Editors' Defense: 'Shouldn't Americans Understand How War Being Waged?

July 1st, 2006 6:30 AM

At this point, how many people are interested in hearing more preachy justifications from newspaper editors about their decision to spill the beans on anti-terror programs? Yada yada yada, the sensitive balance between legitimate secrecy needs in time of war and the public's right to know. Yeah, we get it.

But there were Dean Baquet and Bill Keller, editors of the LA and NY Times respectively, with an op-ed this morning humming that tired 'on the one hand, on the other' sing song . Things reached their apotheosis of annoyingness [poetic license in the name of alliteration] when the duo approvingly cited WaPo editor Robert Kaiser editor thusly:

"You may have been shocked by these revelations, or not at all disturbed by them, but would you have preferred not to know them at all? If a war is being waged in America's name, shouldn't Americans understand how it is being waged?"

Answer: you're damn right most Americans would rather not have known. And NO, Americans should NOT understand the clandestine details of how a war is being waged! To restate the classic example, on June 5th, 1944, we shouldn't have understood what Ike had in mind for the morrow. In more contemporary terms, it was right to keep us in the deepest dark about the plan to zap Zarqawi.

The editors' bland notions of balance and appeals to the public's right to know are less than meaningingless. They are absolutely pernicious. Yes, we understand that the politicians who lead us can have less-than-pure motives for keeping some things secret. Some things can and should be divulged by a vigilant press. The decision obviously involves the case-by-case application of patriotism and good judgment. That the NY Times has repeatedly failed to manifest either is, in most eyes, beyond cavil.