Daniel Schorr

Posted by lex, on June 12, 2006


I don’t know whether or not you listen to NPR on a daily basis or not, gentle reader. I do, but then again I’m a news junkie and we do live in such interesting times. I’d hate to miss any of them, and say what you will about their “point of view,” the public broadcasting folks do a swell job of getting more insight into the news than does the other broadcast media.

Now, you have known me long enough to know that certain interpretations of the news – the spin, if you will, on objective facts – cause me to narrow my eyes, just a bit. Last weekend, just for one example, Republican Congressman-elect Brian Bilbray – a man whose nativist sympathies I hold no particular brief for, by the way – won a close fought election in the reliably Republican 50th district here in Sandy Eggo for the seat, ah… vacated by Duke Cunningham, about whom quite enough has been said in these spaces. A hard-fought campaign, a clear result, and how do we tell the tale? Well, the local spin here was not that Bilbray had “won,” but that “hope had faded” for his Democratic party adversary.

It is well and truly said in golf that every shot makes someone happy, but you know, they are so very sad: These “faded hopes.”

Of all the eye-narrowing going on up and down Highway 5 on any given day, little can compare to the analysis provided by erstwhile Clinton Labor Secretary (and current UC Berkeley prof) Robert Reich on the one hand, and “senior NPR correspondent” Daniel Schorr on the other. Of Reich, suffice it to be said that brilliance of intellect and garland of achievement cannot by themselves wipe clean poverty of spirit: He is, essentially, a dick. When the president nominated – to nearly universal acclamation – a new Treasury Secretary nominee, Goldman Sach’s Henry Paulson, Reich, another GS exec who’d attended undergrad with Paulson at Dartmouth (Paulson went on to earn an MBA at Harvard), couldn’t help but snark, “Knowing him at Dartmouth, I’d never have expected him to go so far.” They were classmates it seems, and now I also know that the word “classmate” has a very different connotation at Dartmouth than it does at say, the US Naval Academy. This particular petit assassiné occurred in one of Reich’s trademark NPR radio broadcasts – true to form he ended by cheerfully insisting that, Paulson nomination or no, the whole economy is due to come off the rails at any moment, now. Just like he has done pretty much every week for the last six years.

And who knows? Maybe it will. Even a painted clock is right twice a day.

But Daniel Schorr? Eyes are narrowed so tightly that it’s a hazard to navigation. I cannot readily think of a man more certain of his personal rectitude, nor more blinded by his perpetual passions. One gets the impression that he wakes up every moment somewhat disoriented until he remembers that Bush is president, which memory serves to set him into a state of quivering indignation for the rest of the day. To hear his perpetually offended voice is to imagine an elderly man with glabrous, hair-filled ears and shaking, pendulous cheeks. You can almost smell him. Alas, in person, he appears to be rather more sere, an almost ascetic soul. Which makes him none the wiser for all of his inveterate partisanship, cloaked as it is in the mantle of “senior correspondency.” Once a week or so at least, the young turks at NPR unhook Mr. Schorr from his life support mechanism, wheel him in front of a microphone and let him run free across they Elysian fields of smug, self-righteous satisfaction. Today’s example:

“From Guantanamo to Haditha, the administration’s war on terrorism occasionally reveals some stark contradictions.”

Note: No actual contradictions follow. It just sounds cool to call imputed bad faith a contradiction. Continuing:

I am still trying to understand how a squad of US Marines could kill up to 24 civilians in Haditha, including women and children, and then claim they were following normal rules of military engagement. One wonders what kind of rules of engagement cover house to house shooting and hand grenades.

Not to pre-judge, the Marines in question being under the scrutiny of martial law, but one might give the fellas serving overseas in the worst possible of all environments and demonstrably hostile towns the same presumption of innocence that serial murderers are granted by the likes of Mr. Schorr free of charge over here. Too, all facts not yet being in, one could try to understand that when a improvised explosive device goes off under the fourth vehicle of a four vehicle convoy, odd favor the triggerman being somewhere close at hand. The Marines have claimed, and no proof has, of yet, come to light to disprove their claims, that they came under immediate small arms attack from surrounding buildings just after the IED went off. That may or may not have happened, but if it did, the concept of clearing hostile rooms with grenades prior to forced entry is comprehensible to any that are not necessarily inclined by a poisoned world view to see US soldiers as kill-bots.

“I’m also having trouble understanding how the American command, having launched two five hundred pound bombs, at Abu Musab al Zarqawi, bristled at the notion that he was killed by gunfire.”

This understanding thing – it’s so dern troubling. Much easier to feign incomprehension at the bestiality of George Bush’s war machine. Because there’s no discernable difference between putting postage paid to a horrible, beastly, throat-slitting murderer of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians (not to mention hundreds or more US servicemen) by immediate air attack once he’s been localized on the one hand, and murdering him while he lays bleeding to death on a gurney on the other – it’s all the same! We’re still the bad guys!

We are told that American soldiers made every effort to administer medical assistance to keep him alive, and that he actually died while being transported on his stretcher.

But this is all a horrible lie of course, as evidenced by the “we are told” introduction. Because everything “we are told” is a lie, or he wouldn’t have even brought it up. Question authority, man. Post mortems notwithstanding. Everyone knows that American medics, when presented with wounded enemies…

Do what, Mr. Schorr? I do so wish you’d have finished the thought. What do US medics do with wounded enemy combatants, in your world?

Finally, and almost incomprehensible to me, the reaction to the hanging suicides of three inmates of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Others have tried suicide by hanging and by hunger strike, but these were the first to succeed. The camp commander, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, took it as a personal offense. He said, ‘the suicides were not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.

‘The inmates,’ he said, ‘have no regard for life, either ours or their own.’

What a peculiar reaction considering that some 460 inmates have been incarcerated for up to four years without trial, without hope and when some went on hunger strikes, they were strapped into restraint chairs and force fed.

What a peculiar reaction, given that Mr. Schorr must have slept through the first and second intifadas, the murderous resistance in Afghanistan and Iraq, suicide attacks in London, Madrid and let me see, what else: New York? Arlington? Pennsylvania? And surely Mr. Schorr is not recommending that we simply allow these people to starve themselves to death, is he? Talk about your asymmetries.

Because for a news analyst, he’s not keeping up on current events very well: These are all asymmetric campaigns that have demonstrated a rather drearily predictable propensity for our enemies to kill themselves (and us, if they can) in the pursuit of their goals. Which let’s just look at those for a moment, shall we? Illiberal laws, brutal oppression of women and gays, oppressive theocracy. Whose side are you on Mr. Schorr, exactly?

And yet Admiral Harris has a point about asymmetrical warfare: A suicide, with or without a bomb, is the weapon that confers power on the powerless.

Please forgive me gentle reader, but oh, fuck: Mr. Schorr, you don’t even get to start that tripe. And NPR? Roll Mr. Schorr away now, he’s done. Some people are powerless because they’re historically oppressed by ruthless murderers. Who, many of them, are incarcerated in Guantanamo. Others are powerless because they believe crazy, impossible, dangerous things. Many of them are also incarcerated in Guantanamo. And listen carefully: Being powerless does not per se, confer a crown of nobility. Some people are powerless because they’re supposed to be, because they are immoral, and their causes are intellectually bankrupt. Don’t you dare even hint that the killing of innocents, or even of one’s self, somehow confers “power” on the heretofore powerless. In a democratic marketplace of ideas, “power” adheres to those who can create the best for the most. Not to those who can suppress the rest, whether through active brutality or passive/aggressive self-murder.

These three suicides may accomplish what an international outcry has failed to accomplish, some changes and maybe the closing of Guantanamo. As the struggle against terrorism drags on, what becomes clear is that this is not a war in any customary sense, but a series of engagements that make up their rules as they go along.”

Because it would be far better if those scooped up in arms against the US were tried and released in district court, for lack of an evidentiary chain of custody, and perhaps because they weren’t Mirandized by the front line forces that captured them. Release them then, the better to try again, well educated by their ordeal. And while it’s true that it’s not a war in “any customary sense” it is all the war we’ve got, it will have to do: Not everyone gets to save Private Ryan. Some of us try to win it as best we can, following the rules of engagement as we understand them.

While others? They feel content to snipe at their betters from the sidelines. Which it’s a busy job, this sideline sniping: Take a number.

“This is Daniel Schorr.”

Yes it is, God help you.

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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, GWOT, Politics and Culture

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