Loss of perspective

Thomas Sowell:

THE AMERICAN Civil War was not about conditions at the notorious Andersonville prison in Georgia, and the war in Iraq is not about conditions at the Abu Ghraib prison. Terrible things happened in both military prisons, but that was a small part of both these wars.

When our troops are putting their lives on the line for this country, thousands of miles away, surely it is not too much to ask of the rest of us back home to act like adults and put things in perspective - even during an election year. That includes the media. Sometimes the Fourth Estate seems more like a fifth column.

The story of what happened at Abu Ghraib prison was told by the American military authorities months ago. This was not some cover-up that the media exposed. What the media did, irresponsibly, was send inflammatory photographs around the world.

In an age when some in the media are gross enough to release photographs of Princess Diana's dying moments, perhaps it is too much to expect forbearance about releasing photos that can only help our enemies around the world.

CNN had the forbearance to withhold information about far worse things that were done during the Saddam Hussein regime for fear of having their Baghdad office closed down. But apparently that was more important than the war in Iraq.

Some say the camera doesn't lie, but it can grossly mislead. If these same photos were released at some future time, after those responsible had been court-martialed and punished, that would present a very different picture and the military authorities would be freer to pinpoint blame.


The feeding frenzy over prison conditions in Iraq is just the latest in a long series of irresponsible media outbursts. The first sandstorm that forced allied troops to pause on the road to Baghdad brought out media cries of "quagmire." Missing items from an Iraqi museum while the war was raging provoked an international orgy of indignation against the United States - and nothing like an apology when the items were later found, in the hands of Iraqis.

The current urban warfare in Iraq, bad as it is, does not compare with the disaster created by the last big German counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Yet nobody called that a quagmire or a sign that we were losing the war - and, in fact, the Germans surrendered less than six months later.

They are doing it because they want to hurt the war effort and hurt President Bush. Everything else is just rationalization.


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