July 5, 2007

Iraq Veterans Write

The polls tell us that, without qualification, or with one qualifier or another, about 70% of Americans have a negative view of the Iraq campaign...(It is not known if the follow-up question, "Where would you prefer to fight the war against al Qaeda?" was asked.)

In any event, July 4 provided the occasion for a collection of U.S. servicemen to weigh in on "Why We Fight", at NRO. With all the political rhetoric about funding and benchmarks and non-binding resolutions flying about, it was sobering to read the clear articulation of simple truths by some of the people closest to the front lines. Call it a timely reminder.

Like this from Iraq veteran, Major Eric Egland:

Sometimes, we must fight. We do so because freedom is worth defending, and tyranny must be opposed. America maintains a special role in defending freedom because our country does not just believe in freedom — freedom is our founding principle, our essence. Further, we live in the world’s oldest democracy and have been blessed with the strength to protect our freedoms and to help others who seek the same. The miracle of America is that we do not use our power to take away the freedom of others, as is the pattern of nations throughout history.

...or this from his wife, Ania Egland, a Polish native;

...what helped me was the knowledge that Eric was part of something important. The liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan is important to the people of the United States, to the people of those countries, and to freedom-loving people around the world.

My family deeply understands that “Freedom isn’t free.” I grew up under Communism. My parents suffered under Nazi rule. These experiences taught us the sad fact that some people, when given the opportunity, will enslave others — and sometimes, only military strength can stop them.

Just as the Allies liberated Europe from the Nazis, and Western military strength made the Soviet Wall crumble, Iraq and Afghanistan were ruled by brutal dictatorships until liberated by the US and its allies.

I have lived under tyranny, and I despise it. Whether it masquerades as Fascism, Communism, or Islamic radicalism, it remains tyranny.

Two other items from the front lines of the war:

A recent Michael Yon dispatch from Iraq, "Bless the Beats and Children", is a stunning photo-essay of the aftermath of a massacre in an Iraqi village. But unlike the unverified decapitation story, which was picked up by numerous mainstream news organs, this was more of a "dog bites man" story of al Qaeda murderousness, hence the media's self-censoring refusal to report it. Anyway, please check it out, and then go to Yon's follow-up post for more details.

Michael Yon is the anti-Reuters. That he continues to kick their mainstream ass in the arena of war journalism must be tremendously satisfying to many others besides me.

Jeff Goldstein reacts to the non-interest in Yon's legitimate scoop, and quotes one anonymous mainstream journalist who admits that it's because they are humiliated over their powerlessness and inability to effectively address tyranny via their preferred, non-military devices.

And on the subject of old media war coverage, a knockout piece by another U.S. soldier in Iraq, one Matt Sanchez, also appeared today at NRO. Among other things, he talks of how the insurgents have learned that it helps to lead the news with coalition deaths if you can provide the media with video of your fiery ambushes. So they take great pains to film them...for American evening news watchers as well as for jihadi recruitment web sites. This media gives useful idiots a bad name. Read it all, but here's a sample:

The media has a conflict of values. A successful insurgent will always get more recognition than a successful infantryman — no matter how many successful infantrymen there are. In an arm-wrestling match between progress and propaganda, the reward of media coverage for bad behavior has a Pavlovian effect on attention-seeking terrorists.

On my trip north, our convoy was hit by an IED. An explosion is a split-second flash, something you could miss if you blink. Like attempting to photograph a lightning bolt when the sky is clear, explosions are tricky to catch on film. You have to point at the right place in the right moment, and even then you’d need luck. Unless, of course, you know when, where, and how the bomb is about to go off.

Unlike any other player on the board, the press has no oversight, no mandate, few penalties, and even fewer consequences. In Fallujah, a suicide bomber kills one victim, but an “unidentified police officer” reports 20 dead and just as many casualties. Because there are not enough reporters on the ground, too many bureaus have outsourced both their reporting and standards to third-party “stringers” whose spectacular videos of explosions and inflated body counts have shown up on both jihadist recruiting sites and American television screens, simultaneously. These hacks-for-hire literally get more bucks for each bang.

Nothing happens? No cash from an image-driven 24-hour news cycle. Have the media made mistakes in coverage? No doubt. But in an industry where some claim to be “keeping them honest,” there’s no penalty for false or misleading reports. With accountability about as valid as last week’s newspaper, reporters still maintain carte blanche in their work. For a group that habitually decries abuse of power and unilateralism, who watches the watchmen?

Posted by dan at July 5, 2007 6:28 PM