Tony Blankley has a winner of an article today in which he examines the effect the media’s anti-war spin has on our military’s morale, effectiveness, and safety. For example, the media are ready and willing to think the worst about the troops, even if the allegations are just that: allegations:
But what further cuts is to listen to media people casually perpetrate blood libel against not just the still-presumed-innocent Marines but against our services more generally. To see the gleam in the eyes of reporters happily cackling on about “other possible incidents” — about which they know not whether they even exist — is to be filled with a fury that we have a system of journalism that permits people with such mentalities to poison the minds of the world with their malice.
Of course, of course, if an American soldier, sailor, marine or airman is found by a court martial made up of seasoned officers with a practical understanding of the exigencies of combat to have violated the standards of combat he or she must face American military justice. But in time of war, there is no reason why military censorship should not be enforced to shroud the carrying out of justice from the eager eyes and ears of enemy propagandists — domestic and foreign.
Pending the implementation of such a policy, journalists should sharply limit their reporting to the bare established facts, preferably reported once on page A 36. (You know, the way they report Democratic Party scandals.)
But in the lunatic asylum which is today’s America-at-war journalism, one possibly unfortunate event opens a flood gate of over-reporting, mis-reporting and just plain lying. Nothing is too harsh or too untrue to say about our military by these [fill in the blank].
The media’s willingness to think the worst of our troops may be even more damaging than even Tony Blankley thought. According to a US military officer who sent an e-mail to James Taranto at Opinion Journal, journalists are being used and manipulated by insurgents:
I am currently stationed here in Iraq and have been here for the past 11 months; I am an adviser to the Iraqis and meet them on a daily basis. I have been in many locations in the country and am involved on a daily basis together with the Iraqis fighting the insurgency.
The media manipulation by the insurgents is brilliant and extremely effective. The press has become a puppet for the insurgents; the insurgents know exactly what they are doing with these “massacres” (quoted here because the investigation has not been completed, nor have any charges been filed) and the political nightmare they will cause the current administration. Bodies are produced for film, and there is zero fact-checking by the media–the media eat up this “news” like there is no tomorrow. A couple of hundred bucks paid by the insurgents to a few guys/ladies in the town where this “massacre” occurred to make up some bad news and pine for the BBC’s or CBS’s or whoever’s cameras is a nice month’s salary for many and money well spent by the insurgency.
All the Arabs (Sunni and Shia), Kurds and Chaldeans I have come to know well here will tell you that Arabs are emotional people who tend to exaggerate. A lot. Experience has shown that “50 insurgents hiding out in XX location” is five, at most 10. “Three hundred dead” at the morgue is at most 40. “A huge cache with WMD” is 45-50 weapons. It is a cultural norm and is accepted over here as a norm. It is reported in the West as fact. With no fact-checking.
When we convoy, all in the town/village know when and where there is a bomb/IED/VBIED that is targeting coalition forces. This is not so true in Baghdad, but in the outlying towns all know. What is the culpability for those people in the village/town? Would the Marines be guilty in the U.S. under the same circumstances?
I do not know whether or not the Marines are guilty. A Marine’s job is to “close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver,” and I can guarantee its effectiveness. But the insurgents have the ear of the press. Hopefully the politics will be put aside for the investigation and the facts will be told, whatever they may be.
Update: J.R. Dunn writes in The American Thinker about how the insurgents are creating these “massacres” which they then blame on the American military:
The war in Iraq is a low-level insurrection slowly – all too slowly – grinding to a halt. The insurgents have attempted to take and hold ground in cities like Tal Afar and Fallujah, and have failed. They have attempted to stop the electoral process through intimidation, and have failed. They have attempted to split the country through civil war, and have failed. Few tactics remain to them, one of which is to take a page from the Vietnam playbook and work the media, hoping that upheaval in the U.S. itself will win their war for them. And that requires a My Lai.
So they’ve been trying to arrange one. To create the conditions for a massacre. Ambushing Coalition troops from houses full of helpless, unarmed civilians, hoping that the soldiers would respond with all the firepower at their command, and exposing the resulting carnage to the full glare of the international media. That was the plan at Ishaqi, and it might have worked if the shooter hadn’t survived. That was also the plan at Haditha–and somebody walked right into it. Some young men angered beyond rationality at seeing a friend blown in half by an IED, driven by impulses we will never know, stormed the nearest homes to kill not only the lone terrorist (according to the account in Time, there were two AK-47s but only one gunman), but everyone else as well–man, woman, and child.
If more proof is needed, consider the May 30 USA Today story in which Marine Captain Andrew Del Gaudio described coming under machine-gun fire this past April after an IED killed four of his men. As he was about to engage, he saw that the enemy had placed a line of children in front of the gun, with two video cameras ready to film them as they were shot down. Del Gaudio held his fire, and was injured by the next rounds. His troops flanked the machine-gun nest before attacking, and the children survived. (Further testimony along the same lines in offered in the Wall Street Journal’s June 6 “Best of the Web Today” by a unnamed officer under the heading “Letter from Iraq”.)
Clearly, there is no conceivable way to exaggerate the sheer viciousness of the fanatic Islamist.
And the media need to hold their fire on Haditha until all the facts are in.