Straight Facts and Flimsy Satellites

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Barely a week after the catastrophic events of September 11, CNN aired a special edition of Crossfire: Senators Discuss ‘America’s New War’ in Town Hall Meeting, featuring Senator Joseph Biden, a Democrat from Delaware, and Senator Fred Thompson, a Republican from Tennessee, hosted by CNN commentators Bill Press and Tucker Carlson.

About midway through the program a young man directed a question to Senator Biden, “In what ways will relations with Israel change in the coming months?”

I was pleased to hear this question, because even as I watched the horror unfold on TV on the morning of September 11, I feared that discussion of U.S. support of Israel as one of several root causes of terrorist hatred of the U.S. would be downplayed in the U.S. public forum.

Senator Biden said that he did not think that U.S. relations with Israel would change at all.

Senator Thompson agreed. Thompson said that some people might say “if it wasn’t for your support of Israel there — this may not have ever happened.” He added that because others will demand that we reassess our commitment to Israel, “we should have a constant study of that situation.”

Senator Biden obviously felt a need to qualify Senator Thompson’s comments. Biden said that Osama bin Laden, “has no beef with Israel per se. It is not because of the Palestinians. It is because of Saudi Arabia. It is because of the situation there. It has not a damn thing to do with him getting energized having to do with Israel or dispossessed Palestinians. So let’s get the facts straight.”

In May, 1998 ABC News’ John Miller was granted an interview with Osama bin Laden. In a reprint of the interview, published in Esquire in February, 1999, Miller writes that bin Laden’s “aim is to get Americans to consider whether continued support of Israel is worth the bloodshed he promises.”

In the interview bin Laden makes several references to U.S. support of Israel as one of three reasons why he considers American citizens fair game for attack. On CNN Senators Biden and Thompson put the focus on bin Laden’s desire to rid Saudi Arabia of a U.S. military presence to the exclusion of the other two reasons that bin Laden has stated. The other reason is U.S. led sanctions and bombing of Iraq.

Bin Laden told John Miller that Ramzi Yousef, convicted of a failed attempt to topple the World Trade Center twin towers in a 1993 bombing, “took this effort to let the Americans know that their government assaults Muslims to insure Israeli interest.” “The continuation of tyranny [by Israel with the support of the U.S.] will bring the fight to America, as Ramzi Yousef and others did.”

The conspirators in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center wrote to the New York Times after the bombing. They justified their attack as a way to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to U.S. soil, and argued that Americans would reconsider their support of Israel when they suffered as much as the Palestinians suffered.

Two weeks after Senator Biden denied that U.S. support of Israel was a significant motivation behind the September 11 attack, the bombing of Afghanistan began. Almost immediately, Osama bin Laden released a videotaped statement which he concluded with these words, “those who live in America will never taste security and safety unless we feel security and safety in our land and in Palestine.”

CNN’s October 13 Larry King Weekend was devoted to the topic, “Islamic Anger.” King interviewed a number of commentators from the Middle East, including Imran Khan of the Justice Party of Pakistan. King asked Khan, “What’s your view of this sordid affair with people hating people? Khan said that the problem is not with the U.S. people but with U.S. foreign policy. He said, “There’s a feeling that the policy’s biased against the Palestinians in favor of Israel, and Israel seems to get away with…”, and then the audio went dead and Khan’s image disappeared from the screen.

King said, “I’m sorry, we lost the satellite there.”

When Khan was finally back on the air much later in the show, King explained, “we have a kind of a flimsy satellite operating there.” Instead of inviting Khan to finish the statement Khan was making when the “flimsy” satellite was “lost,” King then asked Khan if he condemns the September 11 attack.

Following this broadcast CNN showed Tucker Carlson live from Pakistan via satellite, and in this and all the other footage CNN has broadcast via satellite from Pakistan that I’ve seen, I have witnessed no other examples of ‘flimsiness.’

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