Saturday, October 21, 2006

Censoring Iraq

I don't usually go for the war topic here, but when someone as pro-war and sympathetic to the military as Michael Yon takes them to task so vociferously, I take notice.

Sorry for the extended quotes. There's lots more there that I left out. Emphasis is mine.


For generations journalists have been allowed to "embed" with various U.S. military units, including infantry outfits. Infantry is perhaps the most dangerous, underpaid, and unglamorous job on the planet. Infantrymen are called grunts, trigger-pullers, cannon fodder, and ground-pounders. Long hours, low pay, and death, death, death. If they survive, they get a welcome-home party. Sometimes. And that's it: Thanks. In World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, reporters were given wide latitude to travel with the infantry, even if few could stand it for long. Up to last year, this war was no different. A journalist could stay out with the infantry for as long as he could take it. I spent most of 2005 in Iraq, and most of that was with infantry units in combat.


I believe now as I did then: The government of the United States has no right to send our people off to war and keep secret that which it has no plausible military reason to keep secret. After all, American blood and treasure is being spent. Americans should know how our soldiers are doing, and what they are doing while wearing our flag. The government has no right to withhold information or to deny access to our combat forces just because that information might anger, frighten, or disturb us.

By allowing only a trickle of news to come out of Iraq, when all involved parties know the flow could be more robust, the Pentagon is doing just that. ...

This information blockade is occurring at the same time that the Pentagon is outsourcing millions of dollars to public relations firms to shape the news. ...

Our military enjoys supremely onesided air and weapons superiority, but this is practically irrelevant in a counterinsurgency where the centers of gravity for the battle are public opinion in Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe, and at home. The enemy trumps our jets and satellites with supremely onesided media superiority. The lowest level terror cells have their own film crews. While al Sahab hums along winning battle after propaganda battle, the bungling gatekeepers at the Combined Press Information Center (CPIC) reciprocate with ridiculous and costly obstacles that deter embedded media covering our forces, ultimately causing harm to only one side: ours. And they get away with it because in any conflict that can be portrayed as U.S. military versus media, the public reflexively sides with the military [editor's note: I think that depends on who you ask].


Although the number of embeds is in constant flux, on the day of Major Pool's report there was approximately one independent journalist for every 75,000 troops. Most embeds last for a matter of days. So, how are our troops doing in Iraq? Afghanistan? Who knows?

The bulk of the reporting on Iraq comes from the "Baghdad News Bureaus"--the mainstream media correspondents who, because of the danger, generally gather information from the safety of their fortresses by using Iraqi stringers. But there are people who would go to war and report on our troops. ... Yet when Walt and I requested embeds, Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, the director of the Combined Press Information Center, dismissed both requests out of hand.

Apparently being openly pro-military and pro-war doesn't tow the line enough. It's bizarre and counterproductive behavior on the Pentagon's part. Surely they know this is a media war, and that public perception is the fulcrum upon which success and failure teeter? Do they?

Maybe this is why Yon can't get approved for an embed:

During the beginning of the war, when some of us called an insurgency an insurgency, our patriotism was questioned. Is there any question now? Are there just a few "dead-enders" that we are still "mopping up"? When I called a civil war a civil war a full year ahead of the media, out came the dogs. When I predicted success in Mosul even while the guns were hot, many mainstream journalists thought I was hallucinating. But these were all things I learned from being embedded for months with our troops. There was tremendous progress in Iraq in 2005, and I reported it, all while warning about the growing civil war that could undermine everything. ...

Early this spring, when I reported from Afghan farms about this year's bumper opium crop, people thought I was using that opium. Now it is common knowledge that the opium trade is fueling a Taliban comeback. Mark this on your calendar: Spring of 2007 will be a bloodbath in Afghanistan for NATO forces. Our British, Canadian, Australian, Dutch, and other allies will be slaughtered in Afghanistan if they dare step off base in the southern provinces, and nobody is screaming at the tops of their media-lungs about the impending disaster. I would not be surprised to see a NATO base overrun in Afghanistan in 2007 with all the soldiers killed or captured. And when it happens, how many will claim they had no idea it was so bad and blame the media for failing to raise the alarm? Here it is: WARNING! Troops in Afghanistan are facing slaughter in 2007!

Yikes. When Yon says something like that, you better listen.

If our military cannot win the easy media battles with writers who are unashamed to say they want to win the war, there is no chance of winning the hearts and minds of Afghans and Iraqis, and both wars will be lost.

Let's hope he's overstating it, but I fear he isn't.


At 22/10/06 03:04, Anonymous rcr said...

Censor this ass fuck.

Whoops I drank too much.


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