- Historic Sites
3.when Generals Sue
Westmoreland and Sharon embarked on costly lawsuits to justify their battlefield judgments. They might have done much better to listen to Mrs. William Tecumseh Sherman.
June/july 1985 | Volume 36, Issue 4
One hundred and twenty years ago there were not many ways for a general to publicize his side of things. He had to rely on the sentiments or sense of fairness of a relatively few editors and publishers. Generals Westmoreland and Sharon have the authority to command and find powerful forums, on the air and in print, from which they can launch their media attacks or counterattacks. For a fraction of the personal cost of presenting a case to twelve jurors and one judge, these military men could take on their presumed adversaries in front of millions of viewers and millions of readers, without the requirements and restraints of courtroom procedure and etiquette. Even plaintiffs who are fortunate enough to win millions of dollars in libel reparations from a jury find that such awards frequently are overturned by appellate courts and occasionally by trial judges. Perhaps generals who feel defamed would be better counseled to pursue their offensives in the press, by using the media as suggested by Mrs. William Tecumseh Sherman. With the costs and uncertainties of courtroom battles, appeals in and through the media might give an aggrieved general more bang for his buck with less chance of self-inflicted wounds.
For a fraction of the cost of presenting a case to twelve jurors and a judge, these military men could take on their presumed adversaries in front of millions.