The media response to such charges is that they were simply the messengers doing their duty in bringing the bad news to the people and the responsible authorities, so reforms could be made.
But if that were all the media were doing, their reputation would not be as low as the Marine Corps' is high. Why are the major media distrusted, even despised by so many Americans in whose name they profess to act?
The truth is the public does not believe the protestations of the press about the nobility of its motives. To many in Red-State America, the media do not just expose wrongdoing. They revel in it, rejoice in it, profit from it, as it enables them to preen as morally superior to those hapless souls whose sins or scandals they have uncovered. Invariably, the media seem not to seek to minimize, but to maximize the damage done to the institutions and the individuals whose failings or crimes they have revealed.
Listening to the breathless reports of Haditha, noting the glee and excitement in the voices of some correspondents, anchors and talking heads, one senses anticipation about what is to come.
But if the media are seen as exploiting Haditha -- again, assuming the allegations of a war crime prove true -- to undermine the war effort or the soldiers and Marines fighting, or damage President Bush or his secretary of defense, there will be a savage backlash. Any goodwill won by embedding reporters with troops on the drive to Baghdad will be wiped out, and the old Vietnam wounds, never healed, will reopen.
For any trial of Marines that could go on for months would not only damage the reputation of the Corps, but also serve as a propaganda bonanza for our enemies.
Given the proliferating allegations of war crimes committed by U.S. soldiers and Marines, the accusations by the elected leaders of Iraq and Afghanistan that our troops are callous in their treatment of civilians, the patience of the American people with these war commitments is certain to dissipate.
But if we walk away and the governments in either or both of these countries collapse, there will be a long, dark night of recriminations here unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes.
"Woe to the world because of scandals!" the Lord says in Matthew 18:7. "For it must needs be that scandals come, but woe to the man through whom scandal does come!"
Sound counsel to the media today.
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