An open letter to President Bush: Stop this nonsense, today!

The ABC television network is showing “Saving Private Ryan” today, Veterans Day 2004. Some ABC stations are refusing to air the movie because they are afraid of regulatory retaliation from the Bush Administration and, more particularly, Michael Powell of the Federal Communications Commission. I appeal to President Bush to stop this nonsense and to prevent a dishonor of America’s veterans and military personnel.

At a time when veterans are fighting in Iraq, and losing their lives for this country, it is “indecent” that a movie realistically portraying combat conditions should be deemed “indecent.” Have we come to this?

In the past year, “holy warriors” of the religious right have sought to censor television indecency. The best way to censor muck is not to watch it. I did not see he famous Janet Jackson incident but I agree it was atrocious. Still, it is doubtful that any producer knew it was coming, or orchestrated such a controversial incident. But the Janet Jackson case is now being extended to intimidate artistic freedom and, in the case of saving Private Ryan, to censor drama that seeks to portray the chaos of battlefield conditions. Using censorship in this manner is disgraceful.

Fighting for freedom is dangerous. A dozen soldiers and marines have lost their lives this week, in Falluja. Was their sacrifice “indecent?” Is portraying combat indecent? I hope not. People need to know what battle is all about. The best-planned battles have total randomness about them. We still rely on the solider/marine to go in, rifle in hand, to subdue enemies. Conditions in Iraq are different than those on D-Day, but they are just as dangerous.

Battle is not about generals with pointers and PowerPoint presentations; it is about chaos, danger, fear, unpredictability, and sometimes random death.

What makes this censorship even more outrageous is that Michael Powell was a soldier himself, and his father Secretary of State Colin Powell served in combat. How can someone who has worn the uniform say that portraying the chaos of battle is indecent?

We are all intoxicated with “moral values” in the light of November 2nd. But on November 11th, when we honor our fallen soldiers, it is sad that a TV station would be afraid to air a battle movie because of fear that the federal government would punish the station for doing so. Senator John McCain, who knows the pain of war, is also participating in the “Saving Private Ryan” presentation. He is certainly no shirker when it comes to morality and indecency.

President Bush should come before the cameras today, tell the FCC they are “way out of line,” and ask any stations that planned to censor the battle movie not to do so. It is the least he can do for our men and women in harm’s way around the world, and especially in Iraq. Whether one supports the war in Iraq, or not, whether one supports the president’s policies or not, we should all recognize that brave men and women have answered the call. History will judge the correctness of our policies. Petty bureaucrats should not be allowed to stand in judgment of our soldiers’ valor and the conditions under which they serve us.

President Bush: do the right thing.