The reference was to images in a report that he had done while in Viet Nam in 1965. The report showed American soldiers burning a village to the ground in Cam Ne. President Lyndon Johnson reacted angrily to the report, and said that Safer had “shat on the American flag.” After being assured by the subsequent investigation that Safer “wasn’t a communist, just a Canadian”, the president said, “Well, I knew he wasn’t an American.”
However, after the investigations, threats, accusations and denunciations of Safer, and of CBS and the press in general, Morley Safer’s question remained:
“What is that American G.I. doing with that Zippo lighter?”
And the question remains in 2010: “What are those American soldiers doing killing and torturing Iraqi civilians?”
Who gave the order to commit these atrocities? Or who disobeyed the order not to?
What shall we say to this—as the Apostle Paul might have said—? I’m talking to fellow Christians who insist that the United States is a Christian nation, founded on Christian principles. Some of you are more concerned about getting prayer back into the public schools or the Ten Commandments chiseled on the wall of the county courthouse than you are about torture. Is torture a Christian concern, or not? And should you tolerate your “Christian nation” to commit these demonic acts?
And even if WikiLeaks did commit treason in releasing classified documents, does that nullify our responsibility to prevent war crimes from happening again, or to punish those who committed or ordered the crimes in question?
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that “we should condemn in the most clear terms the disclosure.” Understandable that she should say that, if more lives become at risk from the leaks.
But her condemnation is classic; another smokescreen that hides the fire. It should remind us of our government’s response in 2004 to the revelation of torture at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Rather than crack down on the abuses, even then officials chose to vilify those who revealed the leaks. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, “We’re functioning with peacetime constraints, with legal requirements, in a wartime situation in the Information Age, where people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise.”
In other words, it’s all Morley Safer’s fault. But the question remains: