One of the interesting aspects of this war that will be tackled by future historians is the way that the news media reported events, specifically which events they chose to report and which events they chose to minimize or ignore outright.
In my reading of US history, this is the first time in 60 years that US soldiers have gone to the battlefield with a clear understanding of what our enemy represents (though a less-clear picture of specifically who he is) and a clear understanding of the stakes of the war. There is a better understanding of this war than of World War I, and certainly a far clearer understanding among average men than during the Civil War.
And yet, the media has deliberately chosen to severely limit good news about military victories, progress reports on the objectives that we continue to achieve, and profiles of individual soldiers who exhibit incredible selfless heroism. And they have chosen to severely limit or completely embargo stories and photos of atrocities committed by terrorists and Ba'athist thugs against the civilians of Iraq.
Instead they show the Abu Graib photos ad nauseum, interview wounded civilians, lament shattered mosques, and give front-page space to every bombing, shooting, or attack that takes the life of a US soldier.
The press is supposed to be skeptical, to ask tough questions and to cut through political spin. But by all indications they have chosen to go an extra length and are now fully engaged in a propaganda war against the US military. This would have been unthinkable during WWII, but it is modus operandi for the press now.
Perhaps one reason is the fact that during WWII, a good deal of reporters imbedded with the fighting units were themselves soldiers, specifically they were newspapermen who had been drafted and had completed basic training and full integration into the military. They were not afraid to make heroes out of ordinary soldiers who did extraordinary things on the battlefield.
And they were shocked and horrified at the atrocities commited by Hitler against the civilian populations of the lands he conquered. The military press had no trouble flooding newspapers, magzines, and newsreels with images of those who suffered and died in the Nazi concentration camps. It was beyond question that they had a moral obligation to tell the American people just exactly how evil our enemy was, and that neutralizing the threat of the Nazis was worth the cost.
In an earlier post, I mentioned that the Viet Nam war produced no folk heroes from its soldiers, no Audie Murphy or Sargeant York. It seems that modern wars do not produce those heroes because the press is loath to tell their stories. Only on the blogosphere do you encounter tales like this:
I will end with a couple of stories of individual heroism that you may not have heard yet. I was told about both of these incidents shortly after they occurred. No doubt some of the facts will change slightly but I am confident that the meat is correct.
The first is a Marine from 3/5. His name is Corporal Yeager (Chuck Yeager's grandson). As the Marines cleared and apartment building, they got to the top floor and the point man kicked in the door. As he did so, an enemy grenade and a burst of gunfire came out. The explosion and enemy fire took off the point man's leg. He was then immediately shot in the arm as he lay in the doorway. Corporal Yeager tossed a grenade in the room and ran into the doorway and into the enemy fire in order to pull his buddy back to cover. As he was dragging the wounded Marine to cover, his own grenade came back through the doorway. Without pausing, he reached down and threw the grenade back through the door while he heaved his buddy to safety. The grenade went off inside the room and Cpl Yeager threw another in. He immediately entered the room following the second explosion. He gunned down three enemy all within three feet of where he stood and then let fly a third grenade as he backed out of the room to complete the evacuation of the wounded Marine. You have to understand that a grenade goes off within 5 seconds of having the pin pulled. Marines usually let them "cook off" for a second or two before tossing them in. Therefore, this entire episode took place in less than 30 seconds.
The second example comes from 3/1. Cpl Mitchell is a squad leader. He was wounded as his squad was clearing a house when some enemy threw pineapple grenades down on top of them. As he was getting triaged, the doctor told him that he had been shot through the arm. Cpl Mitchell told the doctor that he had actually been shot "a couple of days ago" and had given himself self aide on the wound. When the doctor got on him about not coming off the line, he firmly told the doctor that he was a squad leader and did not have time to get treated as his men were still fighting. There are a number of Marines who have been wounded multiple times but refuse to leave their fellow Marines.
It is incredibly humbling to walk among such men. They fought as hard as any Marines in history and deserve to be remembered as such. The enemy they fought burrowed into houses and fired through mouse holes cut in walls, lured them into houses rigged with explosives and detonated the houses on pursuing Marines, and actually hid behind surrender flags only to engage the Marines with small arms fire once they perceived that the Marines had let their guard down. I know of several instances where near dead enemy rolled grenades out on Marines who were preparing to render them aid. It was a fight to the finish in every sense and the Marines delivered.
I have called the enemy cowards many times in the past because they have never really held their ground and fought but these guys in the city did. We can call them many things but they were not cowards.
It will be fascinating to see how historians 50 to 100 years from now explain this complete turnaround, this complete reluctance to praise and honor our troops, that is now so deeply entrenched in our mainstream press.
Don't get me wrong on this - if our soldiers commit misdeeds, then those soldiers should be disciplined for their wrongdoing. US Soldiers have not been a perfect lot, and have committed wrongs during every war in which they have participated. I am not denying that, and I am not suggesting that their misconduct should be white-washed.
I don't believe that anyone would complain about news coverage if it included a reasonable and balanced amount of news about our military successes and the evil committed by our enemies, along with the problems and unfortunate circustances that occur on the battlefield. But I am dismayed at the fact that ONLY the wrong-doings or unfortunate deaths of US military personnel seem to justify front-page news coverage. Even if a significant US military victory is given press coverage, it is usually weighed down with so many "but-if's" and unseemly details that it loses its positive impact.
This can only be a propaganda victory for our enemies.