THURSDAY’S LETTERS: Olbermann, Civilian Death Payouts, 9/11 Newspaper

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By: E&P Staff

In today’s letters, praise for Keith Olbermann, and comments on Greg Mitchell’s recent columns about the newspaper on the morning of 9/11/2001 and payments given to the families of dead civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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What Price a Life?

I agree with your statement “The solution, of course, is to make such payments unnecessary.” But what would be a reasonable payment for the accidental or non-accidental death of an Iraqi due to US operations in Iraq or Afghanistan? I mean, while a U.S. serviceperson can have a $400K life insurance policy, the costs for a widow or widower in the U.S would be greater than in Iraq. The mental anguish is the same, of course. However I’d favor a much higher “condolence” payment than $2,000. $50,000 maybe. I also think that a portion of the payment should come out of the salary of the commander of the troops who did the killing — not from the junior officers — the Generals and Secretaries of Defense, as a means of giving them a more personal stake in the deaths of civilians.

I’m a Vietnam combat vet, and I’m opposed to war in general. It should be an absolute last resort for a nation. If it was “good” for Saddam to attack Iran, why was it “bad” for him to invade Kuwait? Both were bad, and we should have opposed both, but not gone to war in either case.

If the Global War on Terror is such a good deal, why aren’t President Bush’s daughters serving in the military?

Wade Kane


Right On! Write On!

The press needs to be part of the solution, notpart of the problem.

Richard Pietrasz


My wife is nurse practitioner who worked, until recently, at local hospital emergency room in Western Washington. About two months ago she was treating the son of an Army captain recently returned from Iraq. In her conversation with him, he revealed that the only fatalities recorded in Iraq are the ones that occur on the ground. If a wounded soldier is six inches off the ground in a medi-vac chopper, he/she is not counted as a fatality if death occurs. If they die in treatment in Germany they are not counted. He speculated that this is the real reason why the coffins are off-loaded in secret in Maryland. No one can count them and work up an audit. He thinks the actual casualty count is closer to 5,000, although he speculated that it could be as high 7,000.

I might add that my wife said his resentment was a hot smolder. Later, my wife was talking to a therapist from Tacoma who specializes in counseling returning vets and asked if had heard this story. The therapist said, “Yes, all the time.”

We don’t know if the stories are true, but if they are its a scandal of the first order.

I believe there is a major story here for a reporter with guts. Unfortunately, we can’t help much. My wife cannot give the name of the captain because of confidentiality. When I asked the therapist if she would talk to a reporter, her face blanched and she hastily rejected the idea as too dangerous for herself and her family.

Still, I suspect you might have the resources to check out his story or know someone who does. I also suspect there might be a Pulitzer in this if the facts check out.

Salvatore Zambito

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Olbermann’s Award

Thank you for your article on Molly Olbermann winning the first Ketih Ivins award — or something like that.

I don’t have TV so I rely on Crooks & Liars to have snippets of Olbermann’s show — which I always check out. He’s hard-hitting — but then other times, very funny. And when he’s funny, it’s a hard-edged funny and he looks and sounds like he’s having fun (unlike most “anchors” and talking bobbleheads, Keith expresses a range of emotions, instead of a one-note blather or hatred-spew).

Thanks again for bringing this to our attention.

T. Quigly

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The News on 9/11/2001

Just read your article about the news the day before 9/11. Back when I read your preview of the Moyers special, I sent myself an email to remind me to watch it. I did, and saw crystalized what I already knew about the quality of the reporting we’ve seen since the attacks.

It also made me more acutely aware of how pointless it is to pour so much filler into the 24/7 news cycle on cable TV news shows — with the talking heads blabbering at each other, spewing prepackaged talking points but not providing much in the way of information.

Right around that time there was the Imus coverage and the Virginia Tech shooting. Those stories drove me away from the cable news channels because the coverage was so relentless and, past a certain point, empty.

I took stock of how much time I’ve spent in front of a TV watching this junk. Some days I might have it on 12 hours or more. But I didn’t feel any better informed because of it, and I realized I also wasn’t getting much pleasure from it. I even had three TVs going in the house so I wouldn’t “miss” any news as I went room to room. If those aren’t signs of an addiction, I dunno what is.

I also realized that as my viewing increased, my writing and reading decreased — but those were my two favorite activites prior to getting hooked.

Soooo, I removed from the house all but one TV and I went down to the most basic package my cable system offers — just the local channels. No 24 hour news. The one thing I knew I’d miss was Home and Garden TV (decorating shows contain great “stories” — a beginning, middle, and end, and they always have a happy ending) so I am recording some of that programming at my mom’s house and watching it here.

I’m hauling out my music CDs, getting movies at the library, and revamping my house so I’ll have four writing areas throughout the place. This is all fairly new, but already I’ve noticed one improvement: I sleep better.

Thanks to you and Moyers.

Patricia Randolph
Toledo, Ohio

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