A Need to Know
To support our efforts here and abroad, American public must be kept informed
President George W. Bush and all of his Cabinet have already warned that this will be a long and complex battle. But already dissenting voices are becoming ever louder, touting this conflict as a reprise of the disastrous Vietnam War. The American public is far too intelligent to accept that dropping bombs on Kabul will rid the world of the forces of terrorism, and it should be treated with more respect. To retain public confidence in our efforts, the Administration should remind Americans of the specific aims of the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan, and show why our actions are designed to achieve them.
Detailed information is needed on the progress made, the targets hit and the types of locations that we plan to attack. Of course, no soldier should ever be endangered by an overly detailed press briefing that compromises future operations. But at the same time, there must be a strong effort made to keep Americans well informed of the progress of Operation Enduring Freedom. Freedom to evaluate America’s conduct can hardly endure without a steady supply of information from the government, and the democratic process must not be a casualty of this war.
Meanwhile, we also must have a supply of pertinent information about the situation at home. As anthrax attacks continue, the public is understandably nervous about the state of homeland security. Attorney General John Ashcroft’s repeated warnings for Americans to remain on high alert and to expect future terrorist attacks are, however, highly unhelpful. They seem only to increase fear without offering any practical advice. Of course, the public knows that there is a strong possibility of future violence—now it needs effective methods to tackle that threat. Indeed, the repeated warnings are only serving to increase the panic felt across the country and to help the terrorists achieve their aim of disrupting the American way of life. When specific information that would help the public to minimize the effects of an attack becomes available, it should be passed on as appropriate. Until then, a simple warning should be issued telling Americans to remain on their highest alert until further notice, thereby allowing some semblance of wartime “normalcy” to prevail instead of weekly scares. Perhaps the Attorney General could spend less time unhelpfully worrying the public and instead discuss the progress of the investigations, including how many individuals have been detained without trial in America for unspecified links to terrorism.
We eagerly await the successful conclusion of this conflict, but in the meantime we look forward to information on its progress. On Sept. 11 America was attacked by enemies hostile to democracy; we must defy them by keeping the population fully informed about our democratic responses both at home and abroad. In that way we shall continue to win the war against terrorism, both before and after the elimination of the threat of bin Laden and his al Qaeda network.