Can We Afford a Free Press in Wartime?

I strongly disagree with the editorial ``War and Censorship,'' Jan. 15. I don't think the press is responsible nor wise enough to report only information that would not hurt the war effort. In an interview with CNN, a Saudi Arabian government official stated that much of the information provided by the press had been and will be used by Saddam in his strategy for the war. N. E. Moore, Orange, Calif.

I am very concerned at the degree to which the press is being censored in reporting the Gulf conflict. To operate a democracy, citizens need to be informed - and I don't mean the kind of information that compromises troop safety. We'll be a dangerous country indeed if we possess high-tech weapons and don't see the destruction they cause. We have no business sending men and women off to war without understanding that war kills and having to live with the sights and sounds of our decision. Karen Ande, San Francisco

The arrogance and egotism of the American press is infuriating and more than a little frustrating to those of us who would like to see our military succeed and come home alive. It is high time the press were given specific examples of why censorship is now necessary in this war. Press coverage in previous wars was not live, greatly decreasing security risks and dissemination of faulty information. In this conflict, there have been countless violations of security. After the press reported where bombs were landing in Israel, that government asked them to stop. The press should have taken the initiative to stop revealing all possible information on bomb landings and planes and air crews missing in action. Yet reporters tried to get around restrictions by saying that bombs had landed ``within two miles of the command and control headquarters.'' It doesn't take much military background to realize how these kinds of reports jeopardize the success of our mission and the safety of our troops.

I'm more interested in our troops' safety and chances for success than in knowing the kind of information the press so liberally reported.

Ann K. S. Salzberger, Oak Harbor, Wash.

In a democratic society, the role of the press is to report facts as truthfully and thoroughly as possible, so that the population will be free to make informed decisions. Yet as I watch and read US reports of the war, the obvious censorship and monothematic coverage remind me more of a totalitarian society. We should be welcoming a diversity of opinion in a crisis of this magnitude. Why is it, then, that the vast majority of air and print space is being given to white males who support George Bush's position? Why isn't more coverage being given to leaders of the black and Latino leaders who more truly represent the people on the front lines whose lives are at stake? Why aren't we hearing from women, who consistently support nonviolent solutions to conflict in far greater numbers than men?

One of the deadliest aspects of the current situation is how dehumanized and sanitized the fighting appears to be. War is being pitched as if it were a video game. Yet how many Iraqi and Kuwaiti civilians have been killed?

If we have really entered this war for a just cause, why are the Bush administration and the Pentagon afraid of a free press? Please tell us the truth.

Laurie Battle, Berkeley, Calif.

If the media are so upset about governmental censorship of Middle East news, why don't they take a stand on principle? If a news item has been censored by the authorities, the media could simply refuse to report it. Janet Winter, Oakland, Calif.

Must truth always be the first victim in time of war? The media should show us the real faces on the front line in the Gulf - the worn-out uniforms, the 24-hour suicide watches, the faces fearful of dying by weapons made by the US or its allies. June & Richard Zaner, Nashville

The irresponsibility of the news media in reporting the Gulf war more than justifies throwing reporters out of the theater of operations and denying them access to news. My curiosity is equal to any other, but much of the reporting endangers lives and provides potentially critical information to the enemy. Reports from the Gulf demonstrate that the news media are not concerned with the humans involved, but only with filling air time.

Richard T. Wojciechowski, Springfield, Va.

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