Soviet Union showed that regimes can be ended with radio broadcasts, with aid to labor unions and with military pressure short of a U.S. occupation and invasion. Even so, given the scale of the attack on New York and the Pentagon, it still seems a bit ridiculous for the Times to be suggesting that America quake at the number of people who live in Sudan. There were plenty of people who lived behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, too, and in Europe under Nazi domination before the Allied Invasion during World War II. But that wasn't a reason for America to sit at home wringing its hands. It's wrong to assume, too, that all those 160 million people would support their regimes in a struggle against America. In Iran and in Iraq, in particular, there is a huge yearning for Western freedom and culture among the masses.
The Times says that "Forcing a change of governments in Iraq or Syria would require in each case the application of military power on the same scale that was used in the Persian Gulf War, or greater."
Again, this is ridiculous. The Iraqi National Congress, a democratic opposition group that has an extensive network of sources within Iraq, estimates that Saddam Hussein could be overthrown primarily by an Iraqi force, with a minimal commitment of American troops. The main challenge would be feeding all the members of Saddam's army who will defect and join the resistance as soon as a serious battle is joined. It would take some American air support and materiel, but there already are American air forces in the region patrolling "no-fly" zones in the north and south of Iraq. Syria might be tougher to overthrow, but it would be easy, at least, for the U.S. to win a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon and effectively halve the domain of the Damascus dictator. Again, this could be done primarily with Lebanese troops and not American ones; the Lebanese are eager to escape Syrian domination.
The Times suggests that instead of pursuing a policy of regime change Washington should concentrate on "changing the behavior of the present governments." That is a policy doomed to failure. The external behavior of these governments stems directly from their nature as repressive dictatorships. They need to pursue terrorism and external aggression to distract their own people from their misery. America and Israel tried with Yasser Arafat to change his behavior and look where it got them. It's as if after Pearl Harbor the Times was suggesting that America try to get Japan to change its behavior through, as the Times puts it today, "intensive diplomatic pressure, severe economic sanctions and united international support."
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