Bozell Column: Yawning at Assassinated Troops

Two U.S. airmen were gunned down by a radical Muslim in Germany. Why are their lives less newsworthy than Charlie Sheen's antics or "Candid Camera in the Wilderness"?

On March 2, two U.S airmen, Nicholas Alden and Zachary Cuddeback, were gunned down at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. Two other Americans were wounded. The assailant was a radical Muslim. This was a huge story to most Americans - but, naturally, but not to our news media. If the amount of air time is any measure, the assassination of our troops drew a yawn.

That night, ABC's "World News" offered a full report, but CBS and NBC each gave it less than 30 seconds. "Troops under attack in Germany, targeted by a gunman shouting in Arabic about jihad," reported ABC anchor Diane Sawyer. Neither CBS or NBC found room for "jihad" talk, and never found time to ask about the young American lives extinguished.

CBS saved room that night for Mickey Rooney's testimony about "elder abuse." NBC needed to save four minutes and 15 seconds for semi-retired Tom Brokaw's report on the decline in Reading, Pennsylvania, and then devoted another two and half minutes to promoting the Smithsonian's attempt to find a "Candid Camera in the Wilderness" with animal spycams.

Even after the radical-Muslim motivations were confirmed, the anchors were still downplaying it. On March 3, Katie Couric relayed: "It appears 20-year-old Arid Uka had a grudge against the U.S. military. Sources tell CBS News that when he was arrested, Uka said 'They are at war with us.'" I'm sure Mark David Chapman had a "grudge" with John Lennon, too. CBS did go to a reporter in Germany on Thursday morning...but the whole story was over in 90 seconds. NBC offered two minutes.

The same yawning thing happened at the newspapers. No one put this story on the front page. USA Today just reprinted the Associated Press on A-5. The New York Times put it on A-4. The Washington Post offered a story on A-6 that day, and then when it discovered over the weekend that one of the assassinated airmen was a Virginia native - Zack Cuddeback, gunned down at the wheel of the bus - they promptly reported it on....B-6.

The story itself is far more offensive than anything chronicled in last week's obsession over the craziness of Charlie Sheen. The Times reported a German security official said "The bus was waiting at the terminal, and one serviceman after the other got on it,'' Uka asked the last one for a cigarette, ''then he asked the soldier if they were heading to Afghanistan.''

When the serviceman answered yes, Uka shot him with a handgun in the back of the head. ''He then entered the bus, shouted 'God is the greatest' and opened fire and killed the driver with a shot in the head and injured two other soldiers,'' the official said.

Uka meant to kill them all. He held his gun to the head of a fifth man and pressed the trigger twice, but it jammed. Our media showed more concern about cartoons mocking Mohammed than they did for this crime.

The Times did put another Islamist-violence story on the March 3 front page: Shahbaz Bhatti, the lone Christian cabinet member in Pakistan, was shot dead by the local Taliban for opposing an Islamic anti-blasphemy law. ABC, CBS, and NBC all skipped that story on the evening news, and offered tiny scraps of it on their morning shows.

Their "public service" function was served by displaying Charlie Sheen and "Candid Camera in the Wilderness."

These journalists have lost a connection to the war on Islamic extremism and the troops fighting in Afghanistan. The Washington Post recently published a touching story of how Gen. John Kelly went to St. Louis and delivered a "passionate and at times angry speech about the military's sacrifices and its troops' growing sense of isolation from society."

He told the crowd "Their struggle is your struggle...If anyone thinks you can somehow thank them for their service, and not support the cause for which they fight - our country - these people are lying to themselves....More important, they are slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to this nation."

Gen. Kelly did not tell the crowd he'd lost his 29-year-old son Robert in Afghanistan four days earlier. He became the most senior U.S. military officer to lose a son or daughter in Iraq or Afghanistan. Like many in the military, he fears the American public is unaware of the price that military families pay in one of the longest periods of sustained combat in U.S. history.

This passage underlined the problem: "President Obama devoted only six sentences to the war in Afghanistan in his State of the Union address in January. The 25-second standing ovation that lawmakers lavished on the troops lasted almost as long as the president's war remarks."