Another Goodie from My Dad, On Iraq Media Coverage
News From Iraq - Military Style
By Thomas D. Segel
February 4, 2005
Captain Deron Huaght is the commander of Forward Operating Base Altun Kapri in Kirkuk, Iraq. His Army unit was among those assigned to convoy ballots to polling places on January 27. Accompanying his unit were Iraqi police, Iraqi Army and Election representative personnel. This is his account of that mission. "We were hit with an IED (Improvised Explosive Device), followed by small arms fire. The firefight lasted over 20 minutes in its entirety. We got four of the insurgency but they destroyed one of our vehicles and wounded one of my men. The police were with us and they fought bravely beside us for the entire engagement. I think, perhaps, if they had not fought as they had, we may have lost much more that day. I walked away from that experience with such a tremendous sense of pride in our policemen. They have often told me that they would gladly take a bullet for us and they would fight to their last breath to prevent the shedding of American blood. That day demonstrated they meant what they said."
The captain called for a Med Evac, a new vehicle and two more soldiers. They arrived and the mission continued. I don't recall reading about that engagement in any American press report.
The media was quick to report a story about a suicide bomber in an ambulance that detonated at a wedding party near Yusufiyah. The bomb killed 18 people and severely wounded several more.
Not reported was that American Marines conducted the scene analysis, which led them to several terrorists who were apprehended. The Marines also visited with the Sheikh of the tribe who told them why he thought the tribe was attacked. "Because I have prepared my tribe to vote", he said. "I have educated them. I have signs throughout my village telling them to vote. We do not want a Shia government, a Sunni government or a Kurdish government. We want a government of the people."
"A government of the people." Where have we heard those words before...and why were they not included in the news accounts?
Some observers feel significant events are never reported because they would detract from a pre conceived media version. If the reality of what happened was reported, it might paint a much different picture than the press wants to present.
Dozens upon dozens of journalists, photographers, and electronic media representatives are crammed into the high-rise hotels of Baghdad. With very few exceptions, these correspondents never venture beyond the protective barriers of the "Green Zone". Instead, they rely upon poorly trained local representatives to bring in the news. This they augment by attending the daily media briefings. The few reporters who do submit positive stories to their publications or news departments claim those accounts are never put in print or prepared for broadcast.
This is not unlike what military correspondents observed in Vietnam. During the early days of that war, there was a Combat Information Bureau (CIB) in Da Nang. Those of us assigned to report on specific units would join an operation and remain with it until the action was complete. Seldom was there a civilian reporter among us. Instead they could be found crowded into the CIB bar just waiting for our copy to be filed.
It was CIB practice to take all stories filed by military correspondents, edit them, duplicate them, and run off multiple copies which would be placed on a table outside the press room. The moment a stack of articles were dropped on that table, civilian correspondents would run and grab them up, then rush off to their rooms to rewrite and file their copy. There were times when the copy was filed as released by the CIB. Periodically only the byline was changed. Most often, however, the copy was rewritten to fit the slant of a particular publication.
In Saigon, another version of that action took place on a regular basis. At any one time there could be between 400 and 600 media correspondents in Vietnam. Most of them could be found lounging around the Carevelle Hotel. Seldom was there more than 10% of their number in the field. But, the daily MACV press briefing, nicknamed "The Five O'clock Follies" was usually standing room only.
It seems those media practices of so long ago, remain standard operating procedure today in Iraq. Reporters are still sending in unobserved reports, secondhand information and only that news which will incite a negative response from American citizens.
In the minds of American service personnel, the lack of positive news coming out of Iraq is almost criminal.
Former Marine Geby San, writing from Tennessee asks, "Did you know that 47 countries have re-established their embassies in Iraq? Did you know that 3100 schools have been renovated, 364 schools are currently being renovated, 263 new schools are under construction and 38 new schools have already been built? Did you know that Iraq now has a counter-terrorist unit and a Commando Battalion?
"Did you know that Iraq's two military academies have reopened and graduated 91 students in January 2005? Did you know the Iraqi Police Service has more than 55,000 fully trained and equipped policy officers? Did you know that in Iraq there are more than 1100 active reconstruction projects and that current projects include the schools, 67 public health clinics, 15 hospitals, 83 railroad stations, 22 oil facilities, 93 water facilities and 69 electrical facilities?
"Did you know the Baghdad Stock Exchange opened in June 2004? Did you know that Iraq has an independent media of 75 radio stations, 10 television stations and 180 newspapers?"
San knows all of this because he obtains his news from the Internet and email out of Iraq.
The American media rarely reports it.
Lieutenant Colonel Tim Ryan of the Army's 1st Calvary Division is another member of our armed forces who feels the media is actively aiding and abetting the enemy. He has made these charges in articles, which have been widely reported, in online publications. Says Ryan, "I just read another distorted and grossly exaggerated story from a major news organization about the "failures" in the war in Iraq. Print and video journalists are covering only a small fraction of the events in Iraq and more often than not, the events they cover are only the bad ones. Many of the journalists making public assessments about the progress of the war are unqualified to do so, given their training and experience. The inaccurate picture they paint has distorted the worldview of daily realities in Iraq. The result is further erosion of international public support for the United States efforts there..."
Marine Lieutenant Colonel Mark Smith, Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment is also a strong media critic. So, strong are his feelings, he has refused to read or view any reports filed by American correspondents. Writing about Election Day in Iraq he said," I'm sorry I could not resist. I just had to know how the media was portraying this day. I tuned in on the dust covered TV in my 'office' at the Forward Operating Base and caught the initial lead in the network broadcast from their main anchor. It took all of about 30 seconds before I hit the maniacal rage stage..."
Smith recounted how the anchor had stated all the details about the violence leading up to that day and then commented that the only way to really report the election was to wait until there were results. Smith further stated "This was an election in the heart of the Arab world, and by an electorate that has not only sustained decades or repression, brutality and terror, but voted under the threat of death, and the actuality of violence....
"The only fact of interest (to the media) was that anyone showed up to vote."
One report from military observers was about a statue, which was viewed by Peter Jennings when he was in Iraq last week. It currently stands outside the Iraqi palace, which is now home of the 4th Infantry Division. The statue was created by an artist named Kalat, who for years had been forced to make the many bronze busts of Saddam that were seen everywhere in Baghdad. Kalat was so grateful to the Americans for his liberation that he melted down three busts of Saddam and created a memorial to the American soldiers. It depicts a kneeling soldier as he mourns a fallen comrade in arms. To his left is a small Iraqi girl giving him comfort as he knees.
I never saw this in any of Peter Jennings reports.
Colonel Charles Revie writes from New Mexico about a story he heard via email.. A little Iraqi girl sat in the middle of a road and stopped an American motorized unit. She clutched her Teddy Bear and refused to move, preventing the passage of this patrol. One of the soldiers recognized the little girl. He had given her the bear. He went to speak with her and she then moved to show him a land mine that would have exploded as the tires rolled over the spot where it was buried.
We didn't see that story on the evening news.
As the election was about to take its place in history, Dan Rather and his CBS News team visited Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment from Madison, Wisconsin...now serving in Lutufiyah, Iraq. The Marines of that company claim he kept trying to bait them with loaded questions, but they kept putting it back in his face. The best came when he asked why they didn't like the media. One Marine responded, "You idiots make the terrorists look like giants whenever they explode a bomb. They're not; they're nothing but a bunch of cowards. But they do know that you guys in the press will eventually beat down public opinion with your constant focus on only the negative." The email says Rather just looked at them with a scrunched up face and left. The Marines concluded the note saying none of them were sad to see him and his traveling circus hit the road.
Dan Rather will most likely edit those comments from any report we see on CBS.
Walton Wells, N0RLC
LT USN (ret)
Mobile Notary, CSA
ARES D 15 Red Cross Liasion
1st V.P. American Federation of Mineral Societies
Immediate Past President Rocky Mountian Federation of Minersl Societies