Saturday, May 01, 2004Last night's edition of ABC Nightline, banned from several Sinclair Broadcasting Group stations, I thought was in the end as neutral a memorial recitation of the war dead as anchor Ted Koppel promised. As advertised, the entirely score-free half hour show consisted of Koppel reading over 700 names over a static backdrop, with two alternating photos showing the deceased (mainly pictures in uniform, some in mufti, some had no photos - an image of flag-draped caskets was substituted) with the serviceperson's rank and age superimposed below.
Was it political? Perhaps. But if it was, the political intent was overshadowed by the unspoken realization that each man or woman killed in the line of duty left behind a hole in many others' lives: they left behind spouses, lovers, children, siblings, relatives, friends and neighbors. The value judgement of war each viewer takes away is personal and conscience-driven - is the war too expensive, or is it worth the cost? That's not an answer any television program - or corporate position statement - can provide.
If nothing else, the Nightline photos reminded us that the cost of war is not a blank check, not a credit tab, but rather a bill payable immediately in liquid human currency. As parents teach their children the value of a dollar and wise spending, we need to know the value of a human soldier's life, and not spend it in vain.