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Cronkite Worried About War Coverage

Walter Cronkite was in San Francisco Friday.

Walter Cronkite was in San Francisco Friday.


Kate Kelly

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During the 1960s, Walter Cronkite gave the nation an unprecedented look at the battles and the casualties of war.

Although Cronkite has retired from CBS News, he is watching the coverage of the war in Iraq very closely. We talked to Cronkite Friday when he was visiting San Francisco, and he said he's worried about what he's seeing.

When Cronkite went to Vietnam, he showed Americans a side of war many had never seen. Unlike reporters who covered the battles in Iraq, Cronkite wasn't embedded.

"We went anywhere we wanted," he said.

While Cronkite praised the work the embedded reporters in Iraq, he doesn't think that viewers were given the whole story. But he admits that the coverage was better than what viewers saw during the Gulf War.

"That was far better than anything we had during the elder Bush's first war down there, where they blacked us out completely. They actually violated our constitution practically for the free press and the freedom of information, in a situation where here our boys and girls are committed to battle, and we're not permitted to know how they are doing."

Cronkite understands the need for some military censorship.

"I believe in military censorship. You can't have people reporting on the disposition of the forces, the size of your forces, the loss you're taking and let the enemy know about that," he said.

But he also says the Bush administration is going too far by not allowing news organizations to take pictures of the caskets returning from Iraq.

"This is really a shame, if not a sin, that this administration sent these people overseas, has committed us to this war, and is unwilling to face the music as to the result of that decision," Cronkite said. "We showed the ceremonies every night during Vietnam."

We asked if the war in Iraq is President Bush's Vietnam.

"Yes, it is his Vietnam. It is similar to Vietnam in that we are now fighting a guerrilla war. We know a little bit more since Vietnam about fighting a guerrilla war, but not really in metropolitan centers, in big towns and big cities. That we didn't have in Vietnam. This is a different kind of war, a subterranean war, coming out of sewers in effect," Cronkite said.


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