Monday, March 29, 2004


It is bad enough that the U.S. military has closed its second newspaper in Iraq -- a dubious step in the quest to bring democracy to the Middle East.

But what was mentioned only briefly in The New York Times today, and is even worse, is that “under a law passed by the occupying authorities in June, a news media organization must be licensed, and that license can be revoked if the organization publishes or broadcasts material that incites violence or civil disorder or ‘advocates alterations to Iraq's borders by violent means.’ ”

Violence is, to be sure, bad, and all right-thinking people everywhere should smile upon this paternalistic, fascistic censoring of media if it keeps the Iraqis in line -- uh, safe. If only the British had done a better job in the 1700s, fewer of our boys would have died during that awful Revolutionary War.

“Civil disorder,” though, is a concept that invites less enthusiasm in suppression (as is the licensing of media, something that would not fly here). It encompasses everything from public protests to labor strikes and hardly seems the kind of thing the United States would clamp down on -- had its public relations efforts abroad not been so abysmal.

If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, censorship is frequently, and in this case, the last refuge of the incompetent.

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