George W. Bush decrees again and again that every American killed in Iraq was killed for a noble cause. Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity and Melanie Morgan fill the airwaves with bellicose testimonials to the righteousness of the war. Tom Delay, Donald Rumsfeld, Rick Santorum, Elizabeth Dole and Kay Bailey Hutchison profess that the war is necessary for the safety and strength of America, and freedom and democracy in Iraq. Chickenhawk after chickenhawk forcefully proclaim the legitimacy of this war. Yet in appearance after appearance on NBC, NPR, CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, MSNBC, CSPAN, PBS, et al, I have yet to hear a media host or reporter ask any one of them the most relevant question of all: 'Who in YOUR family is fighting in this war?' If this question were mandatory for those who tout the war, then its most vocal defenders would be silenced. For aloft in the bloggesphere, one can't fabricate for long.
And so, in the never-ending quest for truth, justice and the anti-war way, I launch this challenge to all media hosts and reporters. From this point forward everyone interviewed who supports the war must answer the question: 'Who in YOUR family has fought it?' If it's noble for one, then it's noble for all!
I know this is a lot to ask of hosts and journalists who've been spineless for five years, but allow me to offer an inspiration for their renewed attempt at courage: Cindy Sheehan. Thanks to Cindy and the whirlwind that surrounds her, the wimpy political press has been rescued from the customary news abyss of August, and awarded the biggest 'he said/she said' of our most recent time. Indeed, were I the political press, I would drop to my knees, kiss the hallowed ground of Camp Casey, and gratefully salute Cindy Sheehan. Then in her honor, and in honor of all men and women in service in this war, pose Cindy's poignant question to those who deploy them and to those who destroy them: 'Who in YOUR family is fighting and dying for YOUR war?'
True, Cindy has her detractors, but regardless of their disagreement with her 'tactics,' even her critics agree she has guts. Cindy's an inspiration, and a reminder to journalists that fierce independence, courage, and dedication to one's principles are not only admirable, but attainable. Cindy's individualism should remind today's reporters of the gumshoe days of old, when members of the press had guts, integrity and balls.
But a glimmer of hope is emerging. Due to the steady weakening of the Bush Administration, some reporters show signs of independence. The recent actions of NBC's Chief White House Correspondent, David Gregory, are actually borderline bold. For several days Gregory aggressively challenged Bush's spokespigeon Scott McClellan for his negligence in the case of Valerie Plame. Also assailing McClellan was the brash Terry Moran, Chief White House Correspondent for ABC News, along with several angry members of the dismal White House press.
David Gregory's boldness at those pugnacious White House briefings bolstered his profile at NBC. A month later he pinched hit for Hardball's lead batterer, Chris Matthews. While Gregory is little match for Matthews' bi-polar guest-fencing (advance, advance, retreat, advance, lunge, retreat...), Gregory did engage Florida Congresswoman Katherine Harris in an animated dialog on August 10, 2005. Gregory treaded through fiery waters, asking Senate candidate Harris if the Bushes discouraged her run for the Senate because she's so controversial. Then, in an obvious reference to the 2000 Presidential election, Gregory asked bluntly, "Does the President owe you?" seeming to insinuate quid pro quo for Harris' partisan role. Pretty ballsy, Mr. Gregory.
Later in the interview, Gregory asked Harris this question on Iraq: "Do you support a date certain for the withdrawal of American troops?" Harris responded, "I want our troops home as soon as possible. But I feel very strongly that we can't leave before they have secured Iraq and helped the Iraqis stand up for themselves." Voila! The perfect opportunity to meet my challenge. Since Katherine Harris supports the military action in Iraq, and since military service is for a 'noble cause,' host Gregory should have stepped up and asked, 'Who in YOUR family is fighting in Iraq?' Now, doesn't this question make perfect sense?? And isn't it long overdue?
What's so simple about this challenge are the countless opportunities to meet it. Just Monday morning, war devotee Danielle Pletka, Vice President of Defense Policy at AEI, appeared on C-Span's Washington Journal. In defending the war, Ms. Pletka stated, "We gain a great deal from the spread of liberty throughout the world... but the fruits will be slow in coming...." Again, a perfect opening to meet the challenge. Ms. Pletka obviously deserved to be asked, 'Who in YOUR family is spreading that liberty and helping to gather those fruits?' It's appropriate. It's easy. And it's long, long overdue.
So for all you reporters who carried the drum as it banged its way to Iraq, it's time for courage and integrity to enfold you. The unchallenged chickenhawks abound. Laura Ingram, David Frumm, Richard Perle, Jeb Bush and Condi Rice are ripe for the question. Step up to the challenge and ask: 'Who in YOUR family is fighting the war in Afghanistan or Iraq?' If you don't want to ask it for Cindy, then ask it for Casey. There's no doubt he deserves it. And besides, if war's noble for one, then it's certainly noble for all!
Linda Milazzo is a Los Angeles based writer/educator/activist and a member of CodePink.