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May 13, 2004

YOU KNOW, sometimes I feel like maybe I'm too harsh in my charges of media bias. Then I read accounts like this one from Baghdad, by the Daily Telegraph's correspondent Toby Harnden:

The other day, while taking a break by the Al-Hamra Hotel pool, fringed with the usual cast of tattooed defence contractors, I was accosted by an American magazine journalist of serious accomplishment and impeccable liberal credentials.

She had been disturbed by my argument that Iraqis were better off than they had been under Saddam and I was now — there was no choice about this — going to have to justify my bizarre and dangerous views. I’ll spare you most of the details because you know the script — no WMD, no ‘imminent threat’ (though the point was to deal with Saddam before such a threat could emerge), a diversion from the hunt for bin Laden, enraging the Arab world. Etcetera.

But then she came to the point. Not only had she ‘known’ the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the ‘evil’ George W. Bush would no longer be running her country. Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. ‘Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out.’ Startled by her candour, I asked whether thousands more dead Iraqis would be a good thing.

She nodded and mumbled something about Bush needing to go. By this logic, I ventured, another September 11 on, say, September 11 would be perfect for pushing up John Kerry’s poll numbers. ‘Well, that’s different — that would be Americans,’ she said, haltingly. ‘I guess I’m a bit of an isolationist.’ That’s one way of putting it.

The moral degeneracy of these sentiments didn’t really hit me until later when I dined at the home of Abu Salah, a father of six who took over as the Daily Telegraph’s chief driver in Baghdad when his predecessor was killed a year ago.

Moral degeneracy, indeed. You hate to think that any American journalist could feel this way, but we've had other admissions of this sort in the past. To explain things in words of few syllables: It's wrong to root for your country's defeat. Especially when that defeat would mean the death of innocents. And surely it's worse still when it's merely for domestic political advantage.

Isn't it?

UPDATE: An antiwar reader writes: "It is not wrong to root for your country's defeat if your country is evil."

I wonder how many journalists feel this way? I suspect that, among those who do, it affects the quality and slant of their reporting.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Interocitor denounces the journalistic omerta that keeps these names from being revealed. And another reader points to Anne Garrels' expression of satisfaction at problems in Iraq.

MORE: Further thoughts on this topic here, in a later post.