Gold Star Mother disgusted with AP decision

Editor's note: Following is a letter to the editor of The Houston Chronicle and to numerous e-mail addresses from Jeannine Maughmer Miller, following Associated Press President Tom Curley's decision to publish a photo of a U.S. Marine dying of combat wounds despite requests from the family and from DoD to withhold it. Miller is a Gold Star mother. Her son, Lance Cpl. Ryan A. Miller, was killed in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom on Sept. 14, 2006.

When did the news media become the voice of America? When did they decide what was best for the American public? In their thirst for power, Pulitzers and prize-winning photos, they have sorely misrepresented this county in one-sided, often misleading reports of the facts.

They clamor to be the first to bring breaking news to the public even when they have no facts. And if they misstate the facts, they can always apologize later. Or never mention the story again.

Their helicopters fly over police chases for hours, interrupting normal programming so the public can watch a car drive erratically, illegally, and most times extremely dangerously, in hopes of seeing them crash and either get killed, maimed, kill someone else, or be assaulted by the arresting officers.

Publications pay big bucks for stories and photographs that will give them the edge of exclusivity. Frenzied reporters crowd suspects asking for their admissions of guilt. Heartless journalists ask traumatized victims and witnesses to describe in detail their feelings at the time of tragedy.

Tom Curley, president of the Associated Press, made a decision to publish a photo of a young Marine lance corporal, Joshua Bernard, as he lay dying. He went forward with publishing this photograph even after the young man's father asked him not to, and against the pleading of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to have the decency not to make the photograph public. Curley claimed he published it because he wanted to show the American public the grimness of war. He wanted us to appreciate the sacrifices these young men and women are making for our country.

If Curley is so conscientious as to want to inform the American public as to life's grimness and garner their appreciation for sacrifice, then why doesn't he show the broken and beaten bodies of children to show the grimness of child abuse? Why doesn't he show the crushed and bloodied bodies of accident fatalities to show the grimness of driving while intoxicated? Why doesn't he show the falling bodies from the World Trade Center to show the grimness of terrorism?

I think Mr. Curley is putting his bachelor of science degree in political science to use. It's either for a political agenda that he published that photograph or for the pure sensationalism of it. Because the American public knows the atrocities of war and the sacrifices men and women have been making for this country since its inception.

In an article on the Associated Press Web site written by John Hanna on Feb. 6, 2009, it is obvious Curley is out to get the military to conform to his demands of allowing, with no restrictions, journalists to "give the public truthful reports about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

While addressing the journalists at the University of Kansas, Curley said, "We are the only force out there to keep the government in check and to hold it accountable."

Curley went on to say, "So now is the time to renegotiate the rules of engagement between the military and the media. Now is the time to insist that the First Amendment does apply to the battlefield."

He went on to add, "This is how you improve the standing of America around the world, by taking the universal human rights we enjoy as Americans and ensuring them for everyone."

Who does he think fought for those basic rights? Who does he think protects those freedoms we enjoy in this country? And what about Joshua Bernard's human rights? Did Curley insure the Bernard's family human rights by exposing to the world their most precious loved one in his final hours, against their wishes?

The reality is Curley used that young Marine's death to make his own posturing political statement to Defense Secretary Gates, to the commanders in the military that he has had dealings with, and to the world. He thinks that he is unstoppable and hides behind the freedom of press. This crosses the line. We cannot allow him or anyone else to get away with this.

National Commander's response The Burnpit blog site lights up after decision by AP