Readers, both civilian and military, respond to "Rush's Forced Conscripts," by Eric Boehlert. Plus: Did faulty reporting by the Times ultimately lead to unnecessary deaths in Iraq?

By Salon Staff

Published May 29, 2004 5:43PM (EDT)

[Read "Rush's Forced Conscripts," by Eric Boehlert.]

I am a veteran, a taxpayer, a Liberal Democrat and a patriotic American. I had always respected American Forces Radio, but now I'm not so sure. Behind the network's "right leaning" political philosophy, I see Mr. Russell, the network's director and a Bush appointee, only too glad to help the Republican Party any way he can.

I am personally writing my representatives to protest AFR's carrying of Rush Limbaugh's program (to the exclusion of dissenting views), a program that calls me a traitor and equates me with Osama bin Laden.

If AFR's unstated mission is to squash dissenting views, they are doing a remarkable job worthy of governments like Iran, Hussein's Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Stalin's Soviet Union. A radio network beamed from the most powerful nation on earth is presenting itself as a network worthy of a Third World banana republic.

-- David Childress

I don't doubt that Rush will devote his show to getting out the military vote for Bush in the next election. It's immaterial whether Bush-Cheney '04 buys ad spots on American Forces Radio; Rush will serve as free advertising for the Bush campaign.

AFR should add the more pro-Democratic Al Franken's show to their lineup -- since Democrats also pay taxes to fund AFR. Franken has already gone to Iraq to entertain the troops -- he has always "supported our troops."

-- Lauren Strand

I'm in the Navy, I've been to Iraq, and I don't need Al Franken as the program director for my only source of radio when abroad. He's not successful at home, and I doubt that he'd be surprised to learn that there isn't much of an audience for his programming in the military. Armed forces radio and TV should serve its listeners, not Al Franken's view of "fairness." And it's not all that biased -- they also play "all things considered" (Thank God).

AFRTS does a pretty good job, taking a sampling of the highest-rated commercial programming available and airing it for us in some amazing places.

I'm not a right-winger or religious fanatic, nor am I a "Bush hater." I have issues with our president, but how about we just tone down the nastiness and quit trying to use the military for social experimentation. Let's just win wars instead, ok?

-- Joe Talbot

Although I strongly agree with your premise that Rush Limbaugh does not have a place on American Forces Radio, I suspect your outrage may cause a backlash against those that you defend: NPR and PBS.

NPR portrays itself as being fair and balanced, but this is hardly the case. The choices of stories, the choices of leads, the point of view of reporters and editors show a significant bias against Israel, for abortion rights, for same sex marriage and on and on. Right, wrong or indifferent, these are generally considered liberal/left issues and not right/conservative viewpoints.

If you get your wish and yank Limbaugh from American Forces Radio, then the conservatives who got him on in the first place will insist on eliminating funding for NPR and PBS unless their "liberal" bias is corrected.

Remember, they are still in power.

-- David Levey

[Read "Not Fit to Print," by James C. Moore.]

After reading Moore's indictment of the Times' reporting, I have to ask: Why didn't the New York Times pay any attention to distinguished figures who consistently raised questions about the war on Iraq -- especially Sen. Robert C. Byrd?

As a reporter for The Charleston Gazette, West Virginia's largest newspaper, I have written scores of articles about Byrd's detailed and moving speeches about Iraq -- before, during and after the war.

How could the nation's supposedly leading newspaper pay more attention to a corrupt, self-serving, power-grasping character like Chalabi -- while ignoring leaders like Sen. Byrd and many of his Senate colleagues?

The result has not been simply an increase in the national debt; it includes the deaths of American soldiers and Iraqis. Reporters like Judith Miller and the editors at the New York Times should be held morally responsible for those unneeded deaths.

-- Paul Nyden

Times executive editor Bill Keller attempted to dismiss criticism of his paper's coverage by noting that much of the ire he'd detected was coming from people who had not directly read Judith Miller's articles.

He failed to recognize, however, that what the Times reports becomes part of the background discourse in a flash. That is the point of the Times. No one has time to read every newspaper; many just have time to read their local paper. But what the NYT reports determines what other sources consider to be "news."

I will not read the Times again until Miller's head rolls.

-- Katherine Scott

James C. Moore's "Not Fit to Print" provides a scathing indictment of Judith Miller's reporting on Iraq's (lack of) WMD. But he fails to mention another possible motivation for Miller's alarmist prose. In October 2001, her book "Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War" hit the shelves. Coauthored with Times reporters Stephen Engelberg and William Broad, the book went paperback in September 2002, just as Miller's Chalabi-fed stories hit fever pitch.

How much did Miller and her Times coauthors profit from the book, and how much did her baseless stories boost sales? Hard to know. But there is precedent at the Times for eschewing book money whipped up by fantastical front-page claims.

In May 1998, Times science reporter Gina Kolata penned a story quoting Nobel Prize-winner James Watson saying that Boston researcher Judah Folkman would cure cancer "within two years."

The furor that swirled around the story -- much of it driven by skeptical and even outraged science journalists (a clan to which I belong) -- prompted Kolata to retract a book proposal pegged to Folkman's research. Soon after, Boston Globe science reporter Robert Cooke received a large advance (perhaps as much as $1 million) for his book on the topic.

Cancer is still a scourge, just as Saddam Hussein's phantom bio-weapons are not. Miller and the Times could rectify some of the damage wrought by their irresponsible journalism by donating all of the book's earnings to a war-related charity -- say, to families of American soldiers killed and maimed in Iraq. Such a move would speak volumes louder than their too-little, too-late self-flagellation.

-- Brian Vastag

There is no hope for this world if the news media doesn't take its constitutional responsibility seriously. When government is out of control, as now, the news is the only check and balance left.

I trusted Judith Miller -- and worse, I quoted her. I opposed the war, but I assumed the Times could be trusted, and I couldn't believe that Bush would lie about something so important in a State of the Union speech, certainly not if Powell corroborated the info to the U.N.

The awful thing is that this same type of deception could happen again tomorrow morning. If neither the government nor the news tells the truth, there is no way for an ordinary citizen like myself to know it, or to do anything about it until it is far too late.

-- Dean Smith

Salon Staff

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