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Thread: The Media Aren't the Enemy in Iraq

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default The Media Aren't the Enemy in Iraq

    10 January LA Times commentary - The Media Aren't the Enemy in Iraq by Max Boot.

    ... Administration spokesmen and many soldiers have been saying for years that things aren't so bad in Iraq. "If you just watched what's happening every time there's a bomb going off in Baghdad, you'd think the whole country's aflame," Donald Rumsfeld declared for the umpteenth time just before leaving office. "But you fly over it, and that's just simply not the case." ....

    James Q. Wilson, a longtime professor at Harvard, UCLA and Pepperdine, published a scathing essay in the autumn issue of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal in which he complained that "positive stories about progress in Iraq were just a small fraction of all the broadcasts." He went on to draw an analogy with the Tet offensive in 1968, which the press widely reported as an American failure even though it was a military defeat for North Vietnam...

    Actually, it's not at all clear that the Vietnam War was lost in the media. Reporters were initially gung-ho about the war; they went into opposition only after it became clear that the military and the Johnson administration had no plan for victory.

    In any case, the Tet analogy is dubious, because it is hard to find any signs of U.S. progress in the Iraq conflict comparable to the devastation the Viet Cong suffered in 1968...

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default They may not be the enemy, but they have their own agenda

    Funny thing happened the other day, a reporter came out with a GO. She was a nice enough sort - English working for a French news agency. She took notes as the GO talked to our team, then took more notes as the GO talked to the IA BDE CDR and IA BN CDR. On the way out she asked if we lived here with our counterparts. I told her we did and she lamented that more time could not have been spent discussing it. I gave her my email and invited her to send some questions we could look over.

    In about 2 days I get an email that asks me questions about Baghdad and how I thought troops here would perform there. She even offered to quote me a US training officer from here. I wrote her a nice note back explaining that Baghdad was not my patch, but I'd be happy o tell her about how the IA perform here, and the risks they take, and what its like to live here. I also explained that I don't much care to be quoted as anything but my name - to me that seems more like somthing a politician or a journalist would do.

    It was pretty clear to me that her interests were about selling her story. It had little to do with reporting the news. They may not be the enemy, but they're not on anybody's team but their own - there is no honor amongst thieves. If you have the chance to use the media/press as a tool toward an IO end, then bang away; but I'd be wary of them otherwise. They are 2nd on my not so favorite occupation list - followed closely by an ever increasing list of war profiteering contractors.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    The media has always been interested in making a "splash," from the Spanish-American War on (and most likely before that). They may not be the enemy, but I'd sure as hell not list them as disinterested observers.

    To his credit, Boot goes on to list a fair number of reputable correspondents, among them Ricks and Naylor. But I would tend to question how much their analysis is lost in the flurry of bandwagon reporting and "features" that dominate the MSM. And the blogsphere has its own agendas as well, but at least the majority of them make those agendas pretty clear. MSM still insists that it's "impartial," whatever that may mean these days.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Media

    As a spook on the ground I generally operated on the premise there was nothing positive that could come out of media contacts. i did, however, make certain exceptions when the reporter was willing to stick around for more than a 15 second sound bite. I actively promoted UNAMIR Radio access with my Rwandan military counterparts and the results were generally positive. I talked in depth with Philip Gourevitch as he did the research for his book as well as Reuters stringer who routinely worked the area.

    My 15 seconds of unwanted fame came with a series of articles about me in the Wash Post over a dog; in that case, the media never talked to me. And a French friend also told me that I was on Belgian television as an "advisor and planner" for the Iwawa Island clreaing op in late 95.

    All of that aside, I still contend that we have to treat the media as the battlefield as we do any other factor addressed in METT-T. We cannot change the hills but we do have to consider their effects on our operations, good and bad, You have to do the same with the media.

    Best
    Tom

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    For the golfers among us:

    The media is part of the course. Whining about them doesn't advance "the game" one iota.

    While I detest them in my heart, I think I'd rather have them close then allow them to operate at a distance.

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    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    This goes without stating but basic rule of thumb is that the media is a detriment in a democratic society fighting a counterinsurgency war. It comes with the playing field. Nevertheless, in other wars the U.S.A. has fought, such things as the Sedition Act of 1918 were very useful for censoring the press. This is where I think the Patriot Act doesn't go far enough. Under the radar sedition needs to stop and it should start within Washington D.C. Given enough rope, any politician, on any given day, in front of any given media, will hang himself or herself. The problem is is there isn't a rope to be found within The Beltway. Go figure. Nevertheless, Condoleezza Rice would have received great press had she simply told Barbara Boxer, "Why don't you just go piss on a rope?" Well, I guess she did in her own more professional way. There is more than one way to skin a cat. Wonderful thing; a free press.

    Rice criticizes Boxer's comment

    "In retrospect, gee, I thought single women had come further than that, that the only question is are you making good decisions because you have kids," Rice said in an interview Friday on Fox News

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    Default Stalin Approach

    Of course we're losing in Iraq because of the media, not because we had a bad strategy. Of course all the negative news they reported simply wasn't true, or if it was I would prefer as a free citizen to simply bury my head in the sand and not hold my government accountable. That's how a democracy is supposed to work right?

    Of course if our media didn't discuss the gross misconduct at Abu Ghrab the enemy never would have been aware of it. Al Jazer (sp?) and the internet and rumors on the street don't exist. We should line up all reporters and execute them if they don't report what we tell them to report. How can we have a democracy with a free media telling the people that the government is flawed?

    It was the media that made a big deal out of Clinton and Monica also. What right did they have to undermine our President? Nixon of course had the right to break the law, and the American people never should have heard about it.

    The only thing the media should be reporting in Iraq is the number of schools we build, wells we dig, and evil terrorists we killed. If they did we would win.

    Come on guys, the media is part and parcel of a democracy. If it wasn't for the media we would be staying the course with a flawed policy. Maybe the media is actually having a positive effect?

    Fortunately I am going TDY now, so I won't see your hard hitting counterattacks for a few days :-). I work on stiffening my spine while I'm gone.

    Bill
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 01-13-2007 at 04:51 PM. Reason: grammar

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Rear Guard

    Bill


    Thank you. Got your back.

    best

    Tom

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Legitimate Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Culpeper View Post
    This goes without stating but basic rule of thumb is that the media is a detriment in a democratic society fighting a counterinsurgency war. It comes with the playing field. Nevertheless, in other wars the U.S.A. has fought, such things as the Sedition Act of 1918 were very useful for censoring the press. This is where I think the Patriot Act doesn't go far enough. Under the radar sedition needs to stop and it should start within Washington D.C. Given enough rope, any politician, on any given day, in front of any given media, will hang himself or herself. The problem is is there isn't a rope to be found within The Beltway. Go figure. Nevertheless, Condoleezza Rice would have received great press had she simply told Barbara Boxer, "Why don't you just go piss on a rope?" Well, I guess she did in her own more professional way. There is more than one way to skin a cat. Wonderful thing; a free press.

    Rice criticizes Boxer's comment

    To the contrary, I would thank Boxer. The question was in full:

    Who pays the price?" Boxer asked Rice, who is unmarried and doesn't have children. "I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with immediate family.

    "So who pays the price? The American military and their families."

    I believe that question needs to be asked repeatedly and in a loud voice; certainly it is one I would put in front of every neo-conservative and I would keep asking it until each one finally answered, "Someone besides me."

    Best

    Tom

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    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    Aw, come on, Tom. The questioning was tacky and unprofessional. It was hype and made Boxer look like an idiot. We all know who is paying the ultimate price in this war. Using herself and the Secretary of State as examples takes us back to the America First crowd before WWII when Charles Lindbergh came back from Nazi Germany and stated the rivers flowed with chocolate and women were stay at home moms. The Secretary of State herself has sacrificed more of her life than Boxer has where this war is concerned. Boxer is a pimple on an elephant's ass. She has absolutely nothing to offer in the way of solutions. Just plays the "sedition is patriotic" game by labeling it as dissent. It's pandering and provides aid and comfort to the bad guys. Boxer wants to save the lives of those that are making the ultimate sacrifice? She should bring up such rhetoric in the right time and place. What we need is another George Creel. Some of you guys act like any good news is suspicious and soak up "unidentified sources" and "requested to remain anonymous because the person is not required to speak to the press" as gospel and just. The media is the last place I'm going to look for any facts. And I'm certainly not going to compliment any politician, of any stripe, that is pandering to the press no matter what their position may be. Let's not forget that this is an all volunteer military that is meeting enlistment goals. There is no draft. Boxer needs to ask the volunteers why they are enlisting in the military knowing we are at war. Why are some of these men and women, adults, joining to make the sacrifice? You can't blame the economy or lack of educational opportunities. It is easier to get an equally paying governmental civil job or go to college than it is to enter into today's military. So, the question is, why are these people joining the military during this time of armed conflict? Not whether the Secretary of State, a woman, can make good decisions concerning war because she doesn't have any children. I'm surprised that you seem to condone this sort of political showboating.
    Last edited by Culpeper; 01-13-2007 at 07:29 PM. Reason: Horrible grammar

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Default Boxer IS an idiot

    This was nothing more than political grandstanding as per SOP. The real question that we should be asking is "Who pays the price if we fail in Iraq?" The answer is simple. We all do. The so called neocons have gotten a lot of flack, some of it deserved. They did not understand how to fight this enemy but I give them credit for recognizing that it is an enemy that needs to be fought, and not just with a few cruise missiles. In any case, whether or not we SHOULD have gone to war in Iraq, the fact is we DID. We do not have the luxury of engaging in endless defeatist hand wringing. Yes, the war was initially mishandled by people who alternately thought we would be welcomed as heroes or that we could just intimidate the enemy into submission with our technology and firepower. It took entirely too long but the administration finally took action to correct the mistakes. Everything that I have heard and/read about LTG Petraeus suggests that he is the right man for the job. This is not the time to throw in the towel and run. The price of victory will be great but the price of failure will be far greater.

    SFC W

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Dissent Does Not Equal Sedition

    I support a political debate as envisioned under the Constitution. Debate and dissent is not sedition.

    The grandstanding has gone on on both sides. This was a snap shot taken from one side of the field.

    As for neo-cons recognizing "that it is an enemy that needs to be fought," the problem is a failure to define that enemy and what defeating him requires, what it will cost, and what the results may bring.

    Best

    Tom

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Tom, you said a lot in this statement!

    As for neo-cons recognizing "that it is an enemy that needs to be fought," the problem is a failure to define that enemy and what defeating him requires, what it will cost, and what the results may bring.

    Very well said.

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    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    I support a political debate as envisioned under the Constitution. Debate and dissent is not sedition.

    The grandstanding has gone on on both sides. This was a snap shot taken from one side of the field.

    As for neo-cons recognizing "that it is an enemy that needs to be fought," the problem is a failure to define that enemy and what defeating him requires, what it will cost, and what the results may bring.

    Best

    Tom
    Debate and dissent is loyal opposition. Sedition is making comments that may disrupt the recruitment of the armed forces, among other things.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default ???????

    Quote Originally Posted by Culpeper View Post
    Debate and dissent is loyal opposition. Sedition is making comments that may disrupt the recruitment of the armed forces, among other things.
    Culpepper, by analogy, then, it would have been sedition for anyone to say anything against Hitler in Germany. It appears to me that you are advocating a really dangerous precedent, here. "Democracy", at its root, is rule by the people (actually, tribe - "demos" - but that's nitpicking on my part ).

    At the core of any working democratic system, republican, constitutional monarchy or insane kludge (yeah, I'm thinking of France now), is the idea that everyone should have the ability to say what they think no matter how stupid, pig headed or opposed to entrenched interest groups (like politicians) that may be.

    Nobody with two neurons to rub together and a knowledge of human history would say that "democracy", in any of its forms, is "perfect". In the West, we trace "democracy" back to Athens - such a wonderful "democratic" state where maybe 10% of the population could vote. I should also point out that Athens lost their big war because of demagogues, politicians such as we see today (Alcibiades comes to mind). If Athens had had a free press, then that might not have happened.

    Sedition should, to my mind, be restricted to acts that material damage the social contract of the democracy in which they operate, not to speach acts that oppose what many people disagree with. Once "sedition" is applied to any who disgree with the rulers of the society, then you no longer live in a democracy.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
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    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    Marct

    I couldn't agree with your more but America has used sedition acts to enforce the flow of information or conduct that could be counterproductive to a war effort, national security, or in the best interest of the government to prevent people from weakening the government depending on the circumstance. The bottom line is that national security trumps any Constitutional rights. Sedition acts of the past have been used and later repealed after the need no longer existed. I consider politicians such as Barbara Boxer as being very seditionist and counterproductive to the war effort. It has nothing to do with political debate, dissent, or rights under the First Amendment. In fact, her actions are an abuse of such freedom.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Culpeper,

    Quote Originally Posted by Culpeper View Post
    I couldn't agree with your more but America has used sedition acts to enforce the flow of information or conduct that could be counterproductive to a war effort, national security, or in the best interest of the government to prevent people from weakening the government depending on the circumstance.
    I certainly agree with you that it has been done in the past. This doesn't, to mind, necessarily make it right. After all, the original Continental Congress was sedition as were many of the acts of your founding fathers. It strikes me that there is a balanceing line that floats somewhere between sedition, defined as destroying the social contract, and sedition defined as opposing the government.

    Generally, I find myself opposed to the first, except in extreme circumstances (hey, I'm descended from United Empire Loyalists ). The second, however, I find myself supporting. I don't think that any group of people, and that's all a "government" is, has a monopoly on "truth" <shrug>. Honestly, I do think that a large part of this stems from the US having a de facto two party system where your head of state has to be a member of one of the parties.

    Quote Originally Posted by Culpeper View Post
    The bottom line is that national security trumps any Constitutional rights.
    Honestly, I can't agree with that. Your constitution is your social contract, and one of the few in the world's history that has ever been openly stated and debated. If it guarentees something as a right, then that must hold until your constitution is changed, otherwise you are destroying all of it.

    "National security" means more than just a surface veneer of stability and "business as usual" - it means a security of the soul of the nation and, for the US, the soul of you nation is the constitution as it is held in the hearts and minds of your citizens. Changing your constitution from time to time is a necessary adaptation. Abrogating it is an abomination; it is literally selling your soul for short term "gains".

    We learned this, or at least some of us did, when we interned Japanesse-Canadians. In 1939, Tommy Douglas, then leader of the CCF, tried to warn us of the cost it would have for our national soul, and the government of the time didn't listen. Our "national soul" wasn't built around a constitution but, rather, around a long and often painful history of developing toleration (it goes back to the documents of surrender of Quebec in 1760). We forgot that, and we are still paying the price for it. I would strongly urge you to learn from our mistake, and not make the same one.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by Culpeper View Post
    Marct

    I couldn't agree with your more but America has used sedition acts to enforce the flow of information or conduct that could be counterproductive to a war effort, national security, or in the best interest of the government to prevent people from weakening the government depending on the circumstance. The bottom line is that national security trumps any Constitutional rights. Sedition acts of the past have been used and later repealed after the need no longer existed. I consider politicians such as Barbara Boxer as being very seditionist and counterproductive to the war effort. It has nothing to do with political debate, dissent, or rights under the First Amendment. In fact, her actions are an abuse of such freedom.
    And that's where you lose me if you believe such acts are relevant today in the post-Vietnam era (i.e. where the government flat-out lied to the American people and itself for a decade).

    By the definition you're using here, I would consider the great majority of the leadership of the USG to be guilty of conduct that has been counterproductive to the war effort, to national security and to the strength of the government and of the national health.

    Barbara Boxer employs stupid catch-phrases and political spin, these people employ bad actions and utterly bone-headed decision making.

    We're at war, and thus far these people, as well as the Congress and the courts, have acted like a bunch of rank amateurs, like some sort of sickness that has debilitated leading Americans on all sides of the political spectrum.

    Abuses of freedom is a category Boxer could not dream of being in; unlike the Bush Administration abusing the understandable degree of flexibility and freedom authorized them to protect the nation from terrorists by imprisoning an admitted knucklehead US citizen like Jose Padilla and turning him into a vegetable, all while playing footsie with the court system trying to do everything to keep their baseless case against him away from the Supreme Court.

    Or better yet, the abuse of freedom to be secretive and shroud identities, procedures and evidence in the cloak of national security shown by the CIA leakers who have waged a relentless war against the administration for years now.

    If you're this concerned with Sen. Boxer and others like her, you're staring at a feces-stained wall of the politically stupid while the tsunami of bitter realities and harsh truths prepares to sweep you from behind.

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    What we need is another George Creel.
    Quote Originally Posted by George Creel
    "I did not deny the need of a large measure of secrecy in connection with the war effort, but insisted that the desired results could be obtained without paying the heavy price of a censorship law. With America's youth sailing to fight in foreign lands, leaving families three thousand miles behind them, nothing was more vital than that the people's confidence in the news should not be impaired. Suspicious enough by reason of natural anxieties, a straight-out censorship would inevitably stir demoralizing fears in the heart of every father and mother and open the door to every variety of rumor."
    ...
    "What the Government asks of the Press: Observe secrecy respect to troop movements, ship sailings, convoys, the number of expeditionary forces abroad, the location of bases, the laying of mine fields, information relating to antiaircraft defenses, shipbuilding, and government experiements in war materiel...their enforcement is a matter for the press itself"
    ...
    "After the rules for voluntary censorship, the nexst step, obviously, was the fight for national unity. Here I proceeded on the theory that before a sound steadfast public opinion could be formed, it had to be informed. Not manipulated, not tricked, and not wheedled, but given every fact in the case. A free people were not children to be humored, cajoled, or lollipopped with half-truths for fear that the whole truth might frighten them. The war was not the war of the administration or the private enterprise of the General Staff, but the grim business of a whole people, and every man, woman, and child had to be given a feeling of partnership. What we did, therefore, was to put trained reporters in the War Department, the Navy, and every other agency connected with the war machine, and every day saw an honest, unvarnished report of progress to the people."

    From Rebel At Large, Recollections of Fifty Crowded Years pgs 156-165
    As for who volunteers for the Army, I don't think you can hand-wave away economics. Plenty of kids I knew in high school are in the armed forces for plenty of different reasons, including "I want language training and money for college." It's not mercenary, but there are definitely people for whom it is not "easier to get an equally paying governmental civil job or go to college."

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    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    "National security" means more than just a surface veneer of stability and "business as usual" - it means a security of the soul of the nation and, for the US, the soul of you nation is the constitution as it is held in the hearts and minds of your citizens. Changing your constitution from time to time is a necessary adaptation. Abrogating it is an abomination; it is literally selling your soul for short term "gains".

    We learned this, or at least some of us did, when we interned Japanesse-Canadians. In 1939, Tommy Douglas, then leader of the CCF, tried to warn us of the cost it would have for our national soul, and the government of the time didn't listen. Our "national soul" wasn't built around a constitution but, rather, around a long and often painful history of developing toleration (it goes back to the documents of surrender of Quebec in 1760). We forgot that, and we are still paying the price for it. I would strongly urge you to learn from our mistake, and not make the same one.
    Marc
    Earl Warren makes an interesting case study here, as he was all for japanese internment, but deeply regretted it afterward.

    Quote Originally Posted by Earl Warren
    "Implicit in the term 'national defense' is the notion of defending those values and ideals which set this Nation apart. For almost two centuries, our country has taken singular pride in the democratic ideals enshrined in its Constitution, and the most cherished of those ideals have found expression in the First Amendment. It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties - the freedom of association - which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile.

    US v. Robel (1967)

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