Unlike most American officials who routinely criticize Al-Jazeera and other pan-Arab media, I’ve actually watched these stations virtually daily since their inception during the past decade….On the basis of what I have witnessed during the past 1,000 days, I would like to bet Donald Rumsfeld a double cheeseburger with cheese, and Karen Hughes two tickets to a Yankees-Rangers baseball game on a balmy July evening, that the overall coverage of Iraq on the mainstream Arab satellite services has been more comprehensive, balanced and accurate than the coverage of any mainstream American cable or broadcast television service.
….These stations, in fact, have provided a vibrant television form of precisely that which Bush and his nonstop string of dizzy dames of public diplomacy have been calling and warring for in this region: democratic pluralism, at least in television news and opinion. The U.S., Israel and others understandably dislike the criticisms of their policies that they see and hear on Arab television. To respond by attacking the Arab journalist messengers who carry the bad news, however, rather than addressing the contentious underlying political problems between the U.S., Israel and the Arab world, is a sign of political amateurism and personal emotionalism.
When the history of our era is written half a century from now, I’ll bet that satellite TV and the internet get far more credit for democratizing the Middle East than any military intervention ever does. And deservedly so.
As Donald Rumsfeld might say, a free press is a messy thing. But when all is said and done, Al-Jazeera might well be the greatest force for reform in the entire history of the region.