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PBS Ombudsman

USMC and PBS, Semper Fi

Most of the mail this week focused on a 90-minute documentary that aired Wednesday evening and was simply titled "The Marines." The United States Marine Corps is one of the oldest and most widely revered American institutions. No matter what one thinks of American policy or its wars, I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of our citizens are proud of the Marine Corps, its men and women, and its special place in the country's history and culture.

Yet almost all of the mail that came to me about this program was critical — not of the Marines, but of PBS, and that came as no surprise. Several of the letters are included below.

As a viewer, I would give this film what one might call a mixed review. It succeeds in capturing the ethos and sense of exceptionalism that is so vital both to the individual Marine, to the individual combat unit, and the Corps as a whole. It is illuminating about the logic of its training and the transition from civilian to Marine. So there is value in sticking with it. I've always been kind of a push-over, myself, for both the image and reality of the Marines and the absolute value of such a specialized fighting force — along with the other branches, of course — in our democracy.

Friendly Fire

But as a documentary, this film falls well short, in my view, of what one would normally expect. I felt as though PBS was the willing victim of friendly fire from the producers and, especially, the funders on this one and didn't take any visible action to protect itself. This is really a very well done testimonial and recruiting film masquerading as a documentary.

There is essentially no critical assessment or voice anywhere in this film by outside experts who may have interesting and useful things to say about the Marines and their mission that challenges the relentless gung-ho theme of this presentation. Two widely respected journalists — Tom Ricks of The Washington Post and Rick Kaplan of The Atlantic Monthly — help greatly with perspective and context of the Corps in our society. But if you cough twice during this film — once during a sentence when the narrator refers to the mid-1970s when hundreds of drill instructors were punished for abusing recruits, and once when he says that, on occasion, the Corps' reputation has been tarnished — you will have missed the only attempts at introspection. The film builds towards an ending of camaraderie, sacrifice, just-the-kid-next-door quality, along with the music, that reminded me of the films I saw during World War II that made me misty-eyed as a youngster.

There is no questioning of leadership or whether it has failed at times, not much discussion of the strains of Vietnam, not even any mention of the murder charges brought just two months ago against four Marines for the killing of some two dozen Iraqi civilians, a case that illustrates both the enormous pressures of the kind of combat faced in Iraq and the seriousness with which the Marines take this event.

That this film is essentially devoid of any note of dissonance or even critical thinking or outside analysis should not be surprising if you hang in there through the credits.

The film is a co-production of WNED-TV in Buffalo, N.Y., and Driftwood Productions, Inc. The credits say, "Funding is provided by The Alfiero Family Charitable Foundation, which celebrates the National Museum of the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Heritage Center." In an online Q & A with John Grant, the station's program director, Grant says the idea originated within the station and, in this case, the idea "coincided with the interest of a funding source in Buffalo, so the Alfiero Family Foundation provided the initial production funding. Then PBS liked the idea for such a program and provided the remaining funding." Sal Alfiero, a successful businessman and philanthropist, served in the Marines from 1958 to 1967. He is listed as a major supporter of the new National Museum of the Marine Corps (which also was featured on a previous PBS nightly NewsHour program and ombudsman's column) and of "WNED's capital campaign for digital conversion."

The Defense Department's American Forces Information Service also put out a press release on Feb. 20 about "'The Marines,' a PBS documentary highlighting the history and heart of the smallest branch of the U.S. Armed Services."

Here are the letters:

The Marines — what a disappointment. At a time when we need the truth about our nation's use of force you have chosen to air this propagandistic paean. My whole family worked hard to come to the aid of public broadcasting in recent weeks yet you failed us — and our Marines — by abandoning journalistic integrity which could have done so much with the rich history of the Corps to present an honest and pertinent story.

Tom McDonough, Gas City, IN

The program on Marines was terrific. I am concerned many people will still react negatively due to the portrayal of warriors, culture and spirit. At the same time, I am encouraged by PBS' willingness to be open and honest about what it takes to be a warrior. Thank you for showing this program. May we never have to go to war; but if we must, pray that we have men and women like the Marines.

Robert De Vita, Milwaukee, WI

Wow, PBS has reached an all time low . . . what a piece of utter garbage. I can't believe PBS would follow-up such great, richly layered works as Ken Burns "Brooklyn Bridge," Frontline and Wide Angle with this simplistic, corny, utterly one-dimensional hour of television. I have seen better work on the Military Channel and CNN than this, my wedding video has more nuance and complexity. I can't believe you all have deemed this worthy of PBS's reputation. I am a military historian so please do not interpret this as anti-military by any means. I am just astonished at the shallowness and apple-pie patriotism of this production. Was it shown at boot camp? Are you recruiting? Shame on you.

War-fighting and our military armed forces are worthy of far more than this, your simplistic, adolescent-level rendition of what it means to serve is both shameful and absolutely misleading. Whoever was responsible for this should be fired and sent to Iraq where maybe they can learn something.

Michael L., New York, NY

I have just watched your so-called "documentary" on the Marine Corps and must ask if you are a journalistic organization or a recruiter for the Bush Administration. I took special note of the absence of respect for the U.S. Marines of the Vietnam Era. Your cavalcade of historic Marine engagements mentioned nothing about Vietnam and such engagements as Hue. There are many more, but your failure to mention them seemed deliberate. How else could a documentary on the Marines neglect Vietnam? You had many Marine spokesmen from campaigns before and after Vietnam who were eager to talk of the bravery of their wars. I am a Vietnam veteran who served with the U.S. Air Force. I find your "documentary" to be shameless. I ask your spokesmen who speak to the Marine Corps before and after Vietnam to face the living Marine Corps veterans of Vietnam — or even the dead. Make sure they are not "miked," as we say in the broadcast business in which I worked for many years, because when they encounter the truth and the realism of the dead they have not the guts to face, they will wet their pants and feel perhaps for the first time the fright they have never known.

Vaughn Roche, LCSW, Salt Lake City, UT

I was just watching the Marines documentary on PBS, and just wanted to let you know that some info they are giving out is wrong. At the beginning they said that the Marines is the smallest of the 4 branches of service. That is not correct. There are actually 5 branches and the Coast Guard, which my wife and I were both a part of, is the smallest. Thank you.

Thomas Cummings, Eau Claire, WI

I love WMHT for its very informative and balanced shows, in general. How is it possible you could put on the show about Marines airing tonight? There must have been some pressure from the conservatives to force you to air this tripe. I note that Sal Alfieri, the sole organization supporting the show, is a contributor to the Bush campaign. Military values of heroism, courage and honor are a fiction promulgated by those who believe in the use of military force, whether wisely or not. These values are the antithesis of truth, honesty and intellectual acuity. Any young person should be educated carefully that the purpose of the military is to kill others. It has no other purpose. It is also a way to drastically increase the odds of losing your life, or of being maimed in some ghastly way. These days, our military is being used with outrageous irresponsibility, as a substitute for effective negotiation, with callous disregard for the lives of our young people, and with incredible mismanagement and corruption. WMHT (and PBS) should be ashamed of this programming.

David McMullan, Delmar, NY

And More...

Wed. night was a rare treat! The Marines special was beyond believable. What can I say. Did the Marine Corp pay for this rah rah homage or do we consider it an important public service? It was precious. An hour and a half of endless Marine Corp. cliches about the "Warrior Ethos." I watched the whole thing closely, all the standard fare . . . martial music . . . Marines history, the brainwashing of boot camp. Interesting that there is plenty more room on the Marines memorial monument flag raising on Mt. Sribachi for "more battles to come." I suppose an hour and a half was not long enough to include the thoughts of USMC Major Gen. Smedley Darlington Butler and his little 1935 autobiography "War is a Racket." He won the Medal of Honor . . . twice! No mention of him though.

Jim Fuge, Durango, CO

Last night I had the opportunity to watch the PBS special called "The Marines." It was a well produced inside look at the U.S. Marine Corps, and what their mission is. There were however two glaring errors in it. During the first few minutes of the show the narrator stated "That the Marine Corp is the smallest of the four Armed Services." This statement is incorrect on two counts. There are 5 branches of the Armed Services, the 5th and smallest is the U.S. Coast Guard.

The U.S. Coast Guard is a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces as per 14 USC 1 1 (United States Code) which states "The Coast Guard as established January 28, 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times. The Coast Guard shall be a service in the Department of Homeland Security, except when operating as a service in the Navy."

Daly City, CA

I just watched most of The Marines — a documentary. Mr. Grant's portrayal was more of a promotion piece for the Marines and possibly a recruiting tool than a critical documentary of the organization. It makes me wonder if the Defense Dept. was involved in the production. I hope that these types of programs are not a new trend.

North Chatham, NY

I watched The Marines tonight on PBS and was appalled. This heavy-handed propaganda piece makes the US Marine Corps out as a cult. This is not the Marine Corps I supported as a Navy Hospital Corpsman in Vietnam.

The idea that Marines hate war is not the experience I got from the gunnies who told me that Vietnam wasn't a great war, but it was the only war we had. Nor does the idea of the humanity of the individual Marine reflect the reality of the only decent book I ever read about WWII, E. B. Sledge's "With the Old Breed." He describes a personal war against the Japanese rooted in individual hatred. His tale of a Marine dragging a partially paralyzed Japanese soldier around, screaming and flailing as the Marine pulled out his gold teeth, does not reflect humanity. The closest thing to humanity was another Marine shooting the POW in the head to shut him up.

Thankfully this does not describe the Marines I treated in Vietnam, the wounded fresh out of combat, often covered with leeches. What it does indicate is a propaganda machine readying for war. Who the hell sponsored this distortion of reality? Any decent Marine ought to be embarrassed by this depiction, which to my mind displays them as if they would drink poisoned kool-aid on command. Is this the image the USMC wants? I hope not.

Cedar Park, TX

Last night I watched a 90 minute infomercial on PBS — recruiting our youngsters to the "warrior ethos" of the Marines. The only positive thing about it for me was that it reinforced my decision to stop supporting PBS financially when they shortened NOW and gave the neo-con Tucker Carlson equal, if not longer, time. I know there have been changes in the senior levels of PBS that more reflect a conservative point of view and I support freedom of speech. This propaganda on the brotherhood of the Marines, however, was unconscionable and totally transparent. And the idea that a public broadcasting system airs a propaganda infomercial that unknown supporters have paid for is despicable.

Carol Kolar, Sayville, NY

What follows are some more letters from viewers about a suggestion I made in last week's Ombudsman's Mailbag about the continuing Frontline series "News War," about the Independent Lens documentary on "Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes" and on a couple of other presentations that were mentioned last week.

A Ground Swell for 'Frontburner'

Frontburner is an excellent idea and one of the few I've encountered that addresses the terrible letdown the country has suffered because of the too-credulous reporting of the run-up to the war in Iraq. Top editors of the Washington Post and New York Times have apologized to readers for the gaps in their pre-war reporting; mistakes happen in any news organization no matter how well run. The Times and Post are no exceptions. The best remedy is for more eyes to be looking, more journalists probing the major issues of the day. Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay did the job for the late lamented Knight-Ridder newspapers but their reporting lacked the impact it should have had because it appeared in newspapers like the Miami Herald and San Jose Mercury that are not widely circulated in Washington and New York, the media capitals. Veteran Post reporter Walter Pincus seems to have had better sources than anyone else at his newspaper but his reporting was relegated to back pages.

A well funded investigative team whose work appeared in timely fashion on PBS would be a welcome addition to the thinning ranks of investigative journalists. It would take a courageous underwriter to fund it but maybe there is a wealthy and media savvy person who understands the need for such a team and would sponsor it.

I sympathize with your disappointment that there was little public response to the first Frontline report on the news business and its current woes. It was — in Frontline's usual style — well produced, well sourced. But as you pointed out, there was little new in it for those who have followed the Libby case. Let's hope that subsequent installments in the series will cut closer to the bone.

The crisis facing journalism is a crisis facing democracy. It cannot thrive without a strong free press and the strength of the press is very much in doubt at the moment.

Ed Fouhy, Chatham, MA

Hmmmm. Frontburner. Great idea. I like Frontline and try to watch it when it's on. 60 Mintues? They stopped being 'frontburner' 20 years ago. They are about as hard hitting as a wet sock. While the Government is a big and easy target, how about big business? How about individual citizens who are pulling down what we call, America?

Joe Ernst, El Paso, TX

Then There Is 'Frontline'

I watched 'Frontline' and it was excellent, the program really drilled down to the heart of the problem. I hope the next three episodes are equally as good. If they are 'Frontline' and PBS will have a total slam dunk. I may be wrong but I think you didn't get any mail because no one can deny the truths of the program. Even the radical right wingers must have found 'Frontline' irrefutable, if not they will be the first to scream and will scream the loudest and without end.

Robert D'Amico, Cleveland, OH

Actually, for a wartime president, Bush has been very gentle with the media. During WWI, Wilson shut down papers for such minor things as "impacting morale" which includes reporting on the Great Influenza. Remember FDR? I can recall more than a few aged journalists commenting on that era's censorship, which included no stories on why the local American Japanese population suddenly disappeared in the middle of the night from small towns all over the West. And then there was LBJ and his kindly treatment of the media.

I suggest that you consider putting your stories into context instead of making the supposedly miraculous discovery that reporting secrets in time of war is considered bad form; the problem with political conservatives is that they actually believe in the Bill of Rights, unlike Wilson, FDR, and LBJ. Even for those "ordinary Americans" that the executive editor of the NY Times seems to believe have never read the Constitution. Maybe some day the NY Times will read past the First Amendment and complain about violations of the Second, Fourth, and Fifth amendments, but I am not holding my breath.

Newark, CA

Why do obsess on the casualties. Do you think war is sterile and nobody gets killed? Is nothing good happening in Iraq? We're never going to hear it from the New York Times your favorite source. I love your expose about the media. Really hard hitting when you inspect yourself. The problem with the media is that they are reporting on events differently than the public can see for themselves.

Andrew Telek, Traverse City, MI

The Frontline report entitled "News War" need not have co-opted the militaristic term "War." The report discusses a recent misuse of the media, not an armed conflict. Obviously, "The war on poverty . . . on drugs . . . on terror . . . on cancer . . . etc" draws more attention than more accurate descriptors. If a viewer were to announce "I swear — If Tim Russert allows one more guest to remain on talking points, I am going to find him and shoot him," that would be a news war. This, however, is not a war of any kind.

Garrett Armstrong, Macon, GA

The Frontline program on the News Media and the White House is a perfect example of why so many Americans are way beyond sick to death of you people.

Asheville, NC

Thank you for finally reporting on an issue of tremendous consequences for a democratic society. Our democratic way of life is being slowly being eroded while most of America is watching reality shows. "Truth is the foundation of democracy." Once the truth stops being reported our democracy is greatly diminished.

Carmen Martinez, Wheatley Heights, NY

In searching for reasons why reporters feel that they are in a war your series misses the obvious answer. Along with the freedom of the press comes the obligation to handle this freedom wisely. Reporters and editors have abused this freedom on many occasions in the recent past. You draw attention to the issue of protecting their sources. You should have asked the interviewees for examples of what kind of information they would not publish. Based on recent performance, I believe that these people would have published the time and date and place of the Normandy invasion in WW2 if they had known it at the time. Where is the self restraint that would exhibit their wisdom in handling this great freedom of the press. Do they ever modify their threshold for example when our country is at war.

But the glaring omission in the series is that it does not explore the fact that the public perceives that the reporters are biased and that they slant their coverage accordingly. Count the number of pro-Bush articles in the NY Times or Washington Post in the last two presidential elections compared to the number of anti-Bush articles or Pro-Bush opponent articles. Poll the reporters as to their political affiliation and probe how they try to maintain political neutrality in their coverage. See if they tell you, as did Dan Rather, that they judge political left and right on the basis of their own compass which they all believe is exactly in the center!

Our newspapers show us every single explosion in the streets of Baghdad but they give no coverage to the streets of Philadelphia where more Americans were killed last year than in Baghdad. The NY Times published over fifty articles on Abu Ghraib in one month! Bias in the media could be a series in itself and it should be. But it explains why people are going to alternate sources to get their news rather than the traditional outlets. People are voting with their mice. Based on the hatchet job treatment that the press, at large, gives to conservative administrations is it any wonder why they have to be extremely tight with information and why they consider the press, at large, to be their enemy?

T. Taylor, Chester, NJ

Stephen Colbert's address to the Correspondents' Dinner said it all. The President decides, the Press Secretary announces those decisions, and the press should type them down. In your Frontline piece "News War," you want to paint the press as overwhelmed by an insurmountable administration. But the press will not coming out of this scrutiny the winners, as you hope. They drank the cool-aide, and poured it liberally for us all. Forgiving offenses is best, but it's foolish to forgive someone who does not recognize their offense. The press still doesn't see it's complicity in the run up to Iraq, etc. Many of us do not forgive yet them. So, we turn off the TV & read blogs. Some counter, "The press isn't designed to be a partisan tool to attack an administration." Well their history is bad, but more so it isn't partisan hackery to attack a bald-faced lie — it is intellectual honesty.

Garrett Armstrong, Macon, GA

On Hip Hop

(Ombudsman's Note: The following two letters are about a one-hour documentary that aired Feb. 20 on PBS's excellent "Independent Lens" program. The film is called "Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes." It was produced by 37-year-old filmmaker Byron Hurt, a former high school and college football star who loves hip-hop music but understands the troubling, violent messages it often conveys and is unafraid to turn his mind and camera toward them. This is, in my view, and in the view of many reviewers, a powerful and hard-hitting film. It got a four-star reception at last year's Sundance film festival. It is, according to Reuters, sparking debate among a generation of young people raised on rap videos. On the one hand, it seemed surprising that so few viewers wrote to me to comment on it. On the other hand, maybe everyone liked it, or perhaps not enough people watched it. Whatever, this seemed to me another example of PBS at its best illuminating serious cultural issues, and it is definitely worth catching up with if you missed it.)

Thank you for broadcasting Independent Lens, the series this evening on the current plight of Rap music, was one of the best documentaries I've seen on the subject . . . it was put together very well. I hope that is aired again in the future. Continue the quality programming.

Manassas, VA

I'm watching PBS "Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes." WHY DO YOU CUT OUT WORDS LIKE SH@#T AND ALLOW THE N WORD??? Is this a deliberate attempt to titillate certain segments of the white viewing public??? It isn't "authentic," it's OUTRAGEOUS and your organization should reevaluate this urgently. Why doesn't your organization adopt an across the board ban on the word as you do with SH@#T and other inexcusables???

Mayo O., Brooklyn, NY

More on FAT and Funding

Thank you for your comprehensive critique of this ongoing "hot button" funding issue. As a longtime staffer at Twin Cities Public Television, the primary producer of "FAT: What No One Is Telling You," and as a longtime media-reform activist with national and local organizations, I have perspectives on the issue that few others have been able to develop. A key perspective is this: Individuals and organizations who rightfully decry the increasing commercialization of PBS, NPR or any other federally funded programming must take even more vigorous and sustained action to prevent further cuts in Presidential, Congressional, and state support for public TV and radio, and to champion alternatives ways of supporting and improving their vital services — including an independent, self-sustaining national trust fund. Public broadcasters have long-supported such alternatives, but all of them have been "DOA" in the Congress — with a lack of effective support from anti-commercialization activists being a major lethal factor. Sadly, from what I've been able to observe so far, the furor over "FAT" is on its way to being another dead-end case in point.

Richard Dechert (speaking for myself), Maplewood, MN

I watched the PBS production The Hidden Epidemic: Heart Disease in America, and I found some of the comments by the expert physicians to be false. In 1900, the leading cause of death in America was heart disease. But the physicians insinuated that the post-war period, TV and the "entitlement" of the American diet were to blame. In ten minutes I found that heart disease is the number 2 killer in China, so their assertion that there is no heart disease in China seems far-fetched. I would like to know who underwrote the program. Drug companies? The Heart Association? Others with an economic interest? We all die of something. My grandfather died of a stroke — but since he was 98 years, 350 days old at the time, I didn't think it was too significant. How many die prematurely from heart disease? We should be given statistics, not some physicians yarn about history.

Jane Menear, Morgantown, WV

On Mr. Solman and Ms. Lee

I share your view of Paul Solman's interview with UAW rep Thea Lee. I saw Mr. Solman as playing devil's advocate. I, too, was very impressed with Ms. Lee. Best of all, Mr. Solman let Ms. Lee talk without interrupting or trying to shout her down. Allowing the person being interviewed to express herself fully is surely the hallmark of a good interviewer — although somewhat of a rarity on U.S. TV nowadays.

Peggie Walden, Toronto, Canada

When did PBS start accepting "support" from drug manufacturers and advertising their products? I was watching Antiques Roadshow last night and at the beginning was an ad for Lunesta. I hope PBS is not going to cave in to the pharmaceutical industry and participate in the constant assault of prescription medication being pushed down Americans throats. I understand the need for funding but I find this type of advertising very shady and I expect better from you guys.

Rebecca Allen, Norwich, CT

The NewsHour Takes Some Hits

I am watching the NewsHour daily and like it a lot. Today I was appalled at the apparent one-sided reporting so unlike J. Lehrer. How can he only talk at length about increasing health costs without ONCE MENTIONING the huge undeniable benefits our expensive health system has brought over the years? Our quality of life and life expectancy has improved immensely! Just ask a cancer patient now and 20 years ago! As one who has seen his parents die prematurely of diseases which are now relatively easily cured with modern (expensive) medicines, I happily bear the burden of higher cost because I want to live longer than they did. Please try to report on ALL sides of a subject.

Peter Krebs, Las Cruces, NM

I just watched Jim Lehrer's 2-21-07 piece about the soaring cost of healthcare, health insurance, and prescriptions, more than twice the rate of inflation for the foreseeable future.

As a former rural, Missouri, Republican county prosecutor (Hickory County, appointed by then-Gov. Ashcroft in 1988 and reelected in 1990) I ran as an Independent Candidate for State Senate this last year against our 20 year incumbent Republican 'Big Business, Healthcare, and Insurance Companies First" State Senator, Delbert Scott.
The main issue in my campaign was the campaign contributions to him (and the current Republican leadership) by the insurance, healthcare, and pharmaceutical industries and their lobbyists in return for special, legislative protections from wrongdoing, and protection for their price gouging of our people and of our Medicaid and Medicare programs. Once I had shown our people what was REALLY going on with the Republican leadership of OUR government as a result of these millions of dollars of campaign contributions, I actually won two counties, almost won two more (one of which Roy Blunt won with 70%+ of the vote), and amassed 43% of the vote district-wide . . . a record for an Independent Candidate in Missouri.

Perhaps if Jim Lehrer could show your viewers the MOTIVATION of the current administration to allow the insurance, healthcare, and pharmaceutical to continue to gouge our people in the name of corporate profits (i.e., the millions of dollars they have paid for the current leadership for these special legislative protections), your viewers would be able to understand why we are in the straights we are in . . . and maybe even hold this administration accountable, just as they did last November, both nationally, in Missouri, and in our lil' ol' 28th Senate District.

Mike Holzknecht, Stockton, MO

The recent series on the economy tonight featuring Mr. O'Rourke and his incoherent commentary on Adam Smith is completely outrageous. Since when Has PBS become a right wing rag? This series badly needs balance. I suggest Noam Chomsky or Michael Parenti to give viewers a clearer sense of effect of "Free Trade" on third world countries or for that matter on anyone who is not a CEO of a major corporation.

Michael Zuber, Binghamton, NY

I am so upset, I can barely type. I have been watching the "McNeil-Lehrer NewsHour" program on "Globalization," part 3 tonight. The commentator seems to represent the privileged wealthy elitist untouchable-by-any-economic-downturn segment of society and he was interviewing someone tonight representing the same economically callous and selfish, under taxed and overrated, segment of our unfortunate American society in 2007. SHAME, shame, shame on you PBS!!

Neither of these two men gave an honest answer tonight, but rather continued to spread their shared philosophy and self-interest in more Globalization to the detriment of our nation vs. multinational businesses and economies, our democracy vs. the dollar denominationeering of everything from self worth to the health and survivability of our environment. These two men were not having an honest discussion or debate with any insight offered to the mass viewing audience, but rather just constantly stroking each other for being so right and so wealthy and so successful and so smug and shallow, spewing smokescreens of ''fair and 'open' market hype when we know the Chinese have snookered us with their fixed monetary exchange rates. But let these two men not talk of such hard realities in their comfy clothes and comfy chairs and comfy lives, we need another voice more honest and more concerned about the underclasses than themselves. I fear as we loose the economic control of our own destiny here in the "united states of america" and become the third rate and truly third world economy that these 2 men expect and ACCEPT . . . such a shock . . . because they will be in the upper income echelon and without any middle class or democracy left, untouchable by we poor huddling masses.

D.G. Vab Arsdale, Burlingame, CA

The lady in the pink/red dress was more a commentator than a reporter. Her questions were leading to say the least. On the other hand Paul (I did not get his last name) was excellent on his interview about global economics.

La Marque, TX

I was so impressed with Dana Priest's Washington Post series and Judy Woodruff's coverage of the series on the NewsHour regarding our wounded troops being housed in a place infested with rats and roaches. I noticed with interest that the story was then covered by the other networks, although without the passion and detail that you two ladies portrayed the story.

There is nothing that enrages me more than the Bush people sending our troops to this useless quagmire in Iraq and they return with serious injuries only to be treated shoddily. Thanks to Ms. Priest for exposing this and Ms. Woodruff for giving it further exposure. Both of you are heroines for your work and I hope you follow up on this American disgrace. It is ridiculous for the generals to blame it on NCOs just like they did at Abu Grave. I noticed they squirmed in their seats at Ms. Woodruff's persistent questioning. And just like Ms. Priest, tears came to my eyes as I listened to this disgrace.

Tom Westbury, Atlanta, GA

This is a comment about Judy Woodruff on the NewsHour. I've been uncomfortable with her "serious and sober" interviews over the last several months. I remember her same demeanor on CNN. She championed the cause of the Bush admin without question on CNN. I don't see her as a competent journalist. She is not independent enough. Finally her interview with the military reps on 2/21 has annoyed me enough to write. The American people cannot be held unaccountable any longer. We allowed the Iraq war to happen while we waved flags and whined about Freedom Fries. Ms. Woodruff was in the vanguard of that idiocy on CNN. She cannot now lay claim to responsible journalism. I do not trust her. We the citizens of the USA let the war happen, ignored 9/11, allowed a back-slapping old-boy atmosphere to permeate the nation while Bush and friends have raped the USA, attacked foreign countries and made us look like I suppose what we are — shallow and self involved. Now we have the military to blame for the conditions in the hospital. Sorry, but that's too simple. Americans need to take responsibility.

Jean Hricik, Johnson City, NY

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