Alexander Cockburn on Daniel Pearl

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Feb 26 10:51:10 MST 2002

Counterpunch, February 26, 2002

American Journal

Daniel Pearl: Should His Editors
Have Sent Him There?
By Alexander Cockburn

Daniel Pearl's dispatches reminded me somewhat of Peter Kann's in the days
when he was the Journal's most light-heartedly stylish reporter, before
assuming the imperial purple and becoming the company's CEO. It was Kann,
back in the late 1970s, who traveled to Afghanistan, reported that the
place was a dump covered with flies and that it was hard to understand why
any Great Power would want any truck with the place.


Pearl's style was totally alien to the bloodthirsty rantings of his
editorial colleagues. He sent excellent dispatches questioning the claims
of the Clinton administration that it had been justified in the 1998
destruction via cruise missile of the El Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries
plant in the Sudan. Again, he and fellow WSJ reporter Robert Block entered
some effective reservations about allegations of Serbian genocide in
Kosovo. In fact Slobodan Milosevic might make use of them in mounting his
vigorous defense in the US-sponsored kangaroo court in the Hague against
charges of genocide. Pearl and Block stigmatized the Serb armed forces as
having done "heinous things", while also writing that "other
allegations-indiscriminate mass murder, rape camps, crematoriums,
mutilation of the dead-haven't been borne out in the six months since NATO
troops entered Kosovo. Ethnic-Albanian militants, humanitarian
organizations, NATO and the news media fed off each other to give genocide
rumors credibility. Now, a different picture is emerging."

The killing of Pearl was just as monstrous as the September 11 onslaughts
that killed 3,000 innocent people who bore no responsibility for the
actions of their government. But as David North, of the Trotskyist Fourth
International wrote on the World Socialist ( website on
February 23: "On the very day that Pearl's murder was confirmed, US
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted that US troops had mistakenly
killed 16 anti-Taliban Afghan fighters, but refused to apologize. It does
not require exceptional political insight to realize that in the decision
to murder Pearl, the desire for revenge was a major subjective factor."

North then remarked that the outlook of the Pakistani terrorists is not so
different from that of that Thomas Friedman, the repellent columnist of the
New York Times, also recently recruited as a kind o Kuralt of globalization
by PBS's Lehrer News Hour. North cited a recent Friedman column which
praised Bush's Axis of Evil speech in these terms: "Sept. 11 happened
because America lost its deterrent capability. We lost it because for 20
years we never retaliated against, or brought to justice, those who
murdered Americans ...innocent Americans were killed and we did nothing. So
our enemies took us less and less seriously and became more and more
emboldened... America's enemies smelled weakness all over us, and we paid a
huge price for that."

North very properly comments: "By changing only a few words, the Pakistani
terrorists could use Friedman's argument to justify their murder of Pearl:
"We have failed to retaliate against America ... innocent Arabs, Afghans
and Moslems were killed and we did nothing ... America took us less and
less seriously and became more and more emboldened." The thought patterns
of the pompous and belligerent American columnist and the Islamic terrorist
have far more in common than either imagine. Both think in terms of ethnic,
religious and national stereotypes. Both believe in and are mesmerized by

Leave the last beautiful, true words to Daniel Pearl's widow:

"Revenge would be easy, but it is far more valuable in my opinion to
address this problem of terrorism with enough honesty to question our own
responsibility as nations and as individuals for the rise of terrorism. My
own courage arises from two facts. One is that throughout this ordeal I
have been surrounded by people of amazing value. This helps me trust that
humanism ultimately will prevail.

"My other hope now -- in my seventh month of pregnancy -- is that I will be
able to tell our son that his father carried the flag to end terrorism,
raising an unprecedented demand among people from all countries not for
revenge but for the values we all share: love, compassion, friendship and
citizenship far transcending the so-called clash of civilizations."


Louis Proyect
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