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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