The ques­tions Mike Wal­lace should have asked

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - DEN­NIS PRAGER

Alit­tle over three years ago, CBS sent Dan Rather to Bagh­dad to ask mean­ing­less ques­tions to, and pro­vide a pro­pa­ganda ve­hi­cle for, Sad­dam Hus­sein. On Aug. 13, Com­mu­ni­ca­tion for Bar­bar­ians Ser­vice broad­cast Mike Wal­lace’s equally mean­ing­less in­ter­view with the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Iran’s fa­nat­i­cal leader.

In­ter­views with evil lead­ers are mean­ing­less at best and de­struc­tive at worst. Fewre­porters will ask real ques­tions or chal­lenge the pro­pa­ganda re­sponses of th­ese lead­ers. Th­ese in­ter­views merely of­fer them in­valu­able “hu­man­iz­ing” time and ask ques­tions that re­con­firm the low state of television news.

Here are some of the tough ques­tions Mr. Wal­lace asked one of the vilest lead­ers on earth to­day: What he thinks of Pres­i­dent Bush, why he is con­cerned about how his jacket looks on television and what he does for leisure. Never once did he chal­lenge Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad’s at­tacks on Amer­ica — such as Amer­ica’s lov­ing war, seek­ing to be an im­pe­rial power or op­press­ing its own peo­ple.

When asked about his state­ments that the Holo­caust is a “myth,” Mr. Ah­madine­jad replied, “What I did say­was, if this is a re­al­ity, if this is real, where did it take place?” Mr. Wal­lace did not re­spond to the leader of a coun­try say­ing “if” the Holo­caust “is real” with a sin­gle ques­tion. But he prob­a­bly laughed more with Mr. Ah­madine­jad than any Amer­i­can news re­porter has ever laughed on cam­era with the pres­i­dent of the United States.

If CBS wanted any­thing more than rat­ings and Mr. Wal­lace wanted to be more than a “use­ful id­iot” (Lenin’s phrase for the West­ern jour­nal­ists and aca­demics who sup­ported Soviet Com­mu­nism), here are some ques­tions he should have asked Mr. Ah­madine­jad:

In coun­tries with a free press and where his­tory is un­der­stood as con­sist­ing of ver­i­fi­able facts, any­one who de­nies the Holo­caust, the sys­tem­atic mur­der of ap­prox­i­mately 6 mil­lion Jews by the Nazis, is re­garded as ei­ther an anti-Semite or a kook or both. You have re­peat­edly de­nied the Holo­caust. Why should the world not re­gard you as ei­ther a kook or an anti-Semite? And do you un­der­stand why most free so­ci­eties wish to pre­vent you from ac­quir­ing nu­clear weapons?

Given that you have an­nounced that you wish Is­rael to be erased from the map, why would those coun­tries that do not share your de­sire to ex­tin­guish a coun­try not try to pre­vent you from ac­quir­ing nu­clear weapons?

In Iran, un­der your di­rec­tion, re­li­gious po­lice walk around the coun­try mon­i­tor­ing how much skin a wo­man re­veals. Most of the world con­sid­ers this prim­i­tive and an­other rea­son to re­gard you and your regime as fa­nat­i­cal. On what grounds do you sup­port whip­ping women who re­veal their arms in pub­lic? And do you un­der­stand why such poli­cies help ex­plain why most free so­ci­eties wish to pre­vent you from ac­quir­ing nu­clear weapons?

Why do you be­lieve that mil­lions of Ira­ni­ans chant “death to Amer­ica” and “death to Is­rael” but no Amer­i­cans or Is­raelis chant “death to Iran”? Are peo­ple more bored in an Is­lamic repub­lic than in a free so­ci­ety? Does your brand of Is­lam pro­mote pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with death rather than life? Or is there sim­ply a lot more ha­tred in your coun­try than in free so­ci­eties? And do you un­der­stand why all this ha­tred helps ex­plain why so­ci­eties in which peo­ple do not chant death wishes would like to pre­vent your so­ci­ety from ac­quir­ing nu­clear weapons?

In Iran, women de­ter­mined by Is­lamic courts to have com­mit­ted adul­tery have been stoned to death. Ac­cord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Times, “The con­demned are wrapped head to foot in white shrouds and buried up to their waists. Then the ston­ing be­gins. The stones are specif­i­cally cho­sen so they are large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the con­demned im­me­di­ately. They are guar­an­teed a slow, tor­tur­ous death. Some­times their chil­dren are forced to watch.” Do you be­lieve that this brings world ad­mi­ra­tion to Is­lam? And do you un­der­stand why most so­ci­eties in which women who com­mit adul­tery are not stoned wish to pre­vent you from ac­quir­ing nu­clear weapons?

Last year, a teenage girl who said she was raped by two young men was not only not be­lieved, she was given 100 lashes by your Is­lamic repub­lic. Many of us find whip­ping teenagers for hav­ing sex, not to men­tion for be­ing raped, unim­pres­sive. Does this help to ex­plain why so­ci­eties that do not whip teenage girls are not ex­cited about your coun­try ac­quir­ing nu­clear weapons?

Last month, a Bri­tish news­pa­per, the Sun­day Mir­ror, re­ported that in your Is­lamic repub­lic, “16-year-old Ate­feh Ra­jabi was dragged from her prison cell and taken to be ex­e­cuted. The Ira­nian judge who had sen­tenced Ate­feh to death was left un­moved as he per­son­ally put the noose around her neck and sig­nalled to the crane driver. Kick­ing and scream­ing, Ate­feh was left dan­gling for 45 min­utes from the arm of the crane [. . .] Ate­feh’s crime? Of­fend­ing pub­lic moral­ity. She was found guilty of ‘acts in­com­pat­i­ble with chastity’ by hav­ing sex with an un­mar­ried man, even though friends sayAte­feh was in such a frag­ile men­tal state that she wasn’t in a po­si­tion to say no.”

Does this help ex­plain why peo­ple who don’t sup­port hang­ing young girls from cranes might be con­cerned about Iran ac­quir­ing nu­clear weapons?

As it hap­pens, Mr. Wal­lace and CBS News did what they set out to do — win in the rat­ings war on Aug. 13. But they hurt Amer­ica and abet­ted evil in the process. Not de­lib­er­ately, but know­ingly.

Den­nis Prager is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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