The American Civil War was not about conditions in Andersonville prison and the war in Iraq is not about conditions in 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.
But a court martial is a trial, and that places severe restrictions on what military authorities can say because they have to be responsible adults, even if journalists are not. If a colonel is conducting a court martial and the generals over him are publicly denouncing those on trial, will that be considered a fair trial whose verdicts will stand up on appeal?
Could the photos not wait until the whole story was in, so that they could be seen as what they are -- pictures of things that were not tolerated by America, even though worse things are tolerated and even celebrated in some Middle East countries that are having a field day condemning the United States and whipping up calls for revenge?
It is bad enough that we have to hear about the civilian trials of Scott Peterson, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson all around the clock, before all the evidence is in and verdicts reached. But at least this cheap sensationalism does not jeopardize our troops or our country.
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