The scene is from John Ford’s 1962 film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The time: the early American West,
The editor of the Shinbow Star follows Senator Ransom Stoddard (played by Jimmy Stewart), and his wife Hallie (Vera Miles), into the backroom where Tom Doniphon’s (John Wayne) body lies in a wooden casket.
Ransome, Hallie and two old friends from the early days, sit quietly by the casket. The editor, Maxwell Scott (Carleton Young) walks into the room.
Scott: I don’t wish to intrude, but a United States Senator is news. I’m the editor of a newspaper with a state wide circulation. I’ve got a responsibility to know why you came all the way down here to bury a man. And, you can’t just say his name was Tom Doniphon and leave it at that.
Who was Tom Doniphon?
He was a friend, Mr. Scott. And we’d like to be left alone.
Scott: I’m sorry, Senator, that’s not enough. I have a right to have the story.
This past week, Helen Thomas, the veteran White House reporter, confronted two White House officials in the same persistent manner as her fictional counterpart, Maxwell Scott.
Thomas has been confronting official Washington since the days of John F. Kennedy.
Her most recent White House press encounter was captured on You Tube. The conference was held to allow the media to question two officials sent by President Barack Obama to explain how two men, one on an airplane, the other in a remote CIA site in Afghanistan, infiltrated America’s defensive shield.
Everyone in that White House press room knew the basic facts of WHAT had happened in the sky over Detroit and at the CIA site. Helen Thomas was alone in demanding to know the WHY of what happened.
On his blog, Glenn Greenwald described Thomas vs. Brennan:
At a White House press conference yesterday [January 8] with [Homeland Security director] Janet Napolitano and [Deputy National Security Council advisor] John Brennan, Helen Thomas shows — yet again — that she’s one of the very few White House reporters willing to deviate from approved orthodoxy scripts. She asks the prohibited question about the motives of Terrorists, and keeps asking as she receives complete non-responses, until they all just decide to ignore her.
Brennan’s answer — they do this because they are Evil and murderous — is on the same condescending cartoon level as the “They-Hate-us-For-Our-Freedom” tripe we endured for the last eight years. . . . That Al Qaeda is evil and murderous and perverts Islam, is a judgment about what they do, not an answer as to what motivates them.
Note carefully, Greenwald links Brennan’s non-answer to the “condescending cartoon level” of the Bush White House, “They-Hate-us-For-Our-Freedom” tripe of the past eight years.
Greenwald is dead on accurate with his depiction that Brennan sounds like the Second Coming of the Bush White House.
Greenwald knows what constitutes tripe. And he wants the American public to face up to the harsh reality that the Obama White House, on this issue, is just more of the same. He is calling on us to break from the past and recognize the role motive plays in attacks on Americans.
The evidence of what motivates Terrorism when directed at the U.S. is so overwhelming and undeniable that it takes an extreme propagandist to pretend it doesn’t exist. What is Brennan so afraid of?
It is true that religious fanaticism is a part of their collective motivation, but why can’t he just say what’s so obviously true: “they claim that the U.S. is interfering in, occupying and bringing violence to their part of the world, they cite things like civilian deaths and our support for Israel and Guantanamo and torture, and claim that their terrorism is in retaliation”?
Indeed, Brennan’s boss, the President, has often claimed that things like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib help Al Qaeda recruitment (and it seems clear it was part of Abdulmutallab’s hatred for the U.S.), so clearly U.S. actions are part of the motivation. Yet Brennan is afraid to acknowledge that not just past actions, but current ones, fuel the desire to target the U.S. for attacks.
Why does Helen Thomas stand virtually alone in the Washington media in confronting the “taboo” that keeps American in the media orthodoxy lockbox? Her persistent question, WHY, goes unanswered.
The “taboo” question is not one this White House wants to address. In a posting he wrote the day before the White House briefing, Greenwald addresses the “taboo” question:
If it is taboo to discuss how America’s actions in the Middle East cause Terrorism — and it generally is — that taboo is far stronger still when it comes to specifically discussing how our blind, endless enabling of Israeli actions fuels Terrorism directed at the U.S.
An article in yesterday’s New York Timesexamined the life of Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, the Jordanian who blew himself up, along with 7 CIA agents, in Afghanistan this week. Why would Balawi — a highly educated doctor, who was specifically recruited by Jordanian intelligence officials to infiltrate Al Qaeda on behalf of Western governments — want to blow himself up and murder as many American intelligence agents as possible? The article provides this possible answer [from Balawi’s brother]:
“He described Mr. Balawi as a “very good brother” and a “brilliant doctor,” saying that the family knew nothing of Mr. Balawi’s writings under a pseudonym on jihadi Web sites. He said, however, that his brother had been “changed” by last year’s three-week-long Israeli offensive in Gaza, which killed about 1,300 Palestinians.”
An Associated Press discussion of the possible motives of accused Christmas Day airline attacker Umar Faruk Abdulmutallab contained this quite similar passage:
“Students and administrators at the institute said Abdulmutallab was gregarious, had many Yemeni friends and was not overtly extremist. They noted, however, he was open about his sympathies toward the Palestinians and his anger over Israel’s actions in Gaza.” (emphasis added).
Two suicide bombers, one that succeeded, and one that failed, led to the questions from Helen Thomas at that White House press conference.
It was not a difficult question, but John Brennan refused to give her a straight answer, other than to repeat the Bushian mantra,”they” are murderous. That is not enough, Mr. Brennan; that is not enough, President Obama.
What were the motives of these two bombers? Their families and friends point to their anger over Israel’s treatment of Gazan civilians. Is it the official policy of the American government to ignore this possible motive?
Is our loyalty to the policies of Israel more important to our government than defending our own people?
The picture above, from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, shows Senator Ransom Stoddard talking with a young reporter from the Shinbone Star.