29 Apr 2004 If We’ve Lost Ted Koppel, We Still Have the Country
Observations about Ted Koppel’s decision to read the names of U.S. troops killed in Iraq on his show Friday:
1) It is impossible to be sure about Koppel’s motives in this instance, but Koppel is being judged not only on his decision to do this broadcast, but on his whole body of work. If many people had not already concluded that Nightline is biased, fewer would question his motives now.
2) Excluding private memorials, the proper, truly non-political time to memorialize the war dead is after the war is over. Recognition of the sacrifices made by those who died is right and proper, and necessary. Because it is important to do, it is likewise important to do it right.
3) Approving comparisons made by some of Koppel’s plans to the listing of the names of the Vietnam War dead on the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington D.C. often fail to note that the original design — the wall with inscribed names of those American service personnel lost in the conflict — was immensely unpopular with very many Vietnam Veterans. Matters were settled only after it was agreed that the Memorial also would include a nearby statue of soldiers doing their honorable duty. Koppel’s show will have the “wall,” but no “statue.”
4) The perception that network anchormen played a key role in spurring America’s dishonorable departure from Vietnam makes those who rue those events especially sensitive to the possibility that history could repeat itself. Anchormen in particular should be aware of this dynamic. The patriotic public, however, should realize that no one with his finger on the pulse of the nation ever will say: “If we’ve lost Ted Koppel, we’ve lost the country.”
Early on Friday, we will post another response to Koppel’s decision: A list of the very impressive humanitarian accomplishments of just one 285-soldier unit that has been present in Iraq since the war began.