From the beginning of the War on Terror, the mainstream media has been working to bring home the bad news on the war, virtually to the exclusion of any good news. Even if they've had to fabricate it on occasion.
Do you remember the "Mai Lai Massacre of the Iraq War?"
It was a Time Magazine cover story in June of 2006. Christopher Matthews interviewed Congressman Jack Murtha (D-PA) on national television, and Murtha said that Marines, in cold blood, had executed more 20 innocent civilians in Haditha, Iraq.
The media's story has been falling apart ever since.
Starting in mid 2007 things have been going our way a little more in Iraq. Because of this, the war has largely disappeared from the front pages of the nation's newspapers. In place of disaster stories from Iraq, we find stories about profound problems within the military or we read about our hapless soldiers/veterans caricatured as victims, a favorite theme of the MSM. These stories have covered such topics as the spike-up in suicide rates among our soldiers, to the Army being forced to lower recruitment standards in order to meet manpower goals; from the (by now notorious and utterly discredited) multipart New York Times series on our murderous Iraq War veterans to the Army's inability to retain its captains.
Each of these stories is at best highly misleading. At worst they're utter fabrications. Let's take a look at what passes for "journalism."
The Suicide Epidemic
The excellent blogger Gateway Pundit has been watching this junk-reporting like a hawk, and it is on his work that primaruily rely here. I urge reading "Sorry WaPo...More Soldiers Committed Suicide When Clinton Was in Office Than During the Bush Years" and "MEDIA MISINFORMS: Fewer Soldiers Commit Suicide During Bush Years"
The Washington Post article states:
"[l]ast year, 121 soldiers took their own lives, nearly 20 percent more than in 2006."
Gateway Pundit makes the obvious point that you can't look at a one-year time frame of any phenomenon for the purposes of discerning a trend; you must look at many years and then compile a rate. During the Clinton years the average number of suicides in the military was 190/year; during the Bush presidency the average number has been 160/year. That's a 16% decrease in the number of suicides. Gateway Pundit notes the military suicide rate is measurably lower than that of the general public, (17/100,000 versus 20/100,000), 15% lower than the general population.
Army Forced to Lower Standards... Soldiers More Stupid Than Before
A recent ostensible exposé on the military's manpower crisis appeared in a January 22, 2008 Associated Press article "Army Gets Fewer High School Grads in '07" A similar story appearing in the Washington Post drew the notice of James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal. Both the AP and Washington Post articles rely on data cooked-up by the National Priorities Project (NPP). In a 2005 article covering the same topic, the Washington Post was forced to acknowledge that the NPP had an anti-war bias and that its study was incomplete and misleading. They confessed because the Heritage Foundation in "Who Are the Recruits?" demolished the NPP's study. If you take a look at the Heritage piece, you'll learn:
"As support for the war in Iraq has declined, criticism of the war has translated into criticism of our nation's troops, at least by way of criticizing the quality of wartime recruits. The current findings show that the demographic characteristics of volunteers have continued to show signs of higher, not lower, quality. Quality is a difficult concept to apply to soldiers, or to human beings in any context, and it should be understood here in context. Regardless of the standards used to screen applicants, the average quality of the people accepted into any organization can be assessed only by using measurable criteria, which surely fail to account for intangible characteristics. In the military, it is especially questionable to claim that measurable characteristics accurately reflect what really matters: courage, honor, integrity, loyalty, and leadership..." (emphasis supplied)
The Heritage piece points out that the high school graduation rate found in the four branches of the military is actually significantly higher than that of the general public.
Taranto's title suggests that the Washington Post didn't learn from its earlier mistake, hence the title to his piece ("Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me...") This is in keeping with what is a growing national impression that the media do slipshod work. Taranto's title is too generous. They printed the same story again because they wanted to; they intentionally ignored what they had learned the first time around. The troops in Iraq use the phrase "agenda media" to refer to the MSM.
Captains Leaving Army in Droves
1) captains form the backbone of the officer corps and the pool from which senior officers are eventually pulled;
2) the Army is finding it increasingly difficult to retain its captains; and
3) the reason for this is the multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of course, there is nothing new about this phenomenon. If you take a look at the following studies on this subject, the first thing you'll notice is that they were written prior to the invasion of Iraq.
Suro, Roberto (2000). "Captains Exodus Has Army Fearing for Future." Washington Post. October 16, 2000.
Lewis, Mark (2000). "Time to Regenerate." Defense and the National Interest. November 2000.
For the past two decades, the rate of attrition of Army captains has been as follows:
| 1989 ||1996 || 1997|| 1998||1999 ||2000 || 2001|
| 6.69% || 7.2%|| 8.4%|| 10.6%|| 10.9% || 11.6% || 10.9%|
(see note below)
This phenomenon has been a concern of the Army from midway through the Clinton administration. If one can believe a Washington Post article, the attrition rate for captains averaged 12.2 percent from 1999 to 2007. This means that, for each year from 2002 through 2007, the rate was on average 12.4%. That is less than 1 percentage point higher than the peacetime rate that occurred in 2000. Hardly the wartime induced catastrophe that's implied in the Wall Street Journal article. It's very much worth excerpting here a study by Greg Reeson:
"Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a considerable increase in the attrition rate of Captain-level junior officers from the United States Army. Because the Army slowly develops its leaders from the ground up, this loss of junior officers becomes critical in reducing the number of future commanders and leaders available to guide the Army in future decades. Following the Persian Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), an Army-wide draw down lasting until 1995 deliberately decreased the size of the Army without regard to rank. However, from 1996 until 2001, the number of Captain-level junior officers voluntarily leaving the Army did not stabilize. In fact, the attrition rate for these officers doubled during the period from the end of the draw down until the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (Vest, 2003). Following the attacks on the Pentagon and New York City, the attrition rate for Captain-level junior officers decreased considerably due to programs enacted by the Army to prevent the loss of personnel during the ongoing Global War on Terrorism." (emphasis supplied)
He concludes by writing:
"Based on the data...there is no reason to believe that a causal relationship exists between the Army's increased deployment tempo [DETEMPO] and increased rate of captain-level officer attrition between 1996 and 2001...The consistency in deployment tempo does not correspond to the increase in captain-level officer attrition for the period from 1996 through 2001. The data contained in this study do not support the hypothesis that there is a causal relationship between the Army's deployment tempo and increased captain attrition." (emphasis supplied) "Deployment Tempo and Captain Attrition,"
How Can We Best Demoralize The Nation?
In a time of war, this could be a good story to run if it were written to, let's say, provide a little balance to what otherwise might be an overwhelming supply of gung-ho-support-the-troops kind of stories. You know, a little sobering counterpoint to a plethora of overly flattering articles about the troops and the war. But do you think that's what's going on here? Of course not. There is no balance because there are virtually no favorable stories being written about the troops. From the MSM to Hollywood the media have an overwhelmingly negative view of our troops and they make that clear to us every day as they portray them as stupid, pathetic, often victims, often murderers, or against the war. And boy do they ever love stories about the infinitesimally small number who have turned against the war.
The effect of such an article is to demoralize. Have you ever noticed in a football game that when there is a man injured, down on the field, that all of the other players get away and stay away on the sideline? That's good coaching and it's universally part of the game. The players are taught to do this because if they were to hang around, staring down at the injured player, they'd get demoralized. The fight would drain out of them and some wouldn't want to finish the game.
In November of last year U.S. Army LTG William Caldwell gave a speech before the Dole Institute on The Changing Face of Warfare in the 21st Century. He spoke about how in this war the enemy knows that they cannot defeat us militarily. He talked about the "information battlefield" and how the "weapon of information" is to 21st century war what the minie ball and the machine gun were to the wars of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He said our enemy is leveraging the use of information to influence public opinion in order to break the will of those who support the war effort. (ah...remember that expression..."the war effort"... how it now seems so passé) General Caldwell explained that the enemy is "employing a strategy of exhaustion," in order to erode the will of the American people.
(LTG William B. Caldwell, The Changing Face of Warfare in the 21st Century, Dole Institute, November 14, 2007)
LTG Caldwell said that the enemy is justifiably obsessed with the information battlefield and he referred to a letter written in 2005 by bin Laden's second in command, al-Zawahiri to the then leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, al-Zarqawi (later killed by U.S. forces):
"[T]he mujahedeen must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal. We will return to having the secularists and traitors holding sway over us. Instead, their [the mujahedeen] ongoing mission is to establish an Islamic state, and defend it, and for every generation to hand over the banner to the one after it until the Hour of Resurrection...
"The Americans will exit soon, God willing, and the establishment of a governing authority-as soon as the country is freed from the Americans-does not depend on force alone. [while Zawahiri misunderestimated Mr. Bush, he nailed the Democratic candidates...they're having a contest to see who can retreat the fastest...and FDR, Harry Truman, and JFK are turning over in their graves].
"The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents is noteworthy. Because of that, we must be ready starting now, before events overtake us, and before we are surprised by the conspiracies of the Americans and the United Nations, and their plans to fill the void behind them. We must take the initiative and impose a fait accompli upon our enemies, instead of the enemy imposing one on us...
"I say to you: that we are in a battle and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our Umma. And that however far our capabilities reach, they will never be equal to one thousandth of the capabilities of the kingdom of Satan that is waging war on us." (emphasis supplied) Letter from al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi, July 9, 2005 http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/report/2005/zawahiri-zarqawi-letter_9jul2005.htm
For the better part of five years, we've listened to the steady drumbeat of bad news on Iraq. Today, with the progress of the surge, there's some truly good news to report and yet there's a virtual blackout on it. In our upside-down culture, it seems that failure has a hundred fathers but success is an orphan, and we're paying an enormous price. Already the overwhelmingly negative articles about the military and the war have had a profoundly depressing effect on our society's ability to raise an army. The more difficult it becomes to raise an army, the more difficult it will be to protect ourselves and the less successful our military can be. It's a kind of negative feedback loop created by the media and the popular culture.
There are hundreds of positive, moving, up-lifting stories that have come out of this war (a few links are offered below). These are stories that would make compelling multi-part articles, television miniseries and movies. But if bravery, honor, duty, integrity, loyalty, and leadership are not important virtues to you, you'll never write about them. The MSM and Hollywood are incapable of writing about them because to them they are in fact foreign concepts. Thus, they are made uncomfortable by them and as result of this discomfort these virtues are no longer stressed in our society.
Many of the people who write the anti-military articles are trained professionals with degrees in journalism, so how is it that a little fact checking by non-professionals can reveal the stories to be so phony? Don't you think that if the press had a sense of ethics they'd be embarrassed by their work? And why the seemingly endless supply of these kinds of fallacious hit pieces? To rephrase James Carville, it's their agenda stupid.
We've been unable to deny the enemy the information battlefield in our own country because the American media is, consciously or subconsciously (it makes no difference, the effect is the same), in the tank for the him. It's the only way to characterize such uniformly consistent deceit. Our military is being methodically "Dan Rathered" by this powerful sector of our society. This is the presidential campaign season and the election is less than eight months away; do you think that al Qaeda will be denied the "battlefield of the media" Think Tet Offensive.
Zawahiri wrote about the collapse of American power in Vietnam and found it noteworthy that we ran and abandoned our friends. He emphasized that his is a fight with more than half of the battle taking place in the media. Of course he's right. Recently I a Marine captain told me, "Look, the book is out on how to beat the U.S military. All you've got to do knock off a few troops each week... set off a few IEDs... and by the time the American media has given the public a good working over, we'll be forced to pull out."
The American military will never lose a war. But demoralized and misinformed by the agenda media, the American people have been cutting and running for 35 years. How much longer can we do this and survive?Alan Fraser is a father of a Marine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good news you may not have heard about: