To the editors:
In the words of Ronald Reagan, “Saddam Hussein is a shit.” The sooner this murderous tyrant is swept from power, the better off the world will be.
The fact that good will come of the Persian Gulf war does not make the correspondent you mentioned in the February 22 edition of the Reader [Hot Type] wrong when he or she says that public debate “has been limited to the right wing and the extremely right wing.”
The reporting that you offer as proof of the media questioning and criticizing the U.S.’s Desert Storm policies is definitely out there, but in neither the depth nor the breadth that it should be, nor in the depth or breadth that Americans have had access to in previous wars.
For every media mention of Ambassador April Glaspie’s blunder in telling Hussein we wouldn’t get involved, there are five media stories about flag sales increasing. For every acknowledgment of U.S. assistance to Iraq in the 1980s, there are ten stories about yellow ribbons. Where is the depth?
And where is the breadth? Many relevant facts concerning Desert Storm are not being addressed in the media at all.
U.S. News & World Report once made passing mention of former oilman George Bush’s long-standing personal friendships with Kuwaiti leaders. Were Bush’s oil-industry friendships a factor in the president’s resolve to fight? Is that good or bad? Does it matter?
My problem is that no one in the media has even bothered to attempt to analyze this issue, nor are they likely to. I’d like to hear someone ask the president about the subject. He likely has a good answer. But with the media preferring to ask kids if they miss their dads who are stationed in the Persian Gulf to asking the president about his policy motivations, we’ll never find out.
This media bias, or self-censorship, or laziness (however you want to define it) is definitely something new.
In World War II, a war remembered as being universally popular among Americans, President Franklin Roosevelt, the federal government, and their policies were actually roundly criticized throughout.
Those who favored a “Pacific first” strategy criticized the government’s decision to focus on Europe, and alleged that the government was withholding vital materiel from its own forces in the Pacific theater of operations. Those anxious for Europe’s quick liberation criticized the long North African campaign that preceded it as a waste of time.
The media analyzed and publicized all of these views, yet despite dissent and analysis we managed to win that war anyway.
Unlike you, I am not of the opinion that any mistakes made concerning the Persian Gulf crisis “will come back to haunt” (your quote) President Bush in his reelection campaign. Was there much thoughtful analysis in the media in 1984 and 1988, or did we read about morning in America and Willie Horton? Is there any reason to expect better in 1992, and why should we have to wait until then for debate? The Constitution does not say we’ll have freedom of the press only in presidential election years. And the purpose of debate is not to slam the president; it is to educate and inform the public.
If you are not a member of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (F.A.I.R.), a media watchdog group, and you do not read their publication Extra, perhaps you should. While I certainly don’t buy everything I read there, often F.A.I.R.’s analyses of rightist bias in the media are too accurate to be dismissed.
As you are perhaps the only media critic in this town, we readers rely on you to point out the very real bias and lack of analysis that exists, even if the war has a noble aim. We don’t expect you to tell us to wait until the next election.
I, just like the media, want to see Saddam Hussein defeated as quickly as possible, and every American soldier come back alive and unharmed. But that doesn’t mean I want the press to forgo its duty to provide broad and deep coverage of all viewpoints. Dissent, analysis, and military victory are not incompatible.
William S. Bike