Bill Roggio is back in Iraq on his latest embed tour, and his first post is already up. Read it, and you'll note a recurring theme: military personnel in Iraq are fed up with press coverage of the war. To a person, they note the media's failure to report any progress in the conflict, and the deliberate distortion of official reports, ranging from David Kay's assessment of Iraqi WMD, to the recent Marine intelligence assessment of the situation in Al-Anbar Province.
If you've ever wondered what the military and defense contractors think of the "press," Mr. Roggio sums it up rather nicely:
"In nearly every conversation, the soldiers, Marines and contractors expressed they were upset with the coverage of the war in Iraq in general, and the public perception of the daily situation on the ground. The felt the media was there to sensationalize the news, and several stated some reporters were only interested in “blood and guts.” They freely admitted the obstacles in front of them in Iraq. Most recognized that while we are winning the war on the battlefield, albeit with difficulties in some areas, we are losing the information war. They felt the media had abandoned them."
Roggio also relates a vignette from Landing Zone (LZ) Washington, inside Baghdad's Green Zone. Waiting for a flight to Fallujah, Roggio observed two sergeants watching President Bush announce that there would be no "graceful exit" from Iraq, and that we would stay until the job is finished. According to Mr. Roggio, the two NCOs cheered loudly at the president's announcement. Then, he says, they scoffed at a CNN report from Iraq and jeered at the "balcony" reporting that ended the segment.
Come to think of it, when's the last time you saw an American TV reporter do a "stand up" from a U.S. military post in Iraq, or with American troops in the field? Not recently (at least in my memory) and embed totals from the theater tend to confirm that assessment. A couple of months ago, there were a total of nine journalists embedded with U.S. units in Iraq, and many of those were from publications that specialize in military matters--not MSM outlets.
From what I can gather, many MSM reporters in Iraq rely on Iraqi stringers, and file their reports from the relative comfort (and safety) of their hotels. This technique has resulted in recent stories that were woefully incorrect (at best) and outright lies, at worst. Needless to
say, media fabrications describing the "burning" of Sunni mosques and worshippers (from the Associated Press) and accounts of phony airstrikes (courtesy of the LA Times) will only deepen the divide between journalists and the military. In fact, the animus between soldiers and scribblers is so bad that Bill Roggio says he tries to hide his press badge "whenever I can get away with it." And Roggio is one of new breed of independent reporters/bloggers who is genuinely respected in military circles. We can only imagine what the troops think of the local rep from The New York Times.
And the sad thing is that when the backlash comes - and it will, when this generation of troops leaves the military and some of them enter politics - the press (in the broadest sense of that word) will have only itself to blame.
It's not so much the ignorance and stupidity of the press, but much much more the willfull ignorance and deliberate stupidity.
And that's a shame: when the press fails, it diminishes us all.
But then again, that may well be the whole point.
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