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War coverage needs balance

Freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment, and as such, Americans have a constitutional right to protest the war in Iraq if they choose. Furthermore, no one who’s ever seen combat wants to send young soldiers into harm’s way. But the 21st century reality is that only time will tell if toppling Saddam was the right strategy in the War on Terror.But what I find disturbing about the continuing debate is that by and large, the mainstream press doesn’t report on the kind of dedication and support of the president and our mission in Iraq, as depicted by a recent Internet photo of a wheelchair-confined Marine in full dress uniform saluting the president at the inauguration. (Photo cannot be shown here for copyright reasons.)The New York Times devoted over 5,000 words and 15 photographs to the inauguration, but not one photo like the one described. A Denver Post headline read: “Amidst pomp and protests …,” leading one to believe that protesters were present in significant numbers. There were 100,000 in attendance at the inauguration, and perhaps 1,000 protesters. Yet the mainstream media felt compelled to give the protesters coverage, while a story of a young Marine’s honor and commitment fell by the wayside.It is tragic that protesters were deemed by the mainstream press as more newsworthy than a severely wounded and dedicated Marine. Why does the mainstream press give Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer, who tell us we’re in a Vietnam-like quagmire, inordinate amounts of press coverage? Iraq isn’t Vietnam, far from it. Yet to hear from the mainstream press one, would think it was. With the exception of the seizure of our embassy in Tehran (1979), no government attacked our interests 17 times over the last 30 years, including the Marine barracks in Beirut; our embassies in Lebanon, Kenya and Tanzania; the World Trade Center in 1993; the USS Cole in 2000; and the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept.11, 2001. Nevertheless, those attacks killed Americans!Just because most of us were unaware that war was declared by militant Shi’ites 30 years ago, by Sunni fascists 15 years ago, and by the ultra-radical al-Qaeda at least 10 years ago, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The American people were in all likelihood deceived about the reasons for escalating the Vietnam War, i.e. the alleged incident in the Gulf of Tonkin. But while President Bush was wrong about weapons of mass destruction, being wrong about something investigated and believed to be true is not dishonest. It’s a mistake. Saddam used chemical and biological weapons against the Iranians in the 1980s and the Kurds in the 1990s. U.N. inspectors testified after the Gulf War that he was a year away from a viable nuclear weapons program, while the British, Egyptian French, Jordanian and Russian intelligence services advised the CIA that Saddam had WMDs. Prominent political figures (Bill and Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman) are on record that they believed Saddam still had WMDs. But those who feel duty-bound to vilify the administration regardless of such testimony will continue to use unreasoned arguments in this debate.There were no front lines in Vietnam, no rear, no clear combat zones. Territory was taken, lost and retaken repeatedly. While this war is complicated, the strategies in Iraq are far clearer than in Vietnam. Less than 1 percent of the Iraqi population is actively hostile to our troops. In Vietnam, as much as 25 percent of the locals supported the communists.There was no exit strategy in Vietnam, whereas the president has been very clear that we will exit Iraq when a stable Iraqi government asks us to do so. The majority of Iraqis want us to leave – but not yet. Sen. Kennedy, a man with no military credentials, calls for a timetable to remove our troops (which in a war of insurgency is tantamount to handing the enemy our battle plan), yet the press reports his rants as if he were a military expert.To those who insist that oil is the reason we’re in Iraq, I can only suggest that they read a book or two about world economics and the responsibilities of the American presidency. Protection of the oil resources of the Middle East for use by Western economies has been a cornerstone of American strategic doctrine since 1945 – a fact never mentioned by the mainstream media. Take away Middle Eastern oil and the West would plunge into a devastating Depression. Of course oil concerns are a major component of the Middle East equation. Duh! We’re told, “They’ll hate us.” Well, here’s a news flash: Militant Islam reviles freedom and plurality, period. And thank God that al Qaeda didn’t have a nuclear device on 9/11 or there would have been 300,000 dead instead of 3,000. Nevertheless, if democratic reforms take root and provide jobs, education and an increased standard of living, the Muslim world will embrace them. Stories of international police efforts and successful paramilitary operations against terrorist operations were found on page 16 of The New York Times, while Abu Ghraib appeared on the front page 51 times! The administration has made mistakes, but what of its successes? Why doesn’t CBS remind us that tactical miscalculations, which occur in every war, do not obviate the strategic vision of a Middle East embracing democratic reforms? Ultimately the Iraqi people will determine their fate. If like the Vietnamese they choose not to fight for freedom, they will suffer the consequences. And if democracy fails in Iraq, the war against militant Islam will be made incalculably more horrific than if it succeeds. The mainstream media must remember its job is to be balanced in its reporting.Butch Mazzuca of Singletree, a Realtor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. If interested in seeing the photograph he talks about, send him an e-mail at bmazz68@earthlink.netVail, Colorado


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