Media Mistreat American Troops

Real Clear Politics July 13, 2006
Thomas Sowell

The same newspapers and television news programs that are constantly reminding us that some people under indictment “are innocent until proven guilty” are nevertheless hyping the story of American troops accused of rape in Iraq, day in and day out, even though these troops have yet to be proven guilty of anything.

What about all the civilian rapes that are charged — and even proven — in the United States? None of them gets this 24/7 coverage in the mainstream media.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated example of media hype of unproven charges against American troops. While military action was still raging in the early days of the Iraq war, there was media condemnation of our troops for not adequately protecting an Iraqi museum from which various items were missing.

When the smoke of battle cleared, it turned out that members of the museum staff had hidden these items for safekeeping during the fighting.

Then there was the incident when a Marine shot a terrorist who was pretending to be asleep and the media turned that into a big scandal until an investigation revealed how these and other tricks used by terrorists had cost the lives of American troops in Iraq.

None of the brutal beheadings of innocent hostages taken by terrorists in Iraq — and videotaped for distribution throughout the Middle East — has aroused half the outrage in the mainstream media as unsubstantiated charges made by terrorists imprisoned in Guantanamo

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This is an old tactic, and a sleazy and despicable one at that. If someone dares to point out that our military has experienced serious problems with it’s occupation of Iraq, the right-wing slime machine rolls into action accusing them of either treason or not supporting the troops.

A small number of our troops stand accused by their own officers, acting in the interests of military discipline and justice, with acts ranging from torture (Abu Ghraib), to the massacre of innocent civilians (Haditha) to the rape of a 14-year old child.

No one in the press has inferred that these actions are representative of our soldiers as a whole. No one in the press has played judge, jury and executioner. They have simply reported the facts as passed on to them by US military. If anything the reporting of the Iraq occupation by the US press has been remarkably timid and tame.

Our occupation of Iraq has been a massive failure and a strategic error of historic proportions. The nation of Iraq is not better off but far worse. Basic utilities like water and electricity are in short supply. Iraq’s oil and industrial infrastructure has been shattered. Civil war has commenced and sectarian violence has resulted in hundreds of horrific deaths every week. The average Iraqi lives an existence of privation and terror.

Iraq’s disintegration is destabilizing the middle-east and has emboldened our nation’s adversaries. Our nation’s standing in the world has fallen sharply. The US military has been severely drained and weakened, and is so overtaxed in Iraq that it is unable to meet challenges elsewhere in the globe. The dictator of North Korea and the Ayatollahs of Iraq thumb there noses at us and we are helpless to respond. The war is draining our treasury of $5 billion dollars every week. 2,600 American servicemen are dead and many thousands more have been horrifically maimed and crippled. The war has been so mismanaged that at this point there is no definition of “victory in Iraq” that is either realistic or attainable.

When I see a peice of disgusting propaganda like this deliberately trying to mislead the American people and promote the fascist and un-American idea that it is unpatriotic to criticize your government I am filled with revulsion. Indeed criticizing our government when it behaves irresponsibly is the essense of Patriotism.

JBL: The New York Times reported the awarding of the medal of Honor to Sgt. First Class Paul R. Smith on March 30, 2005. The headline was:

“Medal of Honor to Be Awarded to Soldier Killed in Iraq, a First” By ERIC SCHMITT (NYT); National Desk

The story is behind the NY Times firewall now, but the first 25 words are:

Sgt. First Class Paul R. Smith, killed nearly two years ago defending his vastly outnumbered Army unit in a fierce battle with elite Iraqi troops for control of Baghdad’s airport, will receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, administration officials said Tuesday. No soldier who served

The Bush administration does not have a realistic or attainable plan for victory in Iraq according to the GAO (Government Accountability Office) as reported yesterday. Check it out.

http://www.gao.gov/docsearch/abstract.php?rptno=GAO-06-788

The GAO reports:

The November 2005 National Strategy for Victory in Iraq and supporting documents incorporate the same desired end-state for U.S. stabilization and reconstruction operations that were first established by the coalition in 2003: a peaceful, united, stable, and secure Iraq, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism.

However, it is unclear how the United States will achieve its desired end-state in Iraq given the significant changes in the assumptions underlying the U.S. strategy.

The original plan assumed a permissive security environment. However, an increasingly lethal insurgency undermined the development of effective Iraqi government institutions and delayed plans for an early transfer of security responsibilities to the Iraqis.

The plan also assumed that U.S. reconstruction funds would help restore Iraq’s essential services to prewar levels, but Iraq’s capacity to maintain, sustain, and manage its rebuilt infrastructure is still being developed.

Finally, the plan assumed that the Iraqi government and the international community would help finance Iraq’s development needs, but Iraq has limited resources to contribute to its own reconstruction, and Iraq’s estimated future needs vastly exceed what has been offered by the international community to date.

.. the strategy falls short in three key areas. First, it only partially identifies the current and future costs of U.S. involvement in Iraq, including the costs of maintaining U.S. military operations, building Iraqi government capacity at the provincial and national level, and rebuilding critical infrastructure.

Second, it only partially identifies which U.S. agencies implement key aspects of the strategy or resolve conflicts among the many implementing agencies.

Third, it neither fully addresses how U.S. goals and objectives will be integrated with those of the Iraqi government and the international community, nor does it detail the Iraqi government’s anticipated contribution to its future security and reconstruction needs.

The GAO report states pretty unequivocably that we have no plan for success and that we are unlikely to be successful. It states that we are failing in curbing the influence of militias, that we are failing to create effective ministries of government, that we are failing to revitalize the Iraqi economy, and that we have no answer to who is going to pay for ongoing operations and where that money is going to come from. We have already heard President Bush say that the decision as to when to leave Iraq is the next President’s problem. His only strategy is to muddle through for two years and hope that the final moment of defeat happens on someone elses watch.

While our troops have performed valiantly under extremely difficult conditions, their leaders President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld and the entire Republican leadership in Congress have failed the nation horribly.

This is why the right-wing attack machine is trying to deflect criticism of the Bush/Cheney regime by portraying it as an attack on the troops instead.

I absolutely agree that journalists have an ethical responsibility in being fair and even-handed in their treatment of US troops. However, let’s recall who actually put these troops in Iraq in the first place. Let’s also keep in mind that:

“The Bush administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones.”

The Bush’s 2004 budget proposes a $1.5 billion reduction in funds to military family housing/medical facilities – a 14% cut.

One million children living in military and veteran families are being denied child tax credit help” in President Bush’s tax cut. “More than 260,000 of these children have parents on active military duty.

Less than 2 weeks after the President made these comments, “the Bush administration announced its formal opposition to a proposal to give National Guard and Reserve members access to the Pentagon’s health-insurance system, jeopardizing the plan’s future and angering supporters. A recent General Accounting Office report estimated that one of every five Guard members has no health insurance.

The President made these comments on the same day that his Administration announced it was cutting off access to its health care system for approximately 164,000 veterans. The Administration also is pushing a cut of $1.5 billion in military housing/medical facility funding, despite the fact that UPI reports “hundreds of sick and wounded U.S. soldiers including many who served in the Iraq war are languishing in hot cement barracks here while they wait – sometimes for months – to see doctors.

(http://www.kintera.org/AccountTempFiles/cf/%7BE9245FE4-9A2B-43C7-A521-5D6FF2E06E03%7D/bushtroops.htm)

And they’re critiquing the Times as “mistreating” the troops??!

I highly recommend War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges. Hedges was a seminarian and is no pacifist. However, his book provides a much needed moral reflection on the enormous toll this war may cost us not just financially (and it’s already at $300 billion) but in terms of our national credibility and our collective soul.

JBL: You might consider that even 2.7% increases (which are pretty paltry) do not even account for the inflation rate (which according to the Moore Inflation Predictor is expected to be close to 4.17%). Ten years into the military, the salary ranges from 29K to 57K a year, with the lowest four ranks (E1 – E4) making less than 40K a year. Let me break this out for you: a 2.7% increase on $40K a year is $1,080. That’s $90 a month. BEFORE taxes.

I have a feeling that those arguing that the extra .5% is “unnecessary” are the same that feel that the current estate taxes are “draconian” and proposing estate tax cuts worth $28 billion for 4,500 estates.

Hey, why give those grunts fighting this “necessary war” enough money for an extra burger a day when that $28 billion can go towards necessities like a second Bentley Azure or a few dozen pairs of Ferragamos?

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