Friday, November 19, 2004

Embedded reporters: endangering our troops

The Deadly Price of Embedding
Douglas MacKinnon in the New York Post
Friends I have spoken with at the Pentagon feel betrayed by a tape that is not only easily misunderstood, but one they feel now irresponsibly fuels the hate of our enemy. Nor is this the first time they've seen embedded reporters increasing the dangers to our troops.

How easy it must be to guess as to the motives of this Marine from the comfort of news studios thousands of miles from Fallujah, where the only danger the journalist faces is if he or she might burn themselves when they take their popcorn out of the microwave.

Should it be proven that the Marine knowingly killed an unarmed and wounded insurgent, then clearly punishment is warranted. That said, every benefit of the doubt should be given to this Marine before a kangaroo court of journalists and pundits pass sentence on someone fighting for liberty while in Hell on Earth.

And how is a Marine supposed to know the enemy is unarmed and not booby-trapped? He shouldn't have to risk his own life to find out.

I don't know what happened, but I do know that a rush to judgment is always wrong. Just a day earlier, another Marine from the same unit was killed while trying to treat the body of an insurgent that had been booby-trapped. What seems crystal clear from 8,000 miles away can get you killed in a nano-second in battle. The Marine Corps has promised an investigation, and the media must let it play out.
A number of sources at the Pentagon have told me that most of the troops on the ground in Iraq view the embedded reporters as an obstacle to their mission who occasionally put their lives in danger with their tactics.

One example comes from the first few days of the war, a battle with Iraqi forces aired live by all the cable networks. As I watched the battle live at 3 a.m. East Coast time, I was shocked to see reporters trying to interview soldiers as they fired on the enemy. These soldiers had to turn from the enemy to face the embedded journalist, thereby putting their own lives in danger to take a question. And after the four-hour battle, the troops' commander observed that, had the TV cameras not been there, then the fighting would have been concluded in 15 minutes.

He also relates how embeds demoralize the troops with their "anti-US, anti-military" reporting. These are serious issues - to undermine a soldier's belief in his cause and his prospects for victory in a combat zone can cost him his life.

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