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What freedom means

Matt Zalaznick

W.’s been talking a lot about how all people cherish freedom. But one wonders how deeply devoted W. is to this great American concept. He’s recast the war in Iraq as a labor of love of liberty. He rhapsodizes about giving an Arab people the freedom to vote. But his administration is carping at the government of Qatar to squelch the freedom of speech that Americans should be just as interested in bestowing upon Al Jazeera, the immensely popular Arab television network. Send the Iraqis to the ballot box and slap a giant V-chip on their Arab brothers and sisters before they start tuning into the weekly undersea sermonizing of that left-wing firebrand of moral dubiousness, SpongeBob Squarepants. We must squash that pernicious pineapple!The administration’s complaints about Al Jazeera are that its reports are false and inflammatorily anti-U.S.A. Not surprising considering that W., when he does stoop to read a newspaper or watch the news, doesn’t mind knowing the messenger is not only on message, but on the payroll. This begs the question: Why isn’t Condi recruit Al Jazeera interns to spread the good news and stifle some of that unfortunate footage of civilian casualties in Iraq? The administration also is peeved that some of Al Jazeera’s reports on Iraq have been wrong. Ain’t that the propagandist calling the prevaricator a punk!Remember the trumped-up G.I. Jane heroics of Jessica Lynch? The administration told us she was gunning down ghoulies when she, as most other people would be, was praying not to die. And what about those terrible weapons that Condi threatened would make mushroom clouds in American cities? How ferociously accurate! What lofty information standards the administration insists on. And so what if Al Jazeera is anti-American. Good for them. Isn’t the right to criticize central to American public discourse? The Constitution pretty much tolerates intolerance, and rightly so, until people start getting lynched or gay bashed. The downside of democracy is it’s much more unpredictable than an evil-doing dictatorship. A plausible future for Iraq is as follows: They’ll says thanks for the right to vote and then introduce us to their new prime minister, who digs the Koran, dines with Iran and disses Uncle Sam. The administration also doesn’t like that Al Jazeera broadcasts the rantings and ravings of Osama bin Laden. Well, a basic tenet of journalism is that when the most controversial man in the world speaks – a man even more controversial than a spoiled wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles – it’s generally very big news. Particularly when this uber-insurgent can’t be tracked down. Ironically, other Arab governments also are annoyed with Al Jazeera. Why? Because, of all things, the station’s democratic instincts. Al Jazeera is hammering on some of the same Arab regimes that have drawn fire from American intellectuals of the left and the right. According to The New York Times, the oh-so Jeffersonian governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, not to mention the card-carrying Axis-of-Evilite Iranians, don’t like Al Jazeera reporting about their domestic turbulence. Hey maybe we don’t need the Marines to topple Iran’s ayatollahs, just the Al Jazeera’s version of Chris Matthews or Bill O’Riley stirring up enough local anger for the locals to take things into their own hands. And, philosophically speaking, a homegrown rebellion is a much more democratic (not to mention sustainable) tactic than invasion, occupation and Abu Ghraib-ization.City Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or mzalaznick@vaildaily.com Vail, Colorado


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