Today -- despite the antiwar tilt of national opinion polls and the recent election -- advocacy of a U.S. pullout from Iraq seems almost as scarce among modern-day media elites.
The standard media evasions amount to kicking the bloody can down the road. Careful statements about benchmarks and getting tough with the Baghdad government (as with the Saigon government) are markers for a national media discourse that dodges instead of enlivens debate.
Many journalists are retreading the notion that the pullout option is not a real option at all. And the Democrats who’ll soon be running
Congress, we’re told, wouldn’t -- and shouldn’t -- dare to go that far if they know what’s good for them.
Implicit in such media coverage is the idea that the real legitimacy for U.S. war policymaking rests with the president, not the Congress. When I ponder that assumption, I think about 42-year-old footage of the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
The show’s host on that 1964 telecast was the widely esteemed
journalist Peter Lisagor, who told his guest: “Senator, the Constitution gives to the president of the United States the sole
responsibility for the conduct of foreign policy.”
“Couldn’t be more wrong,” Sen. Wayne Morse broke in with his sandpapery voice. “You couldn’t make a more unsound legal statement than the one you have just made. This is the promulgation of an old fallacy that foreign policy belongs to the president of the United States. That’s nonsense.”
Lisagor was almost taunting as he asked, “To whom does it belong then, Senator?”
Morse did not miss a beat. “It belongs to the American people,” he shot back -- and “I am pleading that the American people be given the facts about foreign policy.”
The journalist persisted: “You know, Senator, that the American people cannot formulate and execute foreign policy.”
Morse’s response was indignant: “Why do you say that? ... I have complete faith in the ability of the American people to follow the facts if you’ll give them. And my charge against my government is, we’re not giving the American people the facts.”
Morse, the senior senator from Oregon, was passionate about the U.S. Constitution as well as international law. And, while rejecting the widely held notion that foreign policy belongs to the president, he spoke in unflinching terms about the Vietnam War. At a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Feb. 27, 1968, Morse said that he did not “intend to put the blood of this war on my hands.”
And, prophetically, Morse added: “We’re going to become guilty, in my judgment, of being the greatest threat to the peace of the world.
It’s an ugly reality, and we Americans don’t like to face up to it.”
Norman Solomon’s latest book, “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” is out in paperback. For information, go to:www.warmadeeasy.com
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