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Eighteen, we’re told; eighteen mistakes in the official U. S. version of the Osama takedown. That beats the performance of the man introducing the speaker at a California Rotary Club.
He announced, “Now we’re going to hear from a man who made a million dollars in the oil business in California.”
The guest took the podium, thanked the group for inviting him and asked permission to make a correction or two in his introduction.
“It wasn’t California,” he began. “It was Pennsylvania. And it wasn’t oil. It was coal. And it wasn’t anywhere near a million dollars. It was more like a hundred and fifty thousand.
“Also,” he continued, “it wasn’t me. It was my brother. And he didn’t make it. He lost it!”
Could this be the carping of an Obama opponent fearful and bitter that this overwhelming coup on Barack Obama’s watch might make him unbeatable next year? Could this be the sore-headedness of the fan who refuses to congratulate the other team on a perfect touchdown and, instead, demands a stiff penalty for too much celebrating in the end zone? Not exactly. More to the point, exactly not!
Whether through incompetence or the deliberate attempt to make the triumph even more glowing than it was, America has damaged itself unnecessarily. It goes way beyond whether bin Laden tried to use one of his wives as a shield and whether she was killed or shot in the leg and whether the world’s champion terrorist went down fighting or cowered behind a door. We all know how important weapons are in war. Somewhat fewer realize how important morale is. Americans rarely impute proper importance to credibility.
We haven’t yet thanked Britain enough for something extraordinary it did to help win World War II. There was no Voice of America at the time, but there was the Overseas Voice of the BBC, the British Broadcasting Company. The BBC did something unique in history. They told the truth! When the victorious Nazis swallowed France and chased the British troops into a tight cocoon around the French port city of Dunkirk, they fled back to England aboard everything from warships to private yachts to inner tubes! And the BBC told it all; no denial or spin.
And when things began to move in our direction, victories in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, etc., our side was BELIEVED! Inside the captive Hitler empire, millions of underground fighters were emboldened to heightened acts of resistance. The enemy – Nazi and Communist – never got it. Their state-controlled media came out straightforwardly and lied about the whole thing, and their own people knew it.
In 1942 the Nazi radio put on a triumphal Christmas special to assuage the pain of defeats in Africa and Russia. Bold German voices greeted the Fatherland listeners from above the Arctic Circle in Norway to Libya to the French coast to Stalingrad. The first three greetings were legit. “Stalingrad” was faked in a Berlin radio studio.
When North Korea attacked South Korea in June 1950, residents of every Communist country sneered at the official version – that South Korea had attacked North Korea but “the scene of action was soon transferred southward.” Nor did anybody believe the Communist insistence that the freedom-loving Hungarians who chopped down the Stalin statue in Budapest in October 1956 were “parasites and hooligans.”
You can’t buy credibility. It doesn’t come in spray-on containers. It must be built, brick by brick, some of those bricks, painful to expose. There’s no Standard-and-Poor’s or Moody to rate America’s credibility the way they rate our credit, but if there were, we would finish ahead of the North Koreans (who claimed Kim Jong-il took up golf in his 60s and scored in the 60s, 18 holes, on his very first round, scoring six holes-in-one along the way!) but well behind the British. Our summation might read something like, “Whatever can be embellished by the Americans, WILL be embellished.”
Incredibly, the Soviet Union, with no visible embarrassment, in addition to its news agency TASS, also circulated something called “White Tass” to top Communist Party officials giving them the real story on major goings-on around the world, while the ordinary Soviet-in-the-street got nothing but the party line.
Norway is mountainous, lots of great skiers. Neighboring Sweden, not very mountainous, fewer great skiers. In a dual ski-meet between the two countries, first, second AND third place were won by Swedes. That hurt all over Norway. The sports page of an Oslo newspaper headlined, “It took three Swedes to beat one Norwegian!”
We’re not going to protest that – any more than we protest the editor of a Danish weekly newspaper who was forced to lie at Nazi gunpoint. During World War II, British planes bombed an explosives factory on Jutland. The German censor stormed into the editor’s office and said, “You may report only that the British planes came and dropped their bombs but all they hit was a cow.”
The editor printed exactly that, but then added a line of his own. He wrote, “The cow exploded and burned for three days!”