News media miss the point on terrorism

People who kill innocent children are not freedom fighters.

This past weekend, we remembered those who were killed by terrorists three years ago. Most Americans think the last terrorist attack happened on Sept. 11, 2001. That is not because they are unaware of the beheadings, car-bombings and suicide bombings that have taken place since then.

It is because the mainstream media are afraid to call a spade a spade. What I mean by that is that they are afraid to call a terrorist a terrorist.

USA Today called the men who beheaded Nick Berg “captors.” On Sept. 1, 16 Israelis were killed when two men exploded bomb belts on two separate buses. CNN called them “fighters.” Chris Matthews, of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” calls the men who detonate roadside bombs in Iraq “insurgents.”

Last Thursday, our own Daily used these adjectives to describe the men who murdered innocent women and children in Beslan, Russia: rebels, hostage-takers and freedom fighters.

The editorial “Lessons Beslan should teach us” even said the word “terrorist” has become overused. The point of the Daily’s editorial piece was to condemn the murder of innocent civilians. That’s fine, but calling these men freedom fighters is like calling Michael Moore skinny.

The ABCs, CBSs and NBCs of the world must want Americans to think that the war on terror is over. The harsh reality is that there are terrorists plotting to kill us every day. Some people on the left will say that the United States has created these terrorists by invading Iraq. That’s ideological nonsense. There were terrorists before we invaded Iraq, just as there are terrorists now.

In fact, because of the Bush administration’s pre-emptive policy, we have killed or captured two-thirds of al-Qaida. But there are other terrorists other than just al-Qaida, and this is what the mainstream media don’t want you to know.

The media doesn’t want to label terrorists as such because it helps the Bush administration. Recent polls show that President George W. Bush has a commanding lead on the question of whom the U.S. public trusts to protect us from terrorism. But if the media keep terrorism and the word “terrorist” out of national headlines, then there is a greater chance that people will vote on other issues.

People need to be reminded of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. They need to know that the people we are dealing with don’t care about Republicans or Democrats. They don’t care if they kill a soldier in uniform, a civilian contractor or a 5-year-old school child. They will kill anybody to get what they want.

This war is waged, not just on far-off battlefields, but also at home in the form of public opinion. Those who think the war in Iraq is not a battle against terrorism are just plain wrong. We know Iraq was not involved with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But, what we also know is that al-Qaida operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi traveled in and out of Iraq with Saddam Hussein’s knowledge.

Who is to say that Saddam wouldn’t help him at some point? After Sept. 11, 2001 we can’t take that chance. When the war in Iraq is done, the war on terror will not be over. That is why the United States must have a firm commitment in fighting this war. We can’t do that, if people think that the war has subsided.

The media must be responsible and not scare the public. But they also must be accurate. People who kill innocent children are not freedom fighters. People who detonate roadside bombs or behead civilians are not insurgents. They are terrorists.

Before Sept. 11, 2001, we had our eyes closed to the threat of terrorism. Every time the media replace the word “terrorist” with “insurgent” or “freedom fighter” they help close our eyes a little bit more.

Gregg Knorn is a guest columnist. He welcomes comments at [email protected]