In today's letters, readers react to U.S. payments to compensate the families of killed Iraqi civilians, RIch Little's humor fails to impress at the White House Correspondents Association dinner, and some thoughts on Bill Moyers' critique of the press in the leadup to the Iraq war.
***Sorry We Shot Your Kid, But Here's $500This is almost surreal
. How can we expect people who in all probability don't speak our language, have little education, and are in the midst of grieving to come up with the "proper documentation" is beyond me. Shame on our media for failing to adequately cover the collateral side of this abominable war. Do they really think we are capable of digesting only the soundbites we are served up on the evening news?
I'm sure our cavalier attitude towards the suffering civilian population only ensures that more and more Iraqis are convinced we are the devil there to torment them. How was all this handled in Vietnam? I can't recall hearing anything at all about how we treated civilian casualties back then.Dean Chambers
Old Town, Fla.
Are the specific details of these payments ridiculous? Obviously. But, really, what is your suggested alternative? If an Iraqi man carrying a brown bag runs toward a checkpoint, are we to just let him run and see what happens? Maybe he won't have a bomb ... let's hope for the best. Or should our forces do what they think is necessary to protect themselves? How much do you think we should compensate the family if we screw up? Tens of thousands ... millions? Perhaps we could get them a surplus FEMA trailer.
It's quite easy to criticize programs such as this when you have no intention of putting forth an alternative. Yet, the reality is this: Ours is probably the only nation in the world that would pay them anything. Gregory Forsythe
Federal Way, Wash.
I read your April 14 article "Sorry We Shot Your Kid, But Here's $500" with interest. I wish you had bothered to learn "the other side of the story" before writing what you did.
I am fully aware that innocent civilians have been killed by U.S. forces in Iraq. I spent a year in and around Fallujah as a Navy Corpsman, providing medical support for a Marine PSD team (bodyguards, essentially). I spent nearly every day on patrol. I have treated numerous wounded Iraqi civilians, adults and children alike. I feel I have the requisite experience to respond to certain parts of your article. ... You skip over important facts when describing how ground forces react to potentially hostile situations, especially with the brush-off of "the driver didn't stop soon enough." We were briefed before we left for Iraq and nearly every day we were there that we were responsible for the final resting place of every round we fired. Before every single patrol, we read our rules of engagement, which were very detailed and quite restrictive. One of the greatest threats we faced was that of the SVBIED, suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive device. Since the beginning of the insurgency, SVBIEDs came in the form of decrepit little cars, with only a single person in them, which rode low due to their being packed with explosives. They would often be marked with a small "x" of electrical tape on their bumpers so that watchers could know when to remotely detonate the vehicle in case the driver had a change of heart.
Overnight -- literally -- this changed to brand new, expensive cars which the day before we would not have dreamed were SVBIEDs, sometimes with two or three people in them (or dummies). This forced a change in the way we looked at our environment. Even before this, however, we treated every approaching vehicle as a potential threat. The gunners in the turrets of the HMMWVs had specific guidelines to follow. Starting at about 200 meters or more, they would wave brightly colored flags, normally orange, to get the attention of approaching drivers. If the drivers did not respond, the gunner would then fire pyrotechnics of some kind or use a bright laser or flashlight (at night). We were restricted in the use of pyrotechnics because one went astray, through the windshield of a different car, and hit a pregnant woman, killing her and her baby. That incident will haunt the Marine who fired the pyro forever. If the pryo, lasers or lights did not work, the Marine would then aim his weapon at the vehicle. Most drivers would stop when they saw a rifle pointed at them. Within a certain distance which I will keep to myself, the Marine would then fire warning shots (tracers) at the ground in front of the vehicle, then the tires, then the grill of the vehicle. Finally, if the vehicle did not stop, the Marine would fire at the driver.
Considering a closure rate which sometimes exceeded 100 miles per hour, this was an extraordinary amount of action to be taken, especially under stress. The insurgents know this, and will sometimes dart out from side streets in an attempt to sneak up on us. Unfortunately, it would be impossible for a Marine or Sailor to determine if the vehicle was innocent or a threat in such a short time. Shootings are inevitable in those situations. It may sound callous, but the worst place in the world to be an inattentive driver is Iraq. ...
Please take the time to investigate your stories fully before publishing them.Andrew Tuohy
***Colbert, Stewart, and a Little Unsolicited Adulation
I just love that "The Colbert Report" and "The Daily Show" warrant coverage under your banner. As we all know, those two shows give more actual news along with context than the "traditional" news shows (and it's fun to watch, too!). Thank you for including them in your coverage.
I've known E&P my entire life. My father was a publisher when I was born and was still a publisher when he died (y'all gave him an obit, in fact -- Doug Pearson, in Alabama, he died in July 2004). I can't recall a time growing up when there wasn't an E&P in the magazine pile at home. Keep up the good work!Sheila Pearson
***Little Humor in WHCA Performance
Even my modest satire news/entertainment Web site
is funnier than Rich Little
Maybe next year they'll go all the way and book Shecky Greene or Jackie Mason.Bernie Silverman
***Moyers, the Press, and Iraq
Rehashing the topic in this "news"
should be embarrassing to an actual thinking journalist. Repackaging or colorizing old facts or opinions is done by those with no imagination or energy; hacks. How about a report on any semblance of objectivity of news organizations such as AP, NBC, PBS? How about a report on the evolution of "answer.org", to "moveon.org" to Bill Moyers.
While I wasn't an enthusiastic go-to-war guy, we're there because of mostly bad intelligence -- a lot of which came from an agency that has undermined the President with leaks and petty complaining. Why not a deep piece of investivegative reporting about the CIA? Surely the long-term repercussions of the intelligence bureaucracy's open hostility and resulting actions must concern those future occupants of government seats, whether in Congress or the White House.
As far as the war goes, let's do the best we can and be careful to stay alert to the scope of problems and alternatives. It would be a great help in the war and other aspects of America's problems if one entire organization and it's fellow travelers were not obsessed with tarnishing Bush. From the weather to disappointing objective market changes, they're all his fault. Ironically the Left has become the most subjective, and myopic group in the country, underutilizing its intelligence and ultimately, I fear, undermining our long-term freedoms.Bill Riehle
Bill [Moyers] is the quintessential Monday morning quarterback ... five years after the fact.
I am so tired of Lyndon's waterboy. No wonder smart guys like [Roger] Ailes pay no attention to him.O.Thomas Neal
Boulder City, Nev.
Thanks for publicizing Bill Moyer's probe of the press. Given the suspicious nature of journalists, it is very likely most of the major national media figures knew the administration's incessant use of the phrase "terrorists in Iraq" was a deliberate attempt to get Americans to think Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. It was obvious to me and just about everyone I knew anyway. The failure of the press to expose this at the time may be the most sickening thing I have every experienced.
In the run-up to the war, I can't say how many times I saw David Gregory pause on the Chris Matthews show trying to decide if he should expose the White House deceptions or go along with it. Every time he went with the party line. I can't help but think Gregory had subconscious fantasies about how his career would take off if there were war with Iraq -- especially a war based on falsehoods. Indeed his fantasies have come true. He has now reached a stature where he boogies on stage with Karl Rove at W.H. Correspondent Dinners. ...Raymond A. Orr