August 24th, 2014
12:55 PM ET

Dan Rather: I'd pay a ransom

In the above video, Dan Rather, the former anchor of the "CBS Evening News," discusses the dangers that reporters face while working in war zones.

In a conversation with Brian Stelter, Rather also voiced concern about the American media's coverage of conflicts overseas:

RATHER: Look, the war drums have been beating along the Potomac for some little while, accentuated in recent weeks and now in recent days. As a citizen - let me take my journalist hat off for a moment. But, as a citizen, this worries me a great deal...

All of these people on television - some of whom I have enormous respect for - it unsettles me to hear them say, listen, we, the United States, we have to - quote - "do something" in Ukraine, we have to do something in Syria, we have to do something in the waters around China, we have to do something about what is happening in Yemen, we have to do something in Iraq, we have to do something about ISIS, what they are talking about are combat operations.

My first question to anyone who is on television saying, "We have to get tough, we need to put boots on the ground and we need to go to war in one of these places" is, I will hear you out if you tell me you are prepared to send your son, your daughter, your grandson, your granddaughter to that war of which you are beating the drums. If you aren't, I have no patience with you, and don't even talk to me.

STELTER: It worries me, too, Dan, to be completely honest.

It worries me that I hear so many more voices on television that are advocating for action - than I do hear voices of people who are trying to push on the brakes, push on the brakes. And it is somewhat reminiscent of 2002 and 2003 in the run-up to what was a, of course, much, much bigger U.S. military action in Iraq than anything that is being contemplated now.

RATHER: Well, there are echoes of what we went through. And those of us in journalism - and I can include myself in this - we have a lot to answer for about what we didn't do and what we did do in the run-up to the war in Iraq, which I think history will judge to be a strategic disaster of historic proportions.

We journalists, including this one, we didn't ask the right questions. We didn't ask enough questions. We didn't ask the follow-up questions. We did not challenge power. And I am concerned that, once again, as the war drums begin to beat and get louder and louder, that there will be a herd mentality of saying, well, we have to go to war in Syria, we have to go to war in Ukraine.

I don't think it is an overstatement to say that we need to be thinking very, very carefully and seriously about this and journalists have the special responsibility to at least ask the right questions.

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Filed under: Reliable Sources
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    September 23, 2014 at 4:36 am | Reply
  34. Will Carr

    Dear Dan,

    Huffington Post carried an article claiming that the Benghazi Consulate evacuated seven diplomats and 23 CIA operatives so that diplomacy was underrepresented and the CIA held the bag on security. James Foley's company GlobalPost appears to have significant US Information Agency connections. Doesn't that fact jeopardize a journalist? Your coverage of Bush I and II was relentlessly poignant. After the Bush II memos and CBS's failure to support you in your truth telling you went to work for HDTV which is now part of Blackstone Group and CBS. Mark Cuban has said that he is ideologically agnostic and wants hard hitting and stirring stories, but is it difficult to still be in bed with CBS?

    September 8, 2014 at 12:48 am | Reply
  35. robecology

    Dan; three questions;
    1. Do you think journalists today are taking too many risks – including the risk of inciting a nation to war?
    2. Do you think ISIS is represented by this one blatant act – or are there members of the group that don't have a "back-against-the-wall attitude and think what was done was too extreme; but they're afraid to speak up?
    3. Do you think the mentality of the middle-eastern extremest is so gone – so off the edge, so primitive that he – they as a group – can't be reasoned with?

    August 26, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Reply
  36. Lynn

    As a Military Mom, I for one would rather fight ISIS over in Iraq than on our own soil. You ask who would be willing to send their son, daughter, Grandson etc to fight a another war well why didn't you ask the Men and Women in uniform if they would go ? After 911 when they came on our soil and killed nearly 3000 of our citizens a lot of retired and non retired was ready to go wipe them off the map. We are America, We are One! Sometimes we have to make choices to protect our own here in the USA. No I do NOT like war but you have people that would love to see us wiped off the face of this earth and ISIS is one of many. My soldier would want to go and he wouldn't ask me so with that being said you should ask our Military men and women if they would go fight in Iraq or Syria before they come here and kill thousands beyond thousands of Americans. It will happen one day soon and we need to wake up and take charge of this problem now.

    August 26, 2014 at 9:00 am | Reply
  37. Jeremy Keyser

    To Dan Rather,
    Sir I am a 34 year old father of a 9 year old son.I agree with action now so that I won't have to send my son to fight in 9 years an enemy that had time to grow unabated. Look how strong this group has become in only a few years as we've drawn down from the region.I would go in his place right now so he ,my family and neighbors would be safe from an attack like we had at 9/11. .War is bad. People are hurt and killed.We make the choice. It's up to us to make the choice to act or wait in fear.We have an all volunteer army not a conscript army. We are not just sending our service members to war without a choice. they choose their jobs. The situation has changed. the people with the most inside information are saying we are in more danger than we were before 9/11. This group has more resources and a clear intent to get us in the worst ways. maybe not today but eventualy? Beheadings, accusations of genecide. I would bet we would have stopped the nazis when they were much smaller and in germany not over 3 millions strong and covering multiple continents.

    August 25, 2014 at 11:46 pm | Reply
    • Tony Faulkner

      Jeremy, I am a father of a four children. My father won an MM (Military Medal) for pulling a courageous US pilot out of a burning RAF fighter in the Battle of Britain in World War 2. While I understand and share your concern for the world in which your nine year old will grow up, I do not understand how your concern would justify making the same mistake of military intervention in Iraq, not twice, but now three times. IS is not an enemy which has come out of nowhere, it has massive funding from within the region, and it has grown like a cancer out of our previous military actions, not despite them. They are even using our own weapons against us because at least some of them were given directly to them by us in Syria. When you have a fire which will not go out, you do not usually keep throwing more fire-lighters and wood on to it, you try to put it out. The Vietnam War went on too long because no-one would accept that the strategy the West deployed did not fit the circumstances and some of the actions which took place are nothing of which we should be proud. To repeat history for its own sake is a tragedy.

      Dan Rather's comments are that each of us should form our own judgments, not simply swallow one set of opinions presented to us by people with their own axes to grind in favour of military interventions here there and everywhere. DR is not telling you what to believe, but that you must be informed fully in order to make such judgments. The world has many fathers with children they want to see grow into longliving fulfilled adults, and every time we send our military into these countries we destroy these dreams for them whether in Iraq, Syria, E. Ukraine or anywhere.

      The West has a bad record of military interventions in the Middle East being misjudged and going wrong, and this record goes back way before the US got involved in Iraq. War certainly is very bad, except of course for those who make loads of money out of it sitting comfortably at home thousands of miles away. People are hurt and killed. We make the choice, but based on what information can we make a reasonable choice when our media are instructed what to print so that we only ever hear what the warmongers want us to believe? I believe that is Dan Rather's point. That our politicians are ready to send our service members to war without giving us all a choice based on informed understanding of more than one view of the issues is undemocratic and unacceptable.

      August 26, 2014 at 3:29 am | Reply
  38. JournoPissed

    Not sure why anyone cares what a disgraced ex reporter thinks. Remember CNN; the people you put on TV reflect on you.
    You're no longer the most trusted name in news. That would be your arch rival Fox.
    Perhaps you're out of step with America.

    August 24, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Reply
    • Tony Faulkner

      I care what Dan Rather thinks, because it makes sense.
      Finding relatively minor conflagrations and turning them into forest fires defines Western foreign policy since the Korean conflict. Questioning the wisdom of returning to military action in Iraq is a good call. Questioning the wisdom of interfering in Ukraine's politics is a good call. Questioning the wisdom of goading the Chinese is also a good call. These are all good calls whether you are a journalist of simply a thinking breathing human being.

      The mainstream media have allowed themselves to become a tool of government, which is leaving a vacuum of wholly honest reporting. Nature abhors a vacuum and the longer our media serve government rather than holding it to task, those who care will find their news elsewhere. It is shocking we have to turn to Twitter, Ron Paul and RussiaToday to try to make sense of what is going on in the world.

      August 25, 2014 at 9:48 am | Reply
  39. Jim Speiser

    IDEA: The large news organizations should start a ransom pool, and each contribute according to their ability and level of exposure. And then they should keep it a tightly-held secret. Matter of fact this might already be in the works, and we don't know it. Good – KEEP it that way.

    August 24, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Reply

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