Sunday, April 25, 2004

An increasing number of people are beginning to notice and more importantly talk about the amount and types of information we’re able to read, hear and see on TV concerning the conduct of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. In The Sunday Oregonian, Michael Arrieta-Walden, reminded readers that reporting was different during the Vietnam War.

“Reports on Iraqi civilians killed are even more difficult to obtain for readers. The U.S. government does not provide the numbers of Iraqi civilians killed.”

“That contrasts with how deaths were reported in the Vietnam War. Take this account from government officials, published in The Oregonian 35 years ago today: ‘The casualty totals last week were 216 Americans killed in action, 1,162 U.S. troops wounded, 329 government soldiers killed, 884 wounded, and 3,379 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese killed.’ ”

There are those who think that the U.S. failed to finish the war in Vietnam and that in large part the failure was caused by news reporting, especially TV. So the U.S. during the Persian Gulf War limited reporters to areas deemed safe. Then they were provided regular news briefings, which in turn were sent back to the United States. There was a lot of complaining about the Pentagon’s methods and restrictions and so during the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. government has embedded reporters with the troops and restricted where they could go and apparently what they could report on. For example, little or no information or summary statements have been reported on troops that are AWOL, injured, and killed as well as civilians in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Recently, a photograph was printed in The Seattle Times, showing flag-draped coffins on board an aircraft bound for the United States. The photographer lost her job. The American people apparently aren’t supposed to see the coffins en route or when they arrive in the United States. The impact of such photographs would clearly be great. When we can see the consequences of our actions so graphically portrayed we might very well alter how we feel about any war.

I agree with the headline on the Commentary section of The Sunday Oregonian which reminds us that, “Reporting Can’t become war casualty.”

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

There’s a nagging doubt in the back of our minds: how are we paying the bills for, 1) war in Iraq and Afghanistan, 2) troops abroad, 3) homeland defense, 4) increased benefits for Medicare, 5) increased support for education, and many more increases, while at the same time lowering taxes and asking that the tax reductions be made permanent. The debt is huge: The estimated population of the United States is 293,862,533 so each citizen's share of this debt is $24,384.75.

Who will eventually have to pay these bills? How long will it take? Didn’t mom and dad tell us that when you live off credit bad things could happen to you? Have we all lost our concern for this kind of behavior by ourselves or by our government? Why aren’t there lots of folk talking about the massive indebtedness and its cost? Why aren’t more folk talking about the value of the dollar and what is likely to happen to it as the national debt increases? Where’s the discussion? Where’s the pressure to do something, anything, about this massive national debt? What’s up?

Thursday, April 01, 2004

As I have said in the past, I prefer a government that will allow me to decide when and how to worship and a government that will take care of the roads, libraries, schools, police departments, water, etc. A thread in political discourse has been more and more noticeable: religion. In fact, it is assumed that one of the needs of both sides in this presidential election is the support of religious right.

In discussions, press conferences, speeches and interviews, thoughts such as Teddy Roosevelt’s words are beginning to tint the meanings of what is being said. For example, “If I must choose between righteousness and peace, I choose righteousness.” I think few of us would favor anything other than “righteousness.” The problem for the United States is severe. We have a very wide range of folk who live here and they don’t always believe the same things. What is righteous to one may not be to another. When one religion appears to be getting unfair support from government, we can expect trouble in the future. When one religion appears to be attacking another there will be problems.

We can see how that works by looking at Iraq in the news right now. The Sunni Triangle has become a deadly spot in these “after-war times.” Sunni Islam is different from Shiite Islam. Under Saddam Hussein's former government, the Sunni were favored, and since the war have lost position, power and money. They’re angry. The Shiites, on the other hand, are more accustomed to being oppressed and things appear to them to be more hopeful since the Hussein government has been overthrown. This is an example of what can happen when one group is favored over another, because of religion.

It seems that today we use the word “righteous” to mean correct, right and proper, as opposed to wrong-headed thinking. Further, if there is a disagreement and you suggest that we might approach our current problems from a broader base, it turns out you are “unrighteous.” I get the uncomfortable feeling that our right to freely disagree and freely discuss those things that are important to us is in danger. It almost seems there is a feeling when disagreement happens that those who disagree are thought to be “evil.” Allowing religion and religious nuances to enter the political discussion adds a force that can lead to your religion uniting with your government against you.