- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 9, 2005

Sensationalism damages credibility

Regarding your editorial “Journalists and terrorism” (Friday) about a prizewinning photograph by an anonymous photographer: Although you delicately raise questions about all this, you fall short of calling an unethical practice what it is — a morally corrupt practice.

For some time, I have written to various editors about the harm done by fascination with “the story.” This is a prime example of how emphasis on the event of the moment, if it is sensational enough, gets front-page coverage — no matter the distortion. A “hot story” will always prevail.

In this case, the story (the photo) implied that there was to be a wave of terror in open daylight to prevent the elections. The story of the moment was misleading, and the day after, it was forgotten in the wake of the more powerful events of individual Iraqi heroism to vote.

When will the print media learn that such practices are harmful ? Are editors so out of touch that they really think such stories sell papers? If they do (and I wonder how many sales really accrue from stories such as this), are the sales increases permanent or just for that day? Do they contribute to increased circulation on a permanent basis? Somehow, I doubt it.

BILL VINING

Annapolis

Freedom, capitalism and cancer

Caring Americans were saddened to learn of the lung cancer diagnosis of longtime ABC news anchor Peter Jennings, and we wish him Godspeed as he undertakes the challenge of his life.

Mr. Jennings was a 20-year reformed smoker until, regrettably, he briefly resumed smoking following the attack on the United States of September 11, 2001.

Perhaps his misfortune can serve a beneficent end by illustrating to all Americans the life-threatening nature of smoking-related illnesses and the irreversible damage that can be done to one’s body, even when one stops smoking for many years.

In the name of freedom and capitalism, our society continues to allow tobacco companies to openly market their lethal product. They have found sophisticated means to insidiously promote cigarettes to children, knowing that they must addict adolescents in order to prosper because few smokers begin the addiction after reaching the age of majority.

By allowing the tobacco pushers to operate as they do, we consent to the passing of a lethal drug addiction from generation to generation, consigning millions upon millions of our children to an eventual untimely, agonizing death.

How can we consider ourselves a culture of life when we allow the marketing of a product that is known to cause addiction and death, one that targets children as its victims?

What would Peter Jennings say if he were asked today whether he is happy that he started to smoke?

OREN M. SPIEGLER

Upper Saint Clair, Pa.

Getting priorities wrong

Robert Housman, to a large extent, misses the point of the public concern regarding congressional involvement in the issue of steroids in sports (“Steroids and the feds,” Commentary, Wednesday).

First, where were the representatives from other sports such as football and the Olympics? Olympic athletes have the distinction of being the most disgraced in history because of use of performance-enhancing drugs, yet are not represented in the House Government Reform Committee hearings.

Second, just because the “federal government already has a role in this issue” doesn’t mean it should continue to have one. Mr. Housman states “… one reason baseball now faces a steroid crisis is that federal authorities have only recently begun seriously addressing their responsibility to crack down on illegal steroids.”

Hopefully the American people can expect better results from this government effort than we have seen over the past 36 years of abject failure in the war on drugs.

Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of this issue is how it suddenly became more pertinent than the war on terror, Social Security reform, Medicare reform, overhaul of the tax code, crime, deficit spending and illegal immigration — the real issues that impact all Americans.

BEN BERRY

Washington

Point of pride for Washington

John B. Dwyer’s column “The Battle of Charlie 6” (Op-Ed, Monday), was a nice piece of military history writing, but something of personal importance to me that also should be a point of pride for the Washington metropolitan area was left out of the details.

What was left out was the brave action of Fort Belvoir’s 299th Army Engineers, MRB (Multiple Role Bridge) Reserve Company during Operation Iraqi Freedom, especially at Objective Peach (the Al Kaed Bridge near Hindiya spanning the Euphrates River).

My personal interest involves my son, Spc. Joshua Friedman, and the actions of the other men and women of the 299th on April 3 and 4, 2003, at the Euphrates as attached elements to the 3rd Infantry Division. The article referred to the 11th Engineer Battalion, under the command of Capt. Dan Hibner. His engineers “had the dangerous daylight job of motoring out beneath the bridge in 15-foot boats to locate and cut the demolition wires,” which they did, though the enemy did blow up part of the bridge, damaging it enough to reduce it to one safe lane that could support the Abrams heavy tank.

What was not mentioned was the important role that a combined amphibious assault played in the action. It was made in motorized rubber boats by elements of the 299th under the command of Capt. Steven Thompson, along with members of the 54th Engineer Company.

They crossed the Euphrates under enemy fire and seized the east bank, and then the ordnance engineers disabled Iraqi demolitions that remained on the top of the bridge. The 299th received a presidential unit citation for its part in the assault, as well as several Bronze Stars (with no casualties), and for subsequent actions wherein the soldiers built the first ribbon bridge in combat (about 22 bays across the river to accommodate lighter armor, trucks and other vehicles). My son was among those who helped build the ribbon bridge and then helped repair the Al Kaed Bridge with a medium-girder bridge system.

The 299th also helped sweep the eastern bank of the river, capturing a number of Iraqi soldiers and arms caches (including chemical suits), probing for mines and other ordnance, manning checkpoints and performing related duties.

The unit then went to Balad Air Base, where it ran supply operations to other American forces northwest of Baghdad. The 299th returned home in mid-August 2003 to a rousing reception after having spent nine months in Kuwait and Iraq and with the good fortune of not having suffered any combat casualties despite an improvised explosive bomb hitting the departing convoy.

People in the D.C. area have every reason to be proud of their husbands, wives, sons and daughters who served in the 299th in Iraq. They played a crucial role in ensuring the success of the 3rd Infantry Division’s mission in taking Baghdad and helping to end the war and in the larger mission to liberate 25 million Iraqi citizens from a murderous dictator.

One member of the 299th, who was in this operation, later returned to his regular reserve unit in West Virginia. He went back to Iraq and was killed in action while with another unit. However, he is still regarded as an honored member of the 299th, a unit that made history in World War II as well.

MAX FRIEDMAN

Arlington

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