No Guts, No Glory

To the Editor:

As one whose journalism career (news editor, San Francisco Examiner; national news editor, Los Angeles Times; and television reporter and producer, NBC and CBS) spanned the years 1957 to 1987, I appreciated Nicholas von Hoffman’s piece on the complicity of journalists, if not journalism, in the duplicities that led to the war in Iraq [“There’s Nothing Glorious About Today’s Journalism,” The National Observer, Dec. 19]. There are other culprits he did not name, such as talk TV and radio hosts, Internet bloggers and silent academics, but he certainly hit his target. Congratulations to him, and good luck.

Lew Allison

South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

To the Editor:

I read Mr. von Hoffman’s column and would like to comment.

Most of the big media, especially the likes of a Bob Woodward, like being in with the “in crowd” and are thus unlikely to do anything that will ruffle the feathers of the powers that be. Mr. Woodward likes to pop up on Larry King Live, which is a self-serving love fest, seemingly to be informative but actually just to give a celebrity interview. Also, let me say, with regard to the false info leading up to the Iraq war, that I think it’s pretty irrelevant: George W. Bush was going to go ahead with that war no matter what the evidence, and he would have cooked the intelligence to support it—all done with a nod and a wink. The recent report about the Gulf of Tonkin incident 41 years ago that pushed the Senate to give L.B.J. the power to wage the Vietnam War, wherein the second attack actually did not take place, is the same sort of thing that has happened with the Iraq war. The commander in chief wanted it to happen, and the intelligence ministers did whatever was necessary.

Kenneth Joyce

San Francisco

A Mess of a Movie

To the Editor:

I’m writing to commend Andrew Sarris’ perceptive review of that awful mess, Syriana, which I saw last night at a preview screening [“Soderbergh, Clooney and Co. Make Mideast Mess Too Simple,” At the Movies, Dec. 5]. The topic could have been presented much more clearly with a decent script and a director who avoided the artsy affectations of a hand-held camera and extreme close-ups of faces, elbows, light fixtures et al. The murky dialogue was maddening. Although I understood the overall concept—“evil American oil companies manipulate Arab rulers and create terrorists”—the presentation was annoyingly obtuse.

Traffic used a similar approach of interlocking characters and stories to describe the illegal drug trade. Although that film had a few problems, it was far superior in clearly presenting the different stories and how they reflected the larger problem.

Unfortunately, most reviewers seem to be tripping all over themselves to extravagantly praise this sorry, pretentious mess of a movie. I praise Mr. Sarris for his clearheaded review.

Carl Mora

Albuquerque, N.M. Letters