"Nightline" co-host Terry Moran on Wednesday committed an act of snide and unnecessary moral equivalence, connecting video of torture occurring in the Middle East and the political debate over how to handle enemy combatants captured by the U.S. ABC correspondent Brian Ross filed a report on video of a member of the United Arab Emirates' royal family filming himself as he brutalized a man, accused of stealing grain, with a cattle prod, hit him with a nail and then proceeded to drive over the victim with his Mercedes.[audio available here]
As the segment ended, Moran drew a comparison, "Brian, that is a shocking investigation on so many levels, especially as our own country is engaged in a wrenching debate on torture." Now, whatever one thinks of waterboarding, sleep depravation and putting an insect in with someone afraid of bugs, such tactics certainly don't equal this barbaric act, described by Ross: "The tape ends with what appears to be attempted murder. The victim is left semi-conscious as Sheik Issa drives over him back and forth with his Mercedes SUV."
Hat tip: Steve Allen of the conservative Lickskillet comic strip.
A partial April 23 transcript follows:
TERRY MORAN: If a picture speaks a thousand words then the video you're about to see, uncovered in an exclusive "Nightline" investigation, tells a long and dark story. A member of a royal family abusing his power in a violent and despicable way. And for now, this real-life tale ends without a resolution. Our Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross has the report. Brian?
BRIAN ROSS: Terry, allegations of torture are difficult to prove but in this case, there's a video. A gruesomely detailed video made on the orders of the torturer himself, a member of the royal family of one of America's closest allies, the United Arab Emirates, the UAE. A reminder, what you are about to see is extremely violent and disturbing. The video's produced by the UAE's Tourism Authority tell of a simple desert people who have turned their oil-rich country into a bustling center of commerce. All ruled by a benevolent royal family. But this video smuggled out of the UAE tells a much different story about the royal family. And its failure to take action against one of its own, caught on tape in what can only be described as sadistic torture. Just the first few seconds of the 45-minute tape are damning enough and it gets worse. With the help of a man in a police uniform, the victim has his legs tied and then is forced to the ground, held down by the officer as sand is shoved into the victim's mouth by what the UAE government now acknowledges to ABC News is one of the country's 22 royal sheiks. Sheik Issa, the brother of the crown prince, punishing a grain dealer he thought had cheated him. You donkey, you dog, the sheik screams.
ROSS: After using a cattle prod on his victim, there's this gruesome scene. The sheik points to a board with the nail protruding and then begins to beat him again and again. Where's the salt asked the sheik? Salt poured into the wounds in the middle of the desert at night, tortured by a member of the royal family, held down by men in uniform over a missing load of grain worth about $5,000. There are worse scenes so horrific we can't show them on television.
ROSS: The tape ends with what appears to be attempted murder. The victim is left semi-conscious as Sheik Issa drives over him back and forth with his Mercedes SUV. Incredibly, Nabulsi says the grain dealer survived but spent months in the hospital recovering from internal injuries. To date, there has been no police action taken against Sheik Issa whose brother, the chief of police, opened and then closed an official investigation.
ROSS: In a statement today, the State Department said only that it urges all governments to fully investigate allegations of criminal acts. Nabulsi says he showed the tape to an official at the US embassy in Abu Dhabi the day before he was arrested. He says the only advice he got from the American official was to get his family and leave the country as soon as possible. Terry?
MORAN: Brian, that is a shocking investigation on so many levels, especially as our own country is engaged in a wrenching debate on torture.