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Opinions Archive 1999
FAIR action alert:
Encourage CBS evening news to investigate possible NATO war crimes

July 2, 1999

During a June 25th appearance at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather expressed an openness to investigating alleged NATO war crimes committed in Yugoslavia.

"If our government engages in war crimes it's at least as important, and I would agree with you, more important that we report the war crime," said the longtime CBS newsman. Responding to the suggestion that one possible guest might be former Nuremberg prosecutor Walter Rockler, Rather said, "I know to whom you refer and he wouldn't have any trouble getting on the evening news. I do have a different view, but I never rule out the possibility that the other fellow is right."

In a Chicago Tribune column (5/23/99), Rockler wrote: "Contrary to the beliefs of our war planners, unrestricted air bombing is barred under international law. Bombing the 'infrastructure' of a country -- waterworks, electricity plants, bridges, factories, television and radio locations-- is not an attack limited to legitimate military objectives." (Read Rockler's column at )

Rather's statement came in response to questions posed by FAIR associate Sam Husseini. During the session, Rather wondered why NATO commanders hadn't pursued the strategy of targeting civilian infrastructure in Serbia earlier in the war:

"On my second trip to Belgrade I was there the night they turned off the lights. Remember, the first time we had a raid that shut down the power, turned off the lights for most of Yugoslavia and that also meant turning off the water because the water needed the power to go... I think there's a legitimate question to be asked, 'Well, If we had chosen to use this weaponry on the second, third, fourth day or the second or third week of the war, would it have made a difference?'"

Later on, Rather dropped even the pretense of journalistic objectivity when he said, "I'm an American, and I'm an American reporter. And yes, when there's combat involving Americans, you can criticize me if you must, damn me if you must, but I'm always pulling for us to win."

ACTION: Urge CBS Evening News to investigate alleged NATO war crimes, a topic that rarely surfaces in mainstream media discussions.

Tell them you were encouraged by Rather's comment that "If our government engages in war crimes it's at least as important, and I would agree with you -- more important, that we report the war crime." Suggest that Walter Rockler, the former Nuremburg prosecutor, would be an excellent source for such a report.

Contact: CBS Evening News 524 West 57th St. New York, NY 10019

Phone: 212-975-3691 or 202-457-4385 Fax: 212-975-1893

You can also fill out a "Feedback Form" on the CBS website at: frameset_feedback3Fp5Fwho3Dnetwork.html

CBS Evening News staff suggested that faxing or mailing your comments increases the likelihood that they will be read.

(NOTE: To read a transcript of the full exchange between Rather and Husseini, go to: rather.html )

Source: Fair - Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting

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