‘The most ass-kickin' writer to come along
in a decade!’
-The NY Times
‘Glad to see you're getting it right.!’
In an informal interview broadcast on C-SPAN last week, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld discussed the decision to imbed reporters with combat units during the War in Iraq. While referring to the fact that the decision to do so was decidedly not unanimous, Rumsfeld saw the results of the decision as a success. Indeed, some 600 imbedded journalists are bringing to America and the world, as the consummate war journalist Ernie Pyle wrote, "the war of the homesick, weary, funny, violent, common men who wash their socks in their helmets, complain about the food, whistle at the Arab girls, or any girls for that matter, and bring themselves through as dirty a business as the world has ever seen and do it with humor and dignity and courage."
What the imbeds bring us is truth, in the form of raw information, immediate and unglossed. When you're at the tail end of a 20-hour high-speed advance across the desert, it's difficult to put a pretty face on the exhaustion, grit, and sheer determination that characterizes such a push. Not that the Dan Rathers and the Peter Jenningses haven't done their best to counter this truth by politicizing and denigrating the efforts of our soldiers. Indeed, one of the knocks about imbedded reporters put forward by the Left is that they risk bonding with the troops and thus losing their journalistic objectivity. The obvious question is, "Since when has journalistic objectivity been a concern of the dominant media?" But beyond that, is not the Left saying, in effect, "Heaven forbid that people should acknowledge each other's humanity?" We're used to hearing "humanists" on the Left deny the spiritual aspect of our beings; but to have them turn around and deny our humanity as well defies comprehension.
Of course journalists are going to bond with the soldiers whose war they're reporting. There is a very understandable bias in favor of those with whom you're sharing life-and-death experiences. And not only do most Americans (who favor the war, Dan and Tom and Wolf and Peter, in case your people are withholding polling data) have no problem whatsoever with that bias, most of us are very capable, thank you, of intuitively handicapping the reportage to take that bias into account. We are, after all, human.
The Bush Administration took enormous risks in imbedding reporters with our troops. What if, as could have happened, there were engagements which didn't go in favor of coalition forces? What if the imbeds had witnessed and reported decisive American losses and heavy casualties? Or atrocities committed by Americans? There were no guarantees. As anyone with any military experience will tell you, the only thing predictable about war is its unpredictability. The Bush administration was willing to share whatever happened, good or bad, with its citizens. It took the chance, expressing its faith in our military, that what happened in the war would reflect all the best that resides in the American spirit: the sense of purpose, the humanity, the generosity, the willingness to sacrifice so that others might come to know freedom. Our President and his advisors let us see firsthand exactly what went on as our troops invaded and liberated Iraq.
But even beyond the liberal media power-brokers' misguided whining about the loss of objectivity by imbeds, what is either missed or ignored by those who would gainsay the extraordinary effort and accomplishment of our armed forces and the government they represent is the fact that the Bush Administration is not trying to hide anything. By the end of the last decade, we had become inured to the lies and deceit of the Clinton administration, conditioned to disbelieve anything we heard from a Clinton administration official, ready to accept that the worse the apparent motivations for our former President's decisions, the more likely they were to be true. How unprepared were we, then, for an administration that wanted to "change the moral tone" of Washington politics, wanted to share something of the truth with the American people. The moral clarity, the desire to bring credibility back to the Presidency, has led to the unprecedented decision to share with us an unvarnished and unfiltered version of the events of the War in Iraq.
It's no wonder Bill Clinton is bewildered by what's happening. It's no wonder he can't keep his mouth shut, can't refrain from uttering inappropriate, not to say utterly misguided and fatuous, comments. Clinton is engaging in the political equivalent of trash-talking, and he continues to reveal to anyone who's still paying attention that, rather than being our first Black president, he was our first White Trash president.
The Bush administration is almost unprecedented in its openness and integrity. When U.S. forces mistakenly caused casualties and deaths among Iraqi civilians, our commanders and government officials were the first to report it. They did not shrink from admitting mistakes, even as they bit their tongues while second-guessers missed the mark with analyses and predictions that saw the war plan as flawed, U.S. troops as mired down, and "disrupted" coalition supply lines as endangering the entire enterprise. Throughout the war, the Bush administration and the U.S. military have maintained their poise and civility. Despite verbal attacks by American reporters and analysts which would have been deemed brutal had they come from our enemies, our government and our military kept to its avowed policy of honesty and openness.
It may be that the ideal of truthfulness to which President Bush subscribes is so foreign to liberal journalists and commentators as not only to make them uncomfortable but to make it very difficult for them to do their jobs. Unused to dealing with people who put their cards on the table, most pundits have resorted to ascribing ulterior (and decidedly perverse) motives to the Bush administration. And while the extraordinary progress of the war and the overwhelming military might and humanitarian restraint of our forces have all been unparalleled, perhaps even more important, though equally soft-pedaled by the media, has been the forthrightness of our leaders, brought home forcefully by the undeniable truth in the reports of the imbedded journalists.