Editor, the Gauntlet,
Re: "You can't depend on the media," March 20, 2003.
Mary Chan's comments on the role of the media in modern war were horribly simplistic. In 1991, when the Gulf War was being fought, I engaged in a unique debate via letters to the editor of the Gauntlet that went on in print for three consecutive weeks, concerning this very issue. My comments then seem to be just as valid today, and I would like to reiterate them. For the record, in the interim I have graduated with a degree in history and served 15 years in the Canadian Armed Forces. I am also, on a personal level, against the use of military force without UN approval, though now that "it's on," I support fully what the militaries of our allies are trying to achieve.
Chan talks about "journalistic integrity" (meaning, I suppose, the public's "right to know") as if it should be untouchable. There are circumstances that we have decided, as a society, in which it should not. Rape victims aren't publicized, for example, nor the names of young offenders. Most importantly, as you will see in CNN's website disclaimer, operational security of military forces in the field is another area in which we as a society have decided that the importance of a free press shall come second. The reason? Soldiers' lives are at stake, and matters of national interest stand to be compromised.
Chan presents some reasoned arguments regarding other circumstances; Rachel Corey's death (one is tempted to say "tragic" yet somehow, there are some people who don't see it that way) for example. Yet Chan seems surprised that the U.S. military will only allow reporters to see what they are "allow(ed)" to see. This is as it should be. There will be time for public dissemination of information after the war. Now that the balloon has gone up, let's wish good luck to the servicemen of our closest friends--Britain and the United States (friends? Cousins, really)--and not insist that the public's right to know supercedes the safety of these men and women.
The question of whether the war should have been fought is now moot. It's on. The only important questions now are what will happen after the war; who will replace Saddam, who will guide the Iraqi people into a new age, and will the U.S. and UK be able to justify their use of force in the first place. All other questions are now, unfortunately, irrelevant.
Chan makes some good points about utilizing more than just the mainstream media. But if she thinks that a period of war is the time to be searching for the "truth," she is unfortunately mistaken.