The host of HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher covered a wide range of topics on his Friday night program, ranging from declaring that the U.S. is not morally equivalent to the Islamic State of Iran and Syria to joking about NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams “not having a good week.”
Most of the discussion about war and its consequences took place during the “Overtime” segment of the show, which airs online after the regular hour-long program has gone off the air.
While he and his guests talked about the Fox News website's controversial decision to post all of the ISIS video showing a Jordanian pilot being burned to death, Maher stated he didn't think that was necessary even though “America has also burned people from the air” during World War II.
“America is not guilt-free,” he added, but “I don't think we're the moral equivalent of ISIS.”
The debate began when Amy Holmes said she's “very conflicted” about showing the entire video.
The host on TheBlaze TV website then noted:
I think it's disrespectful to the pilot and his family, yet on the other hand, you see the reality of what ISIS is capable of. Personally, I would not be able to watch the video.
I've seen the links to beheading videos. When I clicked, and I started to hear the gurgling. I had to shut it off. I just cannot have those images in my mind.
At that point, Johann Hari -- author of the book Chasing the Scream -- declared: “We should also be showing the atrocities committed by my government and your government and by the Saudi regime which we support,” a remark that drew applause from the studio audience.
Maher responded: “I don't think we need” to see the entire video. “I think we get it about ISIS.” However, “it's obvious that America has also burned people alive from the air. I mean in World War II.”
Hari charged that it wasn't necessary to go back 60 years to find examples of Americans killing other people. “The drone attacks on Pakistan are incinerating children all the time.”
“They're not the target,” the host noted before stating that collateral damage “is a little different.”
However, Maher added: “At the end of World War II, before we dropped the atom bomb, we wiped out from 50 to 90 percent of the population of Japan's biggest 60 cities. That's some serious s**t.”
“You don't have to go so far back,” Hari asserted before claiming that the sanctions against Iraq during “Bush's war” killed half a million children.
“We blockaded medicines from getting into that country, so huge numbers of people died. That's very recent,” the author continued. “These people we're talking about -- ISIS -- who are disgusting and barbaric, they remember that.”
He also remarked:
I interviewed a lot of former jihadis in Britain who'd become jihadis and then stopped, and it's very interesting.
Overwhelmingly, they became jihadis when our governments were committing atrocities against their people, and they stopped because ordinary Western people were decent and kind to them, and they thought “I can't support attacking these people.”
Other topics Maher covered that evening included claiming that the Cable News Network's documentary on Auschwitz shouldn't have been hosted by CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer since he has “a name that's Nazi sounding.”
Apparently, the HBO host was unaware that Blitzer is Jewish, and his grandparents were murdered at Auschwitz by Nazis.
But Maher saved some special venom for Brian Williams, the anchor of NBC Nightly News who “is not having a good week.”
The comedian stated that ISIS claimed to have “killed an American woman” who was their captive, “and Jordan said: 'Nope. This is false.' And Brian Williams said it can't be true because he carried that woman from a burning building.”
I don't know if you heard what happened, but it seems for the last 12 years, Brian Williams has been telling this war story where he is in a helicopter during the Iraq War, and it gets hit by RPG (Rocket-Propelled Grenade) fire and goes down in a crash, which is all true except for the part about it happening to Brian Williams.
He was in another helicopter that was behind that helicopter that got hit, but come on. That happens to all of us. When we get older, come on, we misplace our keys, we have trouble with people's names, we can't remember if the helicopter we were in crashed.
“And now, people want Brian Williams to resign, but it could have a happy ending because apparently, what he said was such a blatant departure from the truth” that “today he got an offer from Fox News.”
Sometimes it's hard to believe Maher used to be a funny guy.