A media lap dog no longer
The New York Times recently revealed in a front page article ("Partisan divide on Iraq exceeds split on Vietnam," July 30) the results of a study that showed more polarization exists today with regard to opinions on the war in Iraq than existed at the time of the Vietnam War:
"No military conflict in modern times has divided Americans on partisan lines more than the war in Iraq, scholars and pollsters say -- not even Vietnam. And those divisions are likely to intensify in what is expected to be a contentious fall election campaign."
The reason for this is simple. Unlike the turbulent days of Vietnam, in which the opinions expressed on network news shows held sway over the populace, much of America today relies on an array of alternative sources for news. And we are the better for it.
When Walter Cronkite declared in 1968 that the Vietnam War was "mired in stalemate" and couldn't be won, people's resolve was profoundly shaken. The former CBS News anchorman is now credited with having nearly single-handedly turned America against the war and to have brought it to an end. He deserves that credit.
Many of us on the right learned a valuable lesson from Vietnam, the offshoot of which is that it is because of Cronkite and others like him that those alternative news sources exist today. In the '60s, we were witness to nightly bouts of anguish and remorse displayed on the evening news over the pain and suffering inflicted by American military personnel upon innocent women and children in villages and hamlets seemingly throughout Vietnam -- North and South. And we subsequently learned that all the anguish was completely phony.
As soon as we retreated, Cronkite and his ilk on the left turned their backs on our allies there and the real slaughter began -- in South Vietnam in 1975 when wholesale executions of North Vietnam's former foes began, and, at the same time, in Pol Pot's Cambodia, where the killing fields were sown with the corpses of up to 3 million innocent people. Little was said about it on the evening news. Cronkite, et al, had moved on to Watergate and more enticing matters. Many of us learned not to trust these people ever again. We came to know them for what they are -- pretenders.
So, when President Bush appeared before a joint session of Congress 10 days after 9/11 and said, "Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes visible on TV and covert operations secret even in success," we took these words to heart, steeled our resolve, prepared for that long, protracted conflagration that was forced upon us by a fanatical foe, cheered our loved ones who volunteered by the thousands to enter into harm's way in order to make us safe here at home, and vowed to stay the course.
And we expected no help from the left.
What we expected we have gotten. More stories of pain and suffering. More complaints of brutality. At the same time that accounts of buses carrying school children in Jerusalem being blown up gain only passing comment, a report of prisoners in Baghdad being forced to wear panties on their heads is condemned ad nauseam. A Koran supposedly being flushed down a toilet in an American prison gets far more air time than does the cold-blooded execution of four Americans in the streets of Fallujah.
They expect us to take them seriously. We did indeed learn from Vietnam -- and its aftermath. We learned the slogan taken up by Jews after the Holocaust: Never again! And we took to heart and live by the powerful words of Abraham Lincoln spoken at a time when another great struggle was under way, one that was taking a far more grievous toll: "We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of Earth."
We resolve to maintain the world's last best hope in part because these pretenders won't. So we find ourselves with this great divide between the attitudes of Americans on the left and those of us on the right. We expected it. We accept it. We celebrate it.
As for Vietnam -- Never again.