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In Defense of Defense

I have to take issue with the December 22 editorial ("Avoiding a Press-Release War"). By distributing its video widely, the Defense Department avoided a press-release war—or those dueling or bragging press releases that are issued by networks who claim they got it first, or got it better, or got it bigger, or whatever whenever a major news story breaks.

It was a public service to show Saddam Hussein in custody. The pictures are fabulous, and news directors should not withhold them just because they were shot by a military cameraman. There are some press releases, even government press releases, which contain real news and deserve to be used.

On the government's part, release of the Saddam video is an important part of the psychological war. The Arab world needed to see this guy brought low, like Mussolini, in order to be convinced that there is no hope left for the B'aathists. As for any resulting humiliation of Saddam, why should anyone care? Saddam does not deserve the courtesies accorded to soldiers. He was found armed and out of uniform. I think that he is lucky that his carcass wasn't hanged upside down at a filling station, which was Mussolini's fate.

The Saddam video is real news. There is no doubt that it is bona fide. Refusing to show it because it advances a foreign-policy aim of the U.S. makes journalists part of the story they are covering

There is one press-release war that journalists can halt. It is the silly war between media organizations, which often degenerates into some pretty unseemly and embarrassing nonsense over bragging rights. It is a disservice both to the public and to those of us who are in the biz.

Ted Faraone, Faraone Communications Inc., New York (Received via e-mail)