CNN Iraq report comes years late

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management
April 20, 2003

I have a friend who I am convinced is a socialist. Well, maybe he isn't a socialist, but he is the opposite of a capitalist. He hates what I admire and celebrate about capitalism. I love competition, scorekeeping, and freedom. I love that there are winners and losers. Every time a business fails for competitive reasons, capitalism is working. Every time somebody has an idea, raises some money, executes the idea and becomes a billionaire, capitalism is working. I love it. My friend hates it. He believes capitalism is a proxy for greed and that greed is responsible for all of life's ills. But greed is not what drives capitalism. Capitalism depends on men acting in their own self-interest. This is significantly different from greed. Greed is about coveting. People who believe that capitalism is about coveting also believe that wealth is fixed - that the only way to increase one person's wealth is to decrease someone else's. That's greed. I don't covet my neighbor's ass. I want my own ass. And I want the nicest ass I can afford. That's capitalism. Stealing his ass is greed. And that's immoral.

* * * * *

Eason Jordan is chief news executive at CNN. Mr. Jordan wrote a column for the April 11 New York Times in which he wraps himself in the blanket of capitalism and free speech, while conducting almost unspeakable sins. His behavior is almost enough to make me repudiate capitalism and the free press. Almost.

For twelve years, Eason Jordan observed the atrocities of Sadaam Huessein's Iraq and told no one. He now admits to feeling awful for having bottled these stories inside of him, but he had to; otherwise the government of Iraq might have expelled the CNN correspondents in Baghdad. Jordan knew about a 31 year-old woman who was beaten daily for two months by the Iraqi secret police for various 'crimes,' including speaking with a CNN employee on the phone. Eventually she was torn apart, limb by limb, and left in a plastic bag on her family's front porch. He tells the story eleven years later.

On another occasion, a CNN cameraman was abducted, beaten and subjected to electric shock because he would not confirm the Iraqi officials' suspicion that Jordan was a secret CIA spy. Sadaam's son once told Mr. Jordan of his plan to assassinate two of his brothers-in-law who had defected. Again, the CNN executive kept the news to himself. A few months later, the two men were killed.

Capitalists like Ted Turner (who owned and controlled CNN during much of the last twelve years) and his newsmen like Eason Jordan can defend their actions on the basis of doing whatever is necessary to protect the lives of their employees in the region. But if CNN never reported of these atrocities as they happened, what purpose was the network serving in Iraq? At best, they were simply trying to make money; the murders and beatings were irrelevant distractions. At worst, CNN was motivated by politics, a complicit partner of Sadaam by its inaction. If that's capitalism, I don't want anything to do with it.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

Add me to your commentary distribution list.

MCM website