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Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006 | Last week a couple of San Diego area congressmen sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense recommending that all CNN reporters be removed from the embedded list. Playing free and loose with the First Amendment like that worries hell out of me. I don’t want my news approved by a government that’s supposed to be answerable to me. There’s just something about the First Amendment I like.
The way it’s going, we will all wake up some morning and realize the last of our freedoms has disappeared. But, like a lobster lulled to sleep in tepid water, we tend to luxuriate in our torpor as the water is gradually turned up to boiling.
After all, what is one freedom more or less? We have so many. Or should we make that past tense, as in had so many freedoms?
I say it does matter. When the water starts bubbling and we can’t get out of the pot, we will have nobody to blame but ourselves. We were attacked on 9/11, 2001. Almost immediately our Congress, the outfit that’s supposed to be one-third of our government, ceded many of our rights to the branch of government that historically has needed more restraints than the other two branches combined.
In 2003, I was EMCEE for two organized protests. Both were sponsored by the ACLU and The San Diego Bill of Rights Defense Committee. The idea was to persuade our city to join with many other cities and adopt a resolution criticizing the loss of rights destroyed by the so-called Patriot Act. That wasn’t really much to ask. We only asked our city to say “Hey we know what you’re doing and we care.”
Nothing came of it. Perhaps our city fathers were relaxing in their own sauna, unaware even that a billion and half dollars were missing from their coffers.
Just about a week ago, the president signed The Military Commissions Act of 2006. It was so outrageous and so dumb I figured the president himself wrote it. In signing the bill the president said he had just one test “Will it allow the CIA program to continue?”
And I was sort of hoping for a law that might restrain the outfit that shamed us before the world with Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. Some fussed about the loss of habeas corpus in the bill but the complainers simply weren’t sharing the languor of so many others sitting in the ever increasingly hot but still soothing water.
Just a couple days ago, the other San Diego daily told a story about the making of the movie, “Flags of Our Fathers.” The film was made with the help of the Navy and Marine Corps, but only after an advisor made sure it didn’t stray from the agreement made between the Pentagon and the Defense Department.
Now I recognize that generals and admirals need to keep control of their soldiers, sailors, and equipment. They have their own mission, but this agreement has more to do with censorship than military readiness. We are in danger of being fed a depiction of history properly gung ho at the expense of authenticity. I served for 22 years, 9 months, and 11 days, for a while as public relations (now public affairs) officer, and I know how the game is played.
Even then the writer of the piece acknowledged that the director, Clint Eastwood, got most of what he wanted, mostly because he was Clint Eastwood. Where would a firebrand like Thomas Paine have fit into this arrangement? This country got its start by refusing to suck up to those in power.
And the latest kicker is that letter from our local representatives to Rumsfeld requesting “all CNN reporters presently embedded with U.S. soldiers be removed from their embedded positions immediately.”
I agree with the representatives that such graphic shots of Americans are horrible. Perhaps these went beyond that line that limits good taste. But war is indeed horrible and we ought to recognize that. It’s bad enough our movies are molded to suit our feel-good tastes. Our press should be encouraged to remain free, not muzzled for exercising that right.
But doesn’t this nice hot water feel relaxing though? Let’s all close our eyes and relax a while. Tomorrow is another day – maybe.