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Tell NBC: Sunday Morning Needs a Real War Debate
The war in Afghanistan has re-emerged as a major news story, thanks to the controversies surrounding the removal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and the WikiLeaks release of classified documents. But on NBC's Meet the Press, the opportunity to engage in a robust debate about the war has taken a back seat to promoting the views of the military and supporters of Obama's Afghanistan policies.
General Petraeus is a military leader with great commitment and great intellectual rigor, but you have to wonder whether he has enough time politically to achieve what he thinks is possible here.... The question now for the American public is whether it has the stomach and the will to do what it takes to succeed here, and whether it has the stomach for what could happen here if the U.S. and its allies fail.
The hour with Petraeus was in keeping with recent patterns on the show. Right after the WikiLeaks disclosure, the show's August 1 broadcast led with Gregory announcing, "The leaking of secret Afghanistan war documents has enraged U.S. military officials who warn of serious consequences for the leaker and the man behind the Web site WikiLeaks." The featured one-on-one interview was with Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. There were no guests on hand to comment from an antiwar perspective.
On July 11, the program featured a one-on-one interview with White House press secretary Robert Gibbs that touched briefly on the war. The show's panel discussion featured MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who offered a somewhat mild critique of the war, mostly stressing that a withdrawal timeline improves the performance of the Afghan government. Her co-panelists were conservative pundit David Brooks and Ed Gillespie of the Republican State Leadership Committee, both of whom support the war effort to varying degrees (Brooks called himself a "strong supporter," while Gillespie opposes any talk of a withdrawal timeline).
So in weeks when public support for the war has continued to drop (CNN's most recent poll shows 62 percent oppose the war--8/6-10/10), why has NBC been so intent on promoting the war? It is hard to overlook the fact that NBC's parent company General Electric is heavily involved in weapons-related contracts with the U.S. military, and has also benefited from reconstruction contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan (Center for Public Integrity, 10/31/03).
On one recent show (7/11/10), Gregory mused that "finding the ideological fault lines here are difficult between left and right, frankly." But the host of Meet the Press can't "find" a debate only because he refuses to have one on his show.
The country needs a real public debate on the Afghanistan War, not a parade of generals and hawkish pundits. Bring on more critics of the war on Meet the Press.
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