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Part V - The Fool Court Press
The Washington Post takes a quick look at the situation in Iraq and declares it a failure:
"We don't want to take responsibility; we don't want it," said Amar Mana, 27, an Iraqi private whose forehead was grazed by a bullet during an insurgent attack in November. "Here, no way. The way the situation is, we wouldn't be ready to take responsibility for a thousand years."That's quite a scoop - a private in any army anywhere usually never complains about anything.
The full article is, of course, a case of the Post looking at a glass and declaring it half empty. If they reported on the construction of a house the way they do on the training of the Iraqi army they would bemoan the lack of quality shingles at about the time the truck pulled up to pour the foundation.
But so far in spite of the best efforts of the largest newspaper in their nation's capitol the American GIs in Iraq won't quit.
The above article prompted a letter to the editor from Michael Fumento.
Having read countless articles on the Iraq war and having just been an embedded reporter in Anbar province, I can say with some authority that the June 10 front-page article "Building Iraq's Army: Mission Improbable" is the most miserably biased piece I've seen on the conflict.
A recurrent theme was that the Iraqis get inferior and even downright dangerous equipment. For example: "The Americans drove fully enclosed armored Humvees, the Iraqis open-backed Humvees with benches, the sides of which were protected by plating the equivalent of a flak jacket." It continued, "As an American reporter climbed in with the Iraqis, the U.S. soldiers watched in bemused horror. 'You might be riding home alone,' one soldier said to the other reporter. 'Is he riding in the back of that?' asked another. 'I'll be over here praying.' "
Sorry, but when I rode through the improving but still hostile city of Fallujah, I also chose an open-backed Humvee -- horrifying nobody. Both types of Humvee provide protection against AK-47 rounds but are readily penetrated by rocket-propelled grenades and can be demolished by a decent-sized, improvised explosive device. The advantage of the open-backed Humvee is that if fired on you can instantly just pop up and fire back, without the need for the vehicle to stop (dangerous in an ambush) and without clambering out and exposing your whole body instead of exposing just enough to peer out and fire.
As long as we're on the topic of armor for the umpteenth time over the past year, let's revisit Michael Yon. He's about to meet with Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Jeffrey Mellinger, the top enlisted person in Iraq.
As I approached, one soldier in particular took a step toward me in a way that spoke loudly and said, Alpha. In a synchronicity that still registers as bizarre to me, the soldier was Jeffrey Mellinger, the Command Sergeant Major for Coalition Forces in Iraq, the very man I most wanted to meet.You can read about that trip here.
My passport was already opened to the page?I did not yet have an ID card?and I handed it over to him, saying I am an author and wanted to go to Tikrit. I asked if he was headed that way. "You aren't one of those journalists who will sit in a Baghdad hotel room and write about the war, are you?" It was as much accusation as question.
"Sergeant Major," I said, "I didn't come to Iraq to hang out in a hotel. I am trying to get to Tikrit."
"We're going to Mosul."
"Can I hitch a ride?"
The translation of his answer was "no," but it wasn't a complete shut out. He gave me his card, saying I should contact him if I wanted to get out and see what the soldiers are really facing out there. "I'll be in contact," I said, and I asked to take a photo and he okayed, then a soldier instructed me to wait while he covered the map.
Given that I came to Iraq to see what is really going on, the man I needed to meet was not a General, but CSM Mellinger.
Over the course of the intervening six months after our impromptu meeting in front of the mess hall, I sometimes contacted CSM Mellinger, asking if I could ride around Iraq with him. He is known to tool around Iraq much like Sam Walton tooled around in his pickup, only CSM Mellinger traverses the incredibly treacherous roads in a Humvee.
I contacted CSM Mellinger after successful Iraqi elections in January, figuring he might be in a good mood. The translation of his response was "no." Time went on, and I contacted him a few more times, always the same "no" embedded in his response.
Finally, while I was eating lukewarm food on the hood a Humvee in Mosul, all of a sudden . . . grace my eyes . . . I looked over my shoulder and saw CSM Mellinger again. I wasted little time making a personal request, and after LTC Kurilla, who was also standing there, vouched for me, I got a "maybe." More emails and more "maybes," until the day came . . . about five days ago . . . when CSM Mellinger had driven just near Mosul to Tal Afar?in his Humvee for chrissakes?to check out his soldiers who were fighting in the area. He happened to be passing through Mosul on the way back to Baghdad, so, finally, after six months of asking, he allowed me to tag along.
Sometime after getting that news, I learned that while I am the first "journalist" to travel with CSM Mellinger, I am not the first he invited. Two reporters to whom he extended similar invites around election time, both backed out when they realized they would be traveling in a Humvee.
As the number of non-traditional "reporters" in Iraq continues to grow the ability of mainstream reporters to tilt the news to fit their (or their owners) requirements without anyone noticing will continue to rise.
But "spin" is one thing - and outright misrepresentation of quotes from those on the ground is another - an altogether different and completely unforgivable lack of professional ethics. That's why when I read the quotes of US military people ion the WaPo piece above I was reminded of a blog entry by CPT Chuck Ziegenfuss, at the time a company commander in Iraq:
The ?journalist? from the Boston globe who quoted me only included 1/100th of what I said.That's one example of misusing a quote, and a few days later MilBlogger GruntDoc provided another when a friend of his was outraged at her treatment by CNN. Here are some quotes from CNN's story on Lt. Kathleen Whitney.
Here?s the part where I?m quoted:Last week, in the charred army headquarters in Abarra, Captain Charles Ziegenfuss, who commands a First Infantry Division tank company attached to the brigade, sat smoking for an hour with a tribal sheik. He was trying to persuade him to oust another man from an elected regional council for suspected arms trafficking. Sheik Adnan al-Tamimi, a longtime US ally, was reluctant, and kept reminding Ziegenfuss that an Iraqi court declared the man innocent.Here?s the rest of the story. The man I was trying to get sheik Adnan to oust was another Sheik named Amer. Amer is dirty. I had many intel reports that Amer had met with and associated with AIF, some of whom are on our most wanted list. Amer?s son was caught with a rocket on the Election Day. He vouched for his son (a big deal over here) and we released him to his father. The night we released his son, one of our High Value Targets (I can?t say who) went to a welcome home party at Amer?s house.
''He's got a valid point," Ziegenfuss said, leaving the meeting after Tamimi promised to think about it.
Based on these intel reports, I decided to raid Amer?s house. Over here, each household is allowed 1 AK per adult male. 30 rounds of ammunition, no more. As a member of my local governing council, he was afforded no special privileges. In his house, this is what I found. Not pictured, was the straw that broke the camel?s back, a fragmentation grenade. As culturally sensitive as I am, (cough) I thought it best to let Amer receive justice by the Iraqi courts. I had the IA soldiers detain him and take him to the police. Amer went away for about a month, and bought his way out of jail. Never saw a judge. He was never declared innocent by an Iraqi court.
When I was talking to Sheik Adnan, (and yes, smoking cigarettes, evil me) we were discussing how to remove him from the city council. I wasn?t trying to get him to start an ouster. I was giving him a civics lesson. I was discussing the finer points of impeachment, and votes of no confidence. I would later leave the decision up to the city council, telling them simply that a) the decision was theirs to make, after being presented with the evidence, and b) that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, while the friend of my enemy is my enemy. (What I was getting at was that if Amer stayed, I would leave? and take my checkbook with me.)
Sheikh Adnan is indeed a very powerful Sheikh, and a man I respect. We frequently meet before the city council meeting to discuss what we are going to bring up in the meeting. Nothing gets accomplished in the big meeting; it?s all about the back room deals here. The way he acts towards me in the big meeting is different than the small meeting. In the city council meeting, he is polite and respectful, but distant. In the one-on-one, we are friends. The reporter sat in on the one-on-one, what she didn?t understand (and never bothered to ask) was the context of our discussion. Sheikh Adnan was the first person to warn me about other members of the council, reminding me that not everyone who wears a headdress was a sheikh.
Adnan?s point was that Amer was released by the system, and everyone would think that he beat the rap, so why remove him from the council? I explained to him that Amer?s activities (not the best kept secret in the world) and his associates sent the wrong message to the people, and city council should not support someone with known terrorist ties. Adnan fully agreed.
More Follow up (something MSM fails to do as well)
Adnan, in another closed door meeting, procured the resignation of Sheik Amer from the city council. A day later, there were two separate IED attacks on the road near Amer?s house, in the town where he is the local Sheikh. I sent a patrol to Amer?s house, where we found Amer and his brother. We tested them both for explosive residue with an EXSPRAY kit. Wouldn?t you know, they both came up scorching hot for explosives group B.
The good Sheikh and his brother now currently reside in Abu Gharib. And there hasn?t been an IED on that road since. I was trying to force the hand of the city council. Of course I was. They have to be shown the way to the light, there ha never been a government like this here before, ever. I had to show them what an upstanding group of councilmen should do. I could have very easily arrested Amer at the city council meeting, or just told the city council that he was fired. I have that authority. I could, but I chose not to. I let them determine their way, and they very well could have voted against me. I would have left (taking the $ with me) and they would have had to come grovel to me, and I would have returned, having made my point.
But the local government chose the right thing to do. I figure it was a success all around.
Her finely honed commitment to honor, duty and patriotism is being matched against her equally strong instincts of motherhood and family. At the same time, she has deep feelings of disillusionment with the Army, to which she owes so much allegiance and gratitude, for changing the rules.And here's Lt Whitney's response:
Whitney and tens of thousands of reservists around the country were finding out that the Army had instituted a stop-loss provision. The Army was freezing reservists in place, allowing no resignations and no voluntary transfers to inactive status.
Her initial anger was soon crowded out by worry. How, she frets, can she leave Matthew? If she were sent overseas, "Mom would have to take over with Matthew full time since Joe works 16-hour days. He isn't available."
As Whitney talks about the impact on her family, a trace of anger returns to her voice.
"This isn't just my life that is being disrupted; it is the whole family," she says. "Everyone in the family is upset and worried."
"Call-up could come at any time," she said. "It could be as short as 72 hours' notice, although the rotations lately have had more notice than that."
If the call comes, she'll be gone for a year. Right now, that's half of her son's life.
"I'm just worried that when I leave Matthew will feel abandoned because his mom just disappeared. I worry that my absence will affect our bonding," Whitney says.
My name is Kathleen Whitney and I am an emergency room nurse and a 1st Lieutenant in the Army reserve. A few weeks ago I was featured in a story on CNN.com. Let me start out by saying that the author of that article was my aunt, and I don't believe she would ever intentionally misrepresent me. However by the time the story got through the editors there was a definite liberal slant to it.Just a couple examples you might want to keep in mind next time you hear reporters (or anyone else) quoting GIs in Iraq - like in the Washington Post story above.
It is true that my plan when I became an officer was to remain in an army reserve unit until I became pregnant and then transfer to the IRR - (Inactive ready reserve) until my children were old enough to understand if I had to be deployed. So when I got the letter calling me out of the IRR it was quite a shock and I was a little angry. However what the article does not go on to say is that after much worrying and soul searching I came to this conclusion. It's a war. It wasn't meant to be easy on anyone. Many, countless people have already sacrificed more than I have even begun to. So right now my family and I just focus on ways to make things easier on my little boy, Matthew, if I do have to deploy somewhere. I feel no animosity towards the military or President Bush for recalling me and others out of the IRR. The needs of the country have to come first. And part of being a good parent, I think, means helping to make the world a better place for our children. I remember Sept. 11. I hope Matthew never lives to see another day like that - where Americans are attacked on our own soil.
One other thing that they neglected to mention in the article which I talked about in my interview was the guilt I already feel for not having been deployed. When I was eight months pregnant my unit deployed to Baghdad, Iraq. Of course there was no way I could have gone with them at eight months pregnant. So I kept in touch with them as best I could via e-mail and care packages. It never slipped my mind that while I was sitting in my air conditioned house rocking my new baby, my unit- the people I trained with, some of my best friends- were baking in the hot desert, enduring untold hardships. It is hard to describe the feeling I had then, and still have now. If I don't deploy I am abandoning my country and my unit. If I do deploy I am abandoning my family. I am truly torn. In the end if I am called to go, I will go and be happy to serve. But I can not volunteer. Because me volunteering would also mean volunteering my mother to take care of my child full time. It would also mean volunteering my child to do without one of his parents for a year a more.
I hope that this rebuttal or addendum to the CNN article will clear up any questions of my loyalty that may have been brought up. Only time can tell what will happen from here.
Speaking of the Boston Globe, here's their latest soldier quote:
The top US military commander in the Middle East warned yesterday that troops are questioning whether the American public supports the Iraq war and implored political leaders to engage in a frank discussion about how to keep the country behind a mission that the armed forces believe is ''a war worth fighting."We'll see if the General's words get positive results, but the enemy we face might see it as a hopeful sign of weakness, and attack with even more ferocity.
Army General John Abizaid said that without that support, the military's ability to prevail against Iraqi insurgents and Islamic extremists will be at serious risk.
''When I look back here, at what I see is happening in Washington, within the Beltway, I've never seen the lack of [public] confidence greater," Abizaid told the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he testified along with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Air Force General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army General George Casey, the commander of coalition troops in Iraq. The group also appeared before the House Armed Services Committee.
''I can tell you that when my soldiers ask me the question whether or not they've got support from the American people . . . that worries me," Abizaid told senators. ''And they're starting to do that. And when the people that we're training, Iraqis and Afghans, start asking me whether or not we have the staying power to stick with them, that worries me, too."
He warned lawmakers that ''American soldiers can't win the war without your support, and without the support of our people."
Senator Kennedy, from the same story:
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, ticked off a litany of what he called the administration's ''gross errors and mistakes" and accused the Pentagon chief of leading the United States into a ''quagmire."
''This war has been consistently and grossly mismanaged," Kennedy said, repeating his calls for Rumsfeld's resignation. ''And we are now in a seemingly intractable quagmire."
''Well, that is quite a statement," Rumsfeld responded. ''There isn't a person at this table who agrees with you that we're in a quagmire and that there's no end in sight."
He also said that President Bush had rejected his resignation offers and ''that's his call."
Later in the hearing, however, the Senate's most senior member, Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, scolded Rumsfeld, telling him ''to get off his high horse" and stop lecturing the Congress.
After the hearing, Kennedy took to the Senate floor to press his point. ''It is time for Rumsfeld to take off his rose-colored glasses," Kennedy said. ''It is time to level with the American people instead of painting a rosy picture."
Citing some of Rumsfeld's assessments, Kennedy asked: ''What planet is he on? Perhaps he is still in the mission-accomplished world," a reference to the banner behind Bush in May 2003, when the president declared major combat operations had ended.
The Senator can be forgiven if, like so many American's, he only knows of Iraq what he reads on the papers or sees on TV. But he's also in a shrinking minority:
A large portion of the American people seem to have taken the adage "Don't believe everything you read" to heart. A recent Penn survey reported that only 45 percent of the general public believes everything printed in newspapers and reported by TV news.
The study -- conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center -- found a large gap between the mindset of journalists and that of the public at large.
However, the most glaring differences between journalists and the general public were seen in their trust of the facts themselves.
Although 48 percent of the laymen surveyed believed that news organizations were often inaccurate, only 11 percent of journalists believed the same.
I usually assign the blame for any failures in a news report to the author of said report - but I acknowledge that the editor could be the true culprit. (See Kathleen Whitney's story above.)
I emphasized that media reformers should not attack individual journalists and instead should focus on how a concentrated corporate media system is corrupting journalism. I always make this point with media reformers and independent media journalists because, in my experience, calls for media reform sometimes degenerate into deriding individual journalists.See - it's not the individuals who are responsible for their actions - it's the corrupt corporate media.
Like most Americans at this point you might be wondering "Who is Linda Foley?"
She's the president of the Newspaper Guild, a group described thusly on their home page:
Founded as a print journalists' union, the Guild today is primarily a media union whose members are diverse in their occupations, but who share the view that the best working conditions are achieved by people who have a say in their workplace.In short, they are all the people you shouldn't hold responsible for what they do.
We are on-line writers and designers, reporters, editorial assistants, photographers, editors, paginators, editorial artists, correspondents, typographers, advertising sales people, marketing, information systems specialists, commercial artists, technicians, accountants, business, customer service reps, drivers, maintenance, mail room, pressroom, telephone operators, circulation and distribution staff.
President Foley is now better known for her recent claim that US Troops are targeting and killing journalists in Iraq. You can see video of that speech here.
And you can read President Foley's comments on that video here:
I gave one interview, to Editor & Publisher, figuring it was a credible publication that reached most Guild members in one way or another. But my cold shoulder didn?t stop the right-wing media machine from blowing its whistle and barreling down the tracks anyway. They had a video webcast clip of my remarks, and they could air them!As opposed to simply reporting or merely paraphrasing them.
Foley, in spite of (or because of) her remarks, was re-elected to her post this week. Ironically she closes her "in your face, right wing nutjobs" post with this:
That?s why I hope Americans who actually care about democratic discourse and public debate will support independent, fact-based journalism and professional journalists who strive to practice it. Please refrain from attacking reporters who are trying to get to the truth. Focus instead on re-creating a media climate where a future Woodward & Bernstein can investigate abuse and speak truth to power without fear of government retribution or an orchestrated deluge of hate mail calling for their demise.Ironic, because like most dinosaurs she doesn't see the meteor coming. Independent, fact-based journalism is indeed beginning a comeback, and it might just sweep those corrupt corporate media types away.
"That's quite a scoop - a private in any army anywhere usually never complains about anything."
Great. Another blog I can't drink or eat anything while reading for fear of keyboard destruction appears on the list. :)Posted by Patrick Chester at June 24, 2005 10:52 PM
What a fine bit of blogging Greyhawk. I can't remember reading better on the "real" news from Iraq. Thanks.Posted by GM Roper at June 24, 2005 10:59 PM
Thank you, sir.
I have been 'disconnected' for a few hours and posted up to the Open Post without realizing your link was here.
Much appreciated, sir. Well said on all points & thanks for a great bit of blogging.
I concur with GM Roper.
Cheers.Posted by USMC_Vet at June 24, 2005 11:07 PM
My take is that if Kerry had won the election
and the situation in Iraq is the same as it
is today, Kennedy, the NY Times, the WAPO
and the rest of the Liberal media would be
telling us how well things are going there.
Greyhawk - the only thing people that are smart enough to read MilBlogs can do to COUNTER the negative MSM is to adopt soldiers and show them our support so they NEVER have to question it. I wish I were rich because I would adopt EVERY soldier myself...but I am not...I can only adopt 3-4 at a time and have done so for the better part of 2 years. I wish EVERY American would do it - it would make a big impact.Posted by Kathleen A at June 25, 2005 02:48 AM
Focus instead on re-creating a media climate where a future Woodward & Bernstein can investigate abuse and speak truth to power without fear of government retribution or an orchestrated deluge of hate mail calling for their demise.
Linda Foley's so-called apology was the most insulting thing I've ever read. It's certainly no surprise that she brings up Woodward and Bernstein. I wonder if they admit to themselves that they've set a single standard in journalism today: kill a presidency and make your bones, it's the only prize worth your time. Since their day, every president has been the target of unrelenting muck raking, and it doesn't even matter what their political stance is.
And if I hear one more person use that godawful, self-righteous phrase "speak truth to power", I will puke.
Do a search and find the old article (I read it when it was new, in the 1960s) "You Can Trust The Communists (to be Communists)" by Dr Fred C. Schwartz (one site is here: "www.schwarzreport.org/ycttable.htm")
The people running MSM do not love America. They consider any lies made to advance their cause are more truthful than any real truths that show the goodness and rightness of our cause.
It has been unpopular to call these evil, misbegotten creatures what they are; but since George Bush's "unredefeat" last November, they recognize their time is short.
Just as the Nazi-remnants in headscarves are immolating themselves (along with the innocent and the brave) in Baghdad, those who still worship Lenin, Stalin, Marx, and Engels are trying to destroy us from within.
Be strong and educate those around you!Posted by jtb-in-texas at June 27, 2005 11:38 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(7) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)