Subject: NBC and Aid and Comfort to the Enemy in Wartime
I just finished reading the NY Times account of the incident involving one of our Marines and the alleged killing of a wounded Iraqi in the heat of battle. Whatever happened, there is one dimension to this that needs to get on the national agenda that has nothing to do with the right of the network to cover these kind of stories and make judgements about how to print or air them.
We all know the reporter could just as easily have turned off the damn camera since he had been in combat with the unit and undoubtedly recognized what had happened for what it most likely was, an error in judgement by a combat stressed Marine who had been wounded the day before and just returned to his unit. In this war and in every war, there have been hundreds if not thousands of these individual tragedies every day, but he couldn't resist the "big story."
But where I really want to go to war with NBC is what they did with the tape. It is one thing to show the alleged shooting, it is another thing to give the unedited tape to outfits like Al Jazeera which according to the NY Times account..."broadcast the unedited version of the footage, complete with a name visible on one marine's backpack and the faces of the marines which were not shown on American networks. Several commanders voiced concern that no matter what the inquiry determined, the incident had handed the Iraqi insurgency a huge propaganda victory."
The assessment is undoubtedly correct but who made the "unedited version" of the tape available to our enemies in time of war and gave them this huge propaganda victory? Does not NBC control its own video? Under what provision of Freedom of the Press did NBC find it necessity in time of war to provide outtakes to the enemies of the Republic? Is not NBC an American corporation that you might think would have some sensitivity to this issue and perhaps even a residue of simple patrlotism?
Moreover, it betrays a total lack of understanding of the kind of war we are involved in, where you need to be sensitve to providing terrorists with the kind of detailed personal information on members of our combat units. This kind of information might enable them at some other time and place of their choosing, to target individual members of our military forces and create yet another propaganda success by illustrating their ability to reach out and "administer Allah's justice to yet another infidel."I think they crossed the line on this one, not on going with the initial story, but taking it far over the line by giving access to all that tape to the world and our enemies in time of war. If that is the way they feel they need to operate, move the damn corporate offices to Syria--tomorrow! To say that I am outraged doesn't begin to communicate the way I feel about these low life SOBs using one of our Marines this way. I for one am going to sizzle their worthless corporate asses with as blistering a message as I can write and to every member of the congressional delegation and rest of the media anyone else who will listen. I urge everyone who share this view to do likewise and with a vengence. And I would go after every corporate advertiser and anyone else that can hit them in the only place they understand--in their bottom line.
I think that I'll enlist in this war...
Update: Here's a WSJ piece about Fallujah (in Extended Section):
I think the "Manhattan sofa" line ROCKS!
Wall Street Journal
November 18, 2004
Some 40 Marines have just lost their lives cleaning out one of the world's worst terror dens, in Fallujah, yet all the world wants to talk about is the NBC videotape of a Marine shooting a prostrate Iraqi inside a mosque. Have we lost all sense of moral proportion?
The al-Zarqawi TV network, also known as Al-Jazeera, has broadcast the tape to the Arab world, and U.S. media have also played it up. The point seems to be to conjure up images again of Abu Ghraib, further maligning the American purpose in Iraq . Never mind that the pictures don't come close to telling us about the context of the incident, much less what was on the mind of the soldier after days of combat.
Put yourself in that Marine's boots. He and his mates have had to endure some of the toughest infantry duty imaginable, house-to-house urban fighting against an enemy that neither wears a uniform nor obeys any normal rules of war. Here is how that enemy fights, according to an account in the Times of London:
"In the south of Fallujah yesterday, U.S. Marines found the armless, legless body of a blonde woman, her throat slashed and her entrails cut out. Benjamin Finnell, a hospital apprentice with the U.S. Navy Corps, said that she had been dead for a while, but at that location for only a day or two. The woman was wearing a blue dress; her face had been disfigured. It was unclear if the remains were the body of the Irish-born aid worker Margaret Hassan, 59, or of Teresa Borcz, 54, a Pole abducted two weeks ago. Both were married to Iraqis and held Iraqi citizenship; both were kidnapped in Baghdad last month."
When not disemboweling Iraqi women, these killers hide in mosques and hospitals, booby-trap dead bodies, and open fire as they pretend to surrender. Their snipers kill U.S. soldiers out of nowhere. According to one account, the Marine in the videotape had seen a member of his unit killed by another insurgent pretending to be dead. Who from the safety of his Manhattan sofa has standing to judge what that Marine did in that mosque?
Beyond the one incident, think of what the Marine and Army units just accomplished in Fallujah. In a single week, they killed as many as 1,200 of the enemy and captured 1,000 more. They did this despite forfeiting the element of surprise, so civilians could escape, and while taking precautions to protect Iraqis that no doubt made their own mission more difficult and hazardous. And they did all of this not for personal advantage, and certainly not to get rich, but only out of a sense of duty to their comrades, their mission and their country.
In a more grateful age, this would be hailed as one of the great battles in Marine history -- with Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Hue City and the Chosin Reservoir. We'd know the names of these military units, and of many of the soldiers too. Instead, the name we know belongs to the NBC correspondent, Kevin Sites.
We suppose he was only doing his job, too. But that doesn't mean the rest of us have to indulge in the moral abdication that would equate deliberate televised beheadings of civilians with a Marine shooting a terrorist, who may or may not have been armed, amid the ferocity of battle.