Wed 'Em and Embed 'Em
The American Media, watchdog of our freedom and liberty, might as well be named Tommy.
As in 'blind, deaf and dumb'?
Never mind. If you haven't got it by now, I'll have to try another metaphor.
Warner Brothers cartoons used to feature Foghorn Leghorn assailing a captive watchdog for fun, knowing that the danger of the dog had a definite limit. The fun was thus how close to get to the dog, and how much damage could be done before it was time to run past that limit. It usually took several trips around that merry-go-round before the dog would notice that there was a pattern, begin to figure out the pattern, and then do something about it.
Starting with Afghanistan and continuing with Iraq, our watchdog, the media, has been on a very short chain. They were led by the scruff of the neck around the merry-go-round repeatedly , shown how well our National Guardsmen and Reservists in Iraq were defending America from Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and then turned loose to write the flag-waving pieces the PNAC Pentagon desired for FAUX News and Sinclair Broadcasting to present to us as The Truth.
The dog has finally noticed there is a pattern:
The media, on the national and global scale, certainly knows how to pounce on the "big story" and how to follow "the next story." But the story of how supporting the war in Iraq with a 40% Guard and reserve contingent, many of whom were not well prepared for this harrowing ordeal -- that story eluded the media until a Specialist had the nerve to turn over that disc with the horrible photos at Abu Ghraib and until Seymour Hersh and "60 Minutes II" found their way to the "big story."
The 'Big Story' could have been found in 1999 if they had been doing their jobs as watchdogs instead of basking in the warmth of the GOP spin doctors while the collars were put on and the chains shortened.
Any journalist must applaud Seymour M. Hersh for his thorough and dreadful examination in The New Yorker of lives ruined behind the walls at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. The journalist who brought the My Lai massacre before the American public has not faltered this time either. Americans need to know when their fellow countrymen are behaving in a way that brings shame on the very ideals that we say define us as Americans.
Journalists are always on the hunt for "the big story" and the "next story" and sometimes we just get there too late. What do I mean by saying that sometimes we just get there too late for the big story? In the aftermath of the invasion and guerrilla war that continues to make Iraq our first and worst news story -- which I've covered on two occasions as an embedded reporter -- serious questions about the role of the National Guard and the so-called private "contractor" war have eluded large-scale media scrutiny. These stories were near at hand, but war is hectic and it's easy to miss one.
What about the reserve MPs at Abu Ghraib? The top secret report gathered by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba and aired by The New Yorker this week cites a few terse and ugly facts that should have been apparent to any of the others who lifted the veil on Abu Ghraib -- and blinked.
Among his major findings were that there were too few guards for too many thousand prisoners (and the guards, of course, found their safety at risk on a daily basis). Next, Taguba's report cited that the MP reservists who arrived to provide checkpoint security and traffic direction in Baghdad had no previous training as jailers. Finally, Taguba reported that that the reservist in charge of the Abu Ghraib command, Gen. Janis Karpinski, was rarely seen at the prison -- a leader absent from command, leadership and direct supervision.
Isn't there something fishy about putting reservists in charge of a prison intended to hold not only criminals retrieved from Saddam's day, but also "threats to the coalition" and "high value prisoners"? Don't you think someone would want the regulars handling that, and that there would be specific training protocols for running a place that is the combat zone equivalent of Guantanamo?
Where does this buck stop?
President Bush has told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to hold the guilty accountable. Who is accountable for stationing too few guards, with too little training, from a reserve of troops who do not ply their profession on a full-time basis? It is also implied they fell under the control of military intelligence, or even "civilian contractors" working on interrogation.
As for the private spooks and hired guns, little was heard about these private sector shadow warriors until the four Blackwater contractors were ambushed and desecrated, strung from a bridge in the flashpoint city of Fallujah. But they can be seen like ants at a picnic in the Green Zone and at Baghdad International Airport. Although these "contractors" are providing valuable security services, they also have no defined training, no set "rules of engagement," and apparently no ties to the Geneva Convention, which puts those on active duty at peril of their freedom if they wantonly ignore its sensible and humane requirements for prisoner handling.
The "next story" resides in a multitude of stories that were nearby, close at hand, but were simply missed because it is customary to be entranced by awful events and miss the underlying causes that led to them.
And also, to be easliy dissuaded from covering stories because the military just might yank your access and nullify your expensive presence in the region.
This Oil War has so many terrible aromas emanating from the melange of sewage that is Iraq under the PNAC Petroleum Pirate Posse that it's difficult to decide which one is the worst. This dilemma distracts everyone from noticing that there shouldn't be such a cesspool in the first place. But in the classic salesman technique of 'bait and switch', everyone, especially our media watchdogs, are focussed on the wrong thing - that our nation is led by a bunch of common criminals bent on domination of the world's people and their natural resources, and only we Americans can't see this. When the terror attacks aimed at Americans begin again, this, and not 'they hate us for our freedoms', is why.
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