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Saturday, November 29, 2003

From the Soldier's Perspective

Andrew Sullivan posts this e-mail from a soldier at the Thanksgiving celebration in Baghdad where President Bush made his appearance:

Mr. Sullivan, I was present for the surprise visit by the President. It was truly wonderful to be there, and my buddies and I really are grateful that President Bush would take a real risk to come see u. He flew about 12 hours to spend 2 hours with us, he served food to the troops, but he never got a chance to eat himself, at least not until he got on the plane, I'd imagine. For 2 hours, the President walked amongst us, not a receiving line where we came to him, stiff and formal, but coming to us, reading our names on our uniforms and greeting us by name. He looked me in the eye when he shook my hand, he joked with some, whispered to others, spoke a little Spanish to my friend. 2 hours of almost non-stop motion, how exhausting after a 12 hour flight! He did it to be with us, and we appreciate it.

It's amazing how well that compensates for the media elite currently blathering on about how the secrecy of the trip amounts to lying to the sainted press corps, as if security considerations were just an annoying afterthought. Howard Kurtz reports on the biggest whiners:

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, criticized the White House correspondents who made the trip without spilling the secret. "That's just not kosher," he said. "Reporters are in the business of telling the truth. They can't decide it's okay to lie sometimes because it serves a larger truth or good cause."

So, Tom, let me get this straight: if a reporter decides to pose as a mental patient to blow the lid off of abuse in psychiatric hospitals, he's acting unethically -- correct? I mean, the reporter is lying, isn't he? If a reporter poses as a slaughterhouse worker in order to inform the public of substandard practices in food handling, he's lying, isn't he? Investigative journalists do this all the time -- and in the case of the Bush trip, it wasn't even lying -- it was keeping one's mouth shut for a finite, short period of time so that the story could be told safely. Explain to me how that's unethical and that's lying, but the two cases I mentioned earlier (Geraldo Rivera, 1969, and Upton Sinclair, 1906), explicitly lying about one's identity and purpose is somehow justified by the end result.

Philip Taubman, Washington bureau chief of the New York Times, said that "in this day and age, there should have been a way to take more reporters. People are perfectly capable of maintaining a confidence for security reasons. It's a bad precedent." Once White House officials "decided to do a stealth trip, they bought into a whole series of things that are questionable."

Philip Taubman and Tom Rosenstiel really ought to compare notes. On one hand, Rosenstiel says that reporters are obligated to tell what they know, but on the other hand, Taubman's insisting that the White House could have told the entire press corps and no one would have breathed a word of it. Oh, and the White House "decided" on stealth mode, too; it's not as though it were necessary to keep him alive, or anything like that. Kim Hume has a more realistic view:

She said the administration took a network pool crew, as it was supposed to, and "we didn't get any competitive advantage from it." Had more journalists been told, Hume said, "the story would have leaked in about two seconds" because "news people are the biggest gossips alive."
Of course, media leaks never occur; just ask about this incident, over at Rantingprofs:
Second, from this story, the cell wasn't captured in its entirety. Why? Wait for it -- media leaks. It would have been real nice if the Beeb had been a bit more, say, robust in their coverage of that part of the story. I'd love to know which outlet leaked information that made it possible for suspected terrorists to get out of dodge before the cops grabed them, wouldn't you? (But by all means, lets rehash whether it was unnecessary deception for the White House to put out a fake menu before the President left for Baghdad. I'm sure that information would never have leaked.)

The media are up in arms both because Bush didn't invite them all to his little party, and also because they're beginning to suspect that he's going to breeze to re-election next year, and they aren't happy at all about either one.

UPDATE: Demosophia has a good post on this same topic. Money quote: "I suppose they'd also have insisted on giving Hitler fair warning about the invasion of Normandy." And besides the one post I linked from Rantingprofs, you can read more about this story in several earlier posts as well.

Now that you have read this post, read the most recent entries at the new Captain's Quarters at http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/!

12:59 AM in War on Terror | Permalink


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