Letter to the Southam News Editor-in-Chief -
in response to December 20, 2001 national editorial
"Sometimes, war is the only answer"
Murdoch Davis, Editor-in-chief, Southam News
You are correct: sometimes war may be the only
answer. But not now. Arguably, the correct response to September
11 should have been a police action under the auspices of the United Nations.
Instead, despite your warning, the United States does have "violence as
its first and chief response to the world's complexities". Since
World War II and George F. Kennan, it has been U.S. foreign policy to
"deal in straight power concepts to devise a pattern of relationships
which will permit the U.S. to maintain a position of economic disparity
without detriment to U.S. national security". The list of violent U.S.
interventions since WWII is long, and although well documented is generally
not known to the general public because the media ignores it. In the
case of September 11, U.S. survival was not at stake. (Further, if you
think the United Nations would not be effective, keep in mind that the United
States has consistently undermined the U.N. because it is "an obvious
threat to U.S. national interests".)
Your editorial trivializes and stereotypes those
working for peace as "mindless" and "foolish".
Frankly, you do not give equal time and respect in your Southam News to
peacebuilding and less violent alternatives.
Much present day journalism leaves out the most
important part of the story -- how a conflict might be transcended. It is as
if a report about an outbreak of disease never considers how the illness might
be treated or cured. Can a story about cholera, for instance, be considered
complete if the journalist simply describes the suffering of the sick, reports
the number of dead bodies, criticizes the doctors, but leaves out everything
that might bring the epidemic to a halt? Hardly. Yet by continuing to describe
wars and violent conflicts as though they were sporting events, journalists
fail in their job to inform themselves and their publics about any
alternatives that might alleviate the suffering and bring the conflict under
control. Southam News has an obligation to report them more accurately.
Robert Stewart, Director
Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace
Okotoks, AB T1S 1A4