This is no way to run a war
Many believe that the president is rushing into war. But, backed by a questionable coalition of concerned nations, he is sure he can score a political victory and remove the dangerous dictator.
At dawn, in accordance with a presidential order, assaults by high-tech fighter-bombers and anti-tank helicopters begin, and continue around the clock. Believing ground defenses suppressed, US forces begin the ground assault.
Elements of the 82nd Airborne parachute onto enemy airstrips. Ground defenders slaughter them on the way down, and those who survive eventually get lost on their way to their objectives.
Marines stage an amphibious landing, only to find that they have hit the wrong beach.
US Army Special Forces Units streak through the pre-dawn skies in helicopter gunships, and land in clearings around the presidential palace and parliament. Shooting everything in sight, they realize that they are surrounded and are about to be overrun.
The president is undaunted, even though the operation takes three times as long and 10 times as many troops as was planned. He has barred reporters from joining the troops in battle, and the public will only be seeing the pictures he lets them see.
If this little tale were a worst case scenario for Desert Storm, I would have reason enough to worry. But it isn't. The war was Operation Urgent Fury. The year was 1983, and the battlefield was Grenada.
In October 1983, then President Ronald Reagan ordered US forces to invade the Caribbean island of Grenada, claiming to prevent the Cuban-backed government from harming American medical students on the island. Half the US forces killed died as a result of "friendly fire," but accurate information about the operation only emerged a year after the assault, and most information on battle deaths is still classified.
Sensing that the press would be skeptical of this dubious political undertaking, the president refused to let reporters in on the invasion, even though they had landed with the troops during every battle since 1775. Many in Reagan's administration blamed the media's critical bias for the failure of US efforts in Vietnam, and wanted to be sure that those reporters who, as then Secretary of State George Schultz declared, are "always against us" wouldn't muck up this political bonanza.
When US forces invaded Panama to capture dictator Manuel Noriega last year, President Bush refined the old master's ideas. Reporters would now be organized in pools, escorted by military men to areas where good news could be found. The public would get more juicy pictures, the government could keep embarrassing screw-ups quiet, and everyone would be happy.
When US forces again mobilized under Desert Shield, 1980s-style press restrictions followed. American and foreign journalists, herded in designated areas in Saudi Arabia, are spoon-fed information by military spokesmen, and lack the freedom to travel freely in Saudi Arabia or send reports home without clearing them through Army censors. The public knows what the military wants it to know. While the military may like that power, it's not the way we do business in this country.
Military men control the battlefields; civilians run the wars. The public, through its designated representatives, is responsible for the maintenance of the armed forces and procuring bases and weapon systems. If the public is robbed of information on the effectiveness of its forces in battle, it is unable to defend the nation properly. All but a handful of gun camera shots of bombing runs on Iraq are classified. Why? I am fairly certain that Iraqis are aware that they have been bombed.
No one believes that the press should indiscriminately print national secrets, and given the opportunity, newspapers won't. The New York Times,
having known about many of the nation's past military operations, has sat on the stories until the time was right.
This nation is formed on the principle that no branch of the government, especially the executive branch, can wield total power. How can Bush expect our support if he assumes we are too stupid to be given real information? How can Bush expect our support if he hasn't won our trust? I support Desert Storm because I believe in the cause, not the empty rhetoric and promises of the president. But regardless of the morality of our actions in the gulf, keeping news from the public just to boost morale and prestige is against every principle this nation was founded on. If Bush has reason to believe that the public will oppose this war if they learn the truth, then that should be a good sign to Bush that he is taking the wrong course of action.
The past and present administrations' major argument with the press, that it is always antagonistic to the US government, is unfounded. During World War II, the media was almost completely uncensored. It did not need to be, even to the most dictatorial in the government -- the public and the press were overwhelmingly in favor of the war. Reporters covering the crusade for the survival of the free world were under fewer restrictions than those who tried to cover America's rescue of medical students from two guys with slingshots.
When President Kennedy ordered a blockade of Cuba in 1962 to prevent the construction of Soviet missile installations on the island, he banned the press from escorting US warships. Kennedy later regretted that decision, as the public exposure of news footage of Soviet ships steaming off the Florida coast, laden with nuclear weapons, would have justified his response immensely.
Vietnam-era reporters, to gain permission to travel unescorted with troops, needed only to sign a liability waiver. The Bush administration's claim that combat is too dangerous for reporters is a new policy, completely without precedent.
According to the latest US Army studies, media-led public dissatisfaction with the war did not undermine our efforts in Vietnam -- politicians and strategists, unwilling to use politically risky tactics, did. The press, in noticing the hopelessness of our strategy, saved this nation thousands of lives that would have been ground up in a few more years of pointless fighting. The men who lost Vietnam and now run the country still blame the press for their failures.
Americans will support their nation, in general, if they see it winning. The media, bound to the public for monetary support, will usually try to give the people what they want. If we are winning the gulf war, what does Bush have to gain by keeping the information from us? If we are not, how can he value his popularity over the lives of thousands of Americans and allies?
Civil liberties are not always convenient, but they are at the core of our political culture, and are what we are fighting for in Kuwait. We do not need to sacrifice them at home to give them to others.
Matthew H. Hersch, a freshman, is associate opinion editor of The Tech.
REMEMBER, DO NOT RUN ALL OF THESE. JUST PICK A COUPLE -- pm
The men who lost Vietnam and now run the country still blame the press for their failures.
Regardless of the morality of our actions in the gulf, keeping news from the public just to boost morale and prestige is against every principle this nation was founded on.
Reporters covering the crusade for the survival of the free world were under fewer restrictions than those who tried to cover America's rescue of medical students from two guys with slingshots.
If we are winning the gulf war, what does Bush have to gain by keeping the information from us?