Wednesday, May 12, 2004


(And...I grow up a little.)

You may recall my post upbraiding the soldiers who performed the acts of abuse/humiliation on the Iraqis in that prison.

I am reminded this week that much of what I learned while in the Army stays with me.

As a commissioned officer I had many occasions over the course of my career to redress acts of indiscipline on the part of soldiers under my charge. Though it seems usual to me now, I'm reminded that my approach of "deal with it then let it be done" is one I learned from the Army.

It is a simple equation...once the investigation has revealed the facts, address the inappropriate behavior, administer punishment and/or corrective action, then be done with it (with the exception of seeing to it that the corrective action has taken root and the behavior is modified.)

So...perhaps through that lens one can better appreciate the Army's approach to the soldiers involved in the mess at the prison. See...CBS and their photos didn't start the Army moving toward addressing the problem. The Army began its investigation months ago...the Article 32 investigation (grand-jury equivalent, more or less) has been underway since at least January...and the first court martial happens next week. This is hardly allowing grass to grow under the Army's feet. In short, the prescription (already in place) for dealing with misconduct existed already and the Army is following its application.

What the Army doesn't do is dwell, weep, whine, rehash and hand-wring.

Unlike CNN.

Unlike Congress.

Consider for a moment a very low point (for the Allies) in the European theater of WWII. Operation Market Garden...and the Battle of Arnhem. Some will recall that this is the basis for the book and film A Bridge Too Far.
Overwhelming though this colossal assault was, it was also equally flawed. Airborne troops are only lightly armed and their survival depends upon taking the enemy by surprise and reaching objectives before they have time to react with heavy weapons. However, so cocksure were the Allies in their view that the Germans were already beaten, numerous grave errors were made which doomed Market Garden to failure before a shot had been fired. Principally, there were not enough transport planes to fly all three Divisions to their targets in one go. Instead they had to be flown to Holland in three lifts, with only one lift per day.
This badly planned, poorly executed and generally unlucky attempt to seal the fate of the Nazis in September of 1944 cost the allies almost twice as many Soldiers as had the D-Day invasion.

So...what did the Allies do? First, they quit throwing troops at the problem. Second, they regrouped, buried their dead, dusted themselves off, then set out to find a workable path to victory.

VE Day came less than 8 months later.

See, the Army knows it has to move on. Why? Simple. It is move on or face defeat whilst one whines, cries, moans and wrings hands. And defeat is not an option.

However, under modern circumstances one has to believe that 8 months later CNN would still be showing video footage of the defeat at the Arnhem bridge over and over and over. One must believe that Aaron Brown would interview Judy Woodruff, and Judy would interview Larry King and Larry would interview Aaron Brown in a never ending circle of so-called-journalist spouting off to so-called-journalist about stuff they know less about than the millions of veterans across the land who have actually served their country with their name written on their chests instead of serving themselves with their names attached to some hour of news on television.

And Congress. I'm ambivalent on the subject of term limits...but these hearings offer the best argument in favor of such limits I have seen in years. The political posturing of members of congress on this issue is sickening. The number of congressmen and senators who are using this opportunity to pander to the cameras is truly disheartening. One wonders if there were no chance of reelection for many of them, would they act more honest, and less SHOCKED about it all.

Praise the Lord for President Bush's resolute appearance at the Pentagon on Monday to support Secretary Rumsfeld. "Shut up", said the President, in so many words, to those who want to create a crisis bigger than it really is.

Praise the Lord for folks like
Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma:
"I am probably not the only one up at this table who is outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment," he said. "These prisoners, they are murderers, terrorists, they are insurgents, many of them probably have blood on their hands. And here we are so concerned about the treatment of those individuals."

Senator Inhofe said U.S. troops are the ones who deserve sympathies. "I am also outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons looking for human rights violations while our troops, our heroes, are fighting and dying."
And now the Washington Times reports the incessant harping on the misdeeds of a fraction of our soldiers is killing the morale of the ones serving honorably.
The worldwide furor over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers imperils troop morale at a crucial time, say lawmakers from both parties...

"This happened in Vietnam," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican. "It's happened in other wars, where the troops wondered if people are really behind them."

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, blamed Democrats who have been harshly critical of the war effort for eroding troop morale.

"I'm concerned that a number of members of Congress have lost their sense of balance," he said. "They think their role here is to bash the American military. It is demoralizing for the troops."

Mr. DeLay also targeted Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry for sending out a mass e-mail to supporters calling for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's removal and soliciting campaign cash. It's "unconscionable," he said, for Mr. Kerry to use the abuse scandal as a "fund-raising gimmick."

"Frankly, it's disgusting," Mr. DeLay said.
Yes it is.

You can bet the soldiers of Our Guys...the men and women...the husbands and wives, the fathers and mothers from Friedberg and Giessen, the ones who were recently extended beyond an entire year away from their loved can bet as they witness the US media and the US Senate and the US Congress fixate on the misdeeds of less than one in every ten-thousand US Soldiers and Marines to have served in this conflict...well, you can imagine the soldiers of 1/36 Infantry, 1/37 and 2/37 Armor, 2/3 Field Artillery, 16th Engineers and 501st Forward Support Battalion just have to be wondering just why the hell they even bother?

But the Army drives on. They have no other options. Very few members of the Army involved in Iraq have the luxury of having secretaries cancel all appointments, and order talking points from staffers to ensure they can be glib and polished for the TV cameras. No...the Army is out there trying to help the majority of Iraqis give birth to democracy and freedom. But they are getting no help from the US media and little from Congress. In fact, I blame those two entities for making this worse.

Consder this quote from Arab sources last week
Could it be that the Iraqi people and as a result of decades of torture, humiliation and executions, took these crimes less seriously than the rest of the world?
Seems that last week the Arab world was a bit perplexed over the concern by Americans over relatively mild treatment of prisoners.

However, now, after a week and a half of non-stop coverage on CNN (seen round the world, in case you didn't know...) all of a sudden the humiliation of the prisoners is "such and affront" to Arabs that it requires a retaliatory beheading.
"How can a free Muslim sleep well as he sees Islam slaughtered and its dignity bleeding, and the pictures of shame and the news of the devilish scorn of the people of Islam - men and women - in the prison of Abu Ghraib?" he said.
Am I saying I fault CNN, CBS, other US Media, and the US Congress for the beheading (or apparent beheading) of Nick Berg? Yes I am.

If we had dealt with the story of the prison in the appropriate context and with the proper amount of import that it truly carried, my opinion is that the militant Arabs would not have found in this an opportunity to exploit through barbaric tactics the American fixation on relatively minor improprieties.

In short...had the media and the congress kept it in actual perspective, instead of treating is as a means to raise revenue, votes or campaign funds (Kerry!) - playing politics with the issue - this story would not be linked by militant Arabs to the apparent decapitation of an innocent American.

Which brings me to the point where I grow up a little bit. For I have been guilty of naivete. You see, I've been reluctant to give up my hope that those who purport to be in the business of reporting news in this world, actually want to do just that. And I've been inclined to believe that those who are elected to their positions by the voters of this country see such an election as being about service to the people.

But the more I witness the more I can't help but conclude that I was wrong on both counts. Those in the news business - at the upper echelons are driven to profit and to shape events. And many in Congress make it their first priority to get themselves reelected...second priority to push the agenda of their party, and service to the people, where it is a priority, is somewhere down the line.

Understanding this perhaps I can keep myself from exasperation...knowing that the reporting is not accidentally but deliberately skewed, perhaps it will bother me less that the press dishonors the service of my wife and so many, many thousands of her comrades.

For as the media and the elected focus inordinate attention to a story from months ago, the Army has moved on from Arnhem...and by now General Patton has orchestrated the breakout at the Battle of the Bulge.

We won't hear about it though...because our media and our Congress are still grandstanding on the failures of the Bridge Too Far.

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