CNN Silences War-Skeptical Soldier

Exclusive: By obsessing over Iran gaining a nuclear weapon “capability” – even with no actual bomb – while ignoring Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal, the U.S. news media proves the point of its own bias. There’s also the usual hostility toward dissenting voices, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern notes.

By Ray McGovern

When CNN interviews a U.S. Army corporal preparing for his third deployment to Afghanistan, should TV viewers be permitted to hear him out on a front-burner issue like Iran’s alleged threat to Israel? For those who might think so, watch what happens when 28-year-old Cpl. Jesse Thorsen touches a neuralgic nerve by suggesting that Israel can take care of itself.

It’s impossible to say exactly what happened to the remote feed that suddenly got lost in transmission back to CNN Central, but the minute-long video is truly worth a thousand words: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7yTCPDgDgo&NR=1&feature=endscreen

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer

The interview, which dates back to Jan. 3 when the Iowa caucuses were the evening’s big news, is at least symbolic of how our Fawning Corporate Media treats dissident voices that clash with the prevailing pro-war-on-Iran bias. I missed the segment when it aired, but I think it still merits comment today as war clouds thicken, again.

In the aborted one-minute segment, Cpl. Thorsen is interviewed by CNN’s Dana Bash, who presumably picked him out for the live interview because he had a large tattoo on his neck about never forgetting 9/11. The tattoo – plus two tours in Afghanistan behind him (and yet another in front of him) – may have suggested to Bash and her CNN producers that Thorsen was unlikely to say anything to muddle or muffle the new drumbeat for war.

Based on Thorsen’s military appearance alone, the typical CNN viewer could almost settle back in an easy chair and anticipate some stirring patriotic bathos about America standing tall – and the interview ending with the obligatory “thank you for your service,” which any right-thinking journalist utters to show that he or she is part of Team America.

But Bash got more than she bargained for when Thorsen turned out to be a well-informed and articulate young man who began endorsing Ron Paul’s non-interventionist views on U.S. foreign policy, i.e. that the United States should go to war only when absolutely necessary to defend its vital national interests and shouldn’t be picking a fight with Iran on behalf of Israel.

Such comments, of course, are almost literally heretical at places like CNN, which accepts unquestioningly the idea of “American exceptionalism” and abides by the neoconservative dogma that U.S. and Israeli security interests are one and the same.

That’s why CNN and the rest of the FCM typically dismiss Ron Paul’s views on foreign policy as dangerously “isolationist,” if not laughably loony. “Can you believe it? He doesn’t want to station American troops all around the world! He doesn’t believe in preemptive wars to disarm our enemies of weapons that they may not have now but might someday in the future have the capability of building! Ha! Ha! What a nut!”

The FCM’s dismissal of Paul’s foreign-policy views was a key reason why comedian Jon Stewart once compared Paul to “the 13th floor” of a hotel, the level that often doesn’t exist because customers consider the number unlucky. So, when the FCM would lavish attention on other Republican candidates, who finished both above and below Paul in some poll or in early balloting, the pundits would pass over Paul as if he didn’t exist.

Going ‘Off-Script’

So, what happened when Cpl. Thorsen veered “off script” – so to speak – and began reprising Ron Paulish views on the appropriate use of soldiers like himself? Well, CNN suddenly lost the feed. As Thorsen disappeared from the screen, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer explained, “Sorry, we just lost our tech connection, unfortunately.”

It’s true that connections can be lost for any number of reasons – and I can’t say for sure that some alert CNN producer hit the “kill” switch as one might if Cpl. Thorsen had begun cursing uncontrollably – but Blitzer and other CNN honchos didn’t seem very eager to resume the interview, just as they generally don’t book anti-war activists who disagree with the imperial orthodoxy.

You might remember, for instance, how CNN, like the other networks, stocked its pre-Iraq War “debates” with hawkish retired generals and admirals who would face only the mildest and most respectful questioning from Blitzer or some other anchor. In the rare moment when some war skeptic got on the air, he or she was treated with disdain, if not outright hostility, all the better for the network to demonstrate its “patriotism.”

Some cable networks devoted more time to American restaurants that were renaming French fries into “Freedom fries” than to the millions of people who took to the streets to protest the looming invasion of Iraq. After all, what could those “activists” know about Iraq hiding all those stockpiles of WMDs?

But why mention the case of Cpl. Thorsen now? Because this one-minute video-that-is-better-than-a-thousand-words could come in handy as at least a symbolic reminder of the bias at CNN and other parts of the FCM when it comes to allowing a full and fair discussion about going to war against some “designated enemy.”

This reality is bound to assume increased importance next week when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touches down in Washington to press his case for a preemptive war against Iran’s nuclear program – which has yet to produce a single nuclear bomb (and Iranian leaders say they don’t intend to build one) – while Israel has an undeclared nuclear arsenal of an estimated 200 to 300 bombs.

Just for fun, keep track of how many times Netanyahu and other war advocates get to weigh in on the unacceptable danger of an Iranian nuclear weapon “capability” compared to how many times they are asked why Israel has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and why it won’t let inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency into Israeli secret bases to examine Israel’s actual nuclear weapons.

The FCM’s latest drumming for war is likely to reach a crescendo during the first days of March, with Netanyahu crashing the cymbals loudly and the propaganda orchestra swelling in a martial symphony designed to stir the American people into another standing ovation for another preemptive war.

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Savior in inner-city Washington. He spent a total of 30 years as an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and CIA analyst, and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

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37 comments on “CNN Silences War-Skeptical Soldier

  1. Kali1976 on said:

    CNN knows that War=network profits. There is no other reason to keep reason out of their commentary.

  2. This was beautiful. Cutting him off made CNN look worse than if they heard him out.

  3. Michael Cosenza on said:

    What’s most unfortunate as far as I’m concerned is that this incident will never be seen by the majority of Americans. I find it very sad that the formerly American free press has been muzzled in the name of the almighty dollar. It sure looks like nobody in the media world nor our elected government has enough spine to ask the simple questions about Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal.

  4. Well, maybe some will see the video … I just put it up on Twitter. You might do the same. Information on Twitter gets around rather quickly. By the way, hasn’t the US given Israel a great deal of money, along with much of its arsenal. Theory: Perhaps Israel is considered by the US as a ‘quick response” unit.

  5. Ed Ciaccio on said:

    In the 1970′s, Wolf Blitzer worked for the Jerusalem Post as well as AIPAC, so his loyalties and biases are obvious.

    • steven Jones on said:

      As are yours. Loyalties is a word associated with an absence of patriotism at best and associated with treason at its worst. Are you implying, through your coded ad hominem post, that Blitzer is a Benedict Arnold?

      I guess you and your right wing, conservative minions can now have another swig from your beer and pat yourselves on your anti-Semitic backs.

      • rosemerry on said:

        Not again this stupid “antisemitic” mantra. Facts are facts, men are men, criticism is justified.

      • Stevie your Loyalties are showing. Zionist = Nazi

      • American on said:

        Well if he isn’t implying I am. In fact I am stating it as a fact.
        What do you think you can do about it except whine and slur people?
        We’ve had enough of Israel firsters in this country.
        And I for one am going to call them exactly what they are.
        Get use to it.

      • It is people like you who are clearly working so hard to turn the old and rotten fraud of the “Protocols of Zion” into truthful reality for today. All the time trying to cover it up by screaming “antisemitism” for every expression of hatefulness. The only thing your variety of Jews learned from the Holocaust was how to be like the Nazis. What a dis-spiriting change from the place of honor and justice I gave Jews as I grew up. Just so long ago now.

      • ilse on said:

        You seem to interpret any criticism of Israel’s policies as being anti-semitic. Warmongering is warmongering. And criticism is justified.

  6. Alan Bickley on said:

    UP With Chris Hayes is a worthy addition to television. Hayes’ knowledge of public affairs is both broad and deep, and his Saturday and Sunday morning conversations with panels of well-informed guests are valuable transmitters of information about such issues as war, peace, and inequality. The appearance of Anne-Marie Slaughter on Sunday’s edition was, therefore, disappointing in that she was permitted to get away with assertions that are contrary to fact, and that no one asked the questions about Israel as a nuclear power that Ray raised in the piece above. It is possible that Hooman Majd would have corrected her retailing of the widely and authoritatively discredited mistranslation of President Ahmadinejad’s remarks on the “Zionist regime in Jerusalem” and its eventual vanishing “from the page of time. The quotation is rendered among Israelphiles as a desire to “wipe Israel off the map,” and that is how Slaughter phrased it just the commercial break that ended Majd’s appearance on the program. Not a bright moment for Chris Hayes.

  7. It’s not only Wolf Blitzer. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone recently exposed Erin Burnett for a recent display of pro-war bias. Piers Morgan followed a few nights later with what a grave threat Iran would be to Israel if Iran acquired a couple of nuclear weapons. How much more Orwellian than that can you get? Iran’s two bombs would overwhelm Israel’s estimated 200 to 300? Then there was John King pronouncing the killings in the “Collateral Murder” video as an accident.

  8. I vividly recall the early phases of the Democratic presidential debates on CNN when Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich began speaking of the impeachment of George Bush, and Blitzer rushed to cut him off. It was painfully obvious Blitzer wanted NO mention of possible impeachment. Blitzer, I later learned, formerly worked for AIPAC, and CNN’s strong Israel bias clearly shows. I wasn’t any happier that then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who stated impeachment “was off the table.”

  9. This article in Mother Jones: says that veterans, even the some in the pentagon, and employees that work in the defense industry have given more to Ron Paul (and Obama) than they have to the three other Republican candidates combined. They are tired of fighting idiotic wars against people that do not threaten America, but create more enemies for us instead.

  10. F. G. Sanford on said:

    Thanks, Ray, for having the courage to yet again expose the FCM for what it is. As usual, I note some of the comments submitted run toward insinuations of “antisemitism”. Somebody recently wrote an article in one of the more respectably unbiased news outlets pining that he wished the Israeli lobby would specify just what criticism it would accept without triggering accusations of “antisemitism”. Apparently, there are none. Dana Bash, who if I’m not mistaken, used to be Dana Schwartz, has established quite a track record for stilting commentary against Ron Paul. And, Wolf Blitzer’s credentials as a former AIPAC shill are impeccable, to say the least. No bias there, eh?…(tongue in cheek).

    Having spent a career in the military, I think I can say that that young Corporal may be the rule rather than the exception. Our media wants to contain discussion of “The Troops” to rah, rah, wave the flag nonsensical false patriotism, while cynically writing them off as illiterate dolts who ‘do or die’ as the proverbial ‘cannon fodder’ our self-serving corporate sociopaths expect them to be.

    History repeats itself. Sooner or later, one of those young Corporals, probably an autodidact who had no chance to pursue an education or a career by virtue of his rung on the ladder of society, will come home with a vision, right or wrong, about how he has been used and dispossessed while others got rich. He may have been reading Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, and forging an ability to verbalize all the concepts usually reserved to the hypocrites with soft, pink hands in the ivory towers of academia. Those hypocrites become apoplectic when confronted with their worst nightmare: an opponent they have stereotyped that knows how to fight back.

    Make no mistake. Those young Corporals, and there are thousands and thousands of them, are not stupid. They have been wronged, maimed, disillusioned, stereotyped and sidelined. The difference between them and the denizens with soft, pink hands lies not in the ability to conceptualize violence. It is the ability to actually do it. And, my friends, they are extremely good at it.

  11. incontinent reader on said:

    Mr. McGovern, thank you for another great article, and referring your readers to such an important site. Just as with Vietnam, there are so many vets- and not just those who were maimed and psychologically damaged- now opposed to extending our existing wars and getting embroiled in new ones, that the truth of what they have seen, what they have been able to understand from their experience, and what are saying about it cannot be censored forever.
    The individuals and organizations, who censor them are not only doing the nation a great disservice, but are also debasing themselves with such unpatriotic conduct.

  12. One of the most significant events that exposed the moral corruption of the corporate media and their friends among Washington’s elites (?) – lobbyists, lawyers, politicians, etc. – occurred at the 2004 annual radio and television correspondents dinner. President Bush performed in a video skit making fun of not being able to find the non-existent weapons of mass destruction that were the basis of the lie to persuade the American people to go along with an invasion of Iraq. Only one attendee, David Corn, had the integrity to walk out and ignore the comments of other journalists cajoling him to not take the “joke” so seriously. A video from that event showed a bunch of butt kissers having a hilarious time laughing at this vile and squalid attempt at humor. Another video, purportedly from the event, showed Joe Lieberman enjoying the joke while Nancy Pelosi mustered enough decency to settle for a forced smile.

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  16. hendricks on said:

    One of the largest Time-Warner shareholders is Israeli but who’s asking?

  17. Of course no one heeded the warnings of J. William Fulbright about the dangers of having a “professional” military, the rest is history. See “The Pentagon Propaganda Machine” by Senator J. William Fulbright.

  18. canary #8 on said:

    Last year I attended a session with then Joint Chief of Staff, Adm. Mullen.
    I asked about the contradictory policies the US hold with regard to nuclear weaponry: It’s okay with Israel; it’s dangerous with Iran. His reply was merely some bland statement about Israel being our ally. In MY mind, we should reverse those attitudes.

  19. Vivek Jain on said:

    Any protests planned for Netanyahu’s visit?

  20. F. G. Sanford on said:

    Israel is not our ally nor any other country’s ally. We have no treaty with Israel, and under international law, no country which lacks defined borders can enter into a binding treaty agreement. U.S. aid to Israel is illegal under the Symington amendment. Weapons we have supplied Israel have been used to commit war crimes. Israel used white phosphorous on civilians in Gaza, a glaring war crime. Israel’s policy toward Palestinians amounts to genocide by attrition. You can’t get to be an Admiral without knowing all that. They have this place called The War College, where all this stuff gets discussed. Draw your own conclusions, but under international law, Israel is not our ally. If we were the Mafia, Israel would be a sotto capo. Capisci?

  21. So one more time – who is it exactly that wants to wipe who off the map?

    Considering mudered scientists, moving targets of NPT demands and sanctions, provocative innuendo about bombings and attacks – sounds to me like the accuser(s) should be the accused.

    At this rate, I’ll have to go into crime, just to buy gas for my 20 year old Integra, regardless of how good the mpg is.

  22. I have a bag of hammers that is smarter than the average rightwingnut american.

    • F. G. Sanford on said:

      I have a box of doorknobs that’s dumber than your hammers, but it’s still smarter than the right wingnuts.

  23. ron carpenter on said:

    The megalomania Netanyahu should be thrown out of the White House (if he ever gets in again). He scolded and humiliated our president the last time he was there. I’d like to have seen him try with Regan!

    Another Koran desecration–this time by burning–claimed by our government as “inadvertent”. This is the same word used to describe a desecration at Gitmo by an American guard several years ago. The government did not deny the guard pissed on a “dentaine’s” Koran, only theat it was “inadvertent”.

  24. I quit watching CNN years ago – I got the funny feeling they had their own agenda, that we weren’t going to get a diversity of intelligent views from their programming.

  25. Riddel on said:

    Israel is a terrorist nation who has killed more civilians than any other since the third right. They are presently armed with nuclear weapons. This has been done with the collusion and cooperation of the U.S. The U.S. Is a coperate democracy and Israel and Iran are theocracies. Why are we involved in their con flict in any way. As for nuclear conflagration , remember the origin of nuclear weapons can be sourced.

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