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08/07/2003 Archived Entry: "Silencing the soldiers"

So much for the Bush administration's much-touted concern for "America's sons and daughters" who are serving in the military. (Of course, some of us figured Bush was just showing his true colors when he invited those who were targeting US troops in Iraq to "Bring 'em on!") Well, he may encourage militants to fire on US "peacekeepers" but he definitely wants to discourage the troops under fire from complaining about it.

In an article entitled "Pentagon may punish GIs who spoke out on TV", the San Francisco Chronicle commented, "soldiers of the Army's Second Brigade, Third Infantry Division found [this] out after Good Morning America aired their complaints....The retaliation from Washington was swift." But the exhausted soldiers -- many of whom have had their tour of duty extended three times now -- keep speaking out. In an article entitled "We don't feel like heroes anymore," Isaac Kindblade explains, "I am a private first class in the Army's 671st Engineer Company out of Portland. I just wanted to let you know a little bit of what we are up to, maybe so that you can have another opinion of what's going on over here in Iraq...The task is daunting, and the conditions are frightening. We can't help but think of 'Black Hawk Down' when we're in Baghdad surrounded by swarms of people. We are outnumbered. We are exhausted. We are in over our heads. The president says, 'Bring 'em on.' The generals say we don't need more troops. Well, they're not over here." The influential blog TomPaine obsesrves, "Now that the Pentagon is limiting media access to troops in Iraq will the brass come down on Private First Class Isaac Kindblade?"

PR week reports, "After several troops made some highly publicized negative comments to the media about the war effort in Iraq, the Pentagon has taken steps to keep the frustrations of both soldiers and their families out of reports. According to a story in the July 25 edition of Stars and Stripes, the military appears to be curtailing its much-touted embedded-journalist program, which has allowed reporters almost unfettered access to military units throughout the war and occupation." The so-called "unfettered access" was always in exchange for Pentagon control of what was said and what was seen so that the military would look good to the home folk. If the Vietnam War taught the White House anything it was that truly unfettered journalism means the horrors of war and the brutality of American soldiers (who are no more brutal than any other military in an untenable situation) will spill out into the livingrooms of average Americans who are worried about the safety of their sons and daughters. The wrong descriptions will be read by average Americans who have good hearts and wince over innocent child killed in crossfire, maimed by bombs, orphaned... Journalists on the front lines of Vietnam played a key factor in changing the hearts and minds of Americans on the war. Americans at home watched the tragic debacle as they ate their TV dinners and the scroll of America dead that day became the way many news channels ended their broadcasts. The way many people ended their days before going to bed. I remember seeing one such scroll as a young child when my family was on vacation in the States. It terrified me and remains my most vivid memory of that trip. How many Americans with sons and other family in Vietnam leaned into the screen every night, biting their lips and holding their breath, just in case they saw a familiar name?

The Bush administration was determined to prevent a replay of this journalistic role. In Iraq, the embedded (in-bed) journalists were "bought off" with access, prestige, and the ease of reporting. The problem is keeping journalists bought in the face of the overwhelming discontent of troops "in the field" and of the continuing death toll during this period of "peace."

On the Personal Front:

Brad and I are looking forward immensely to attending TorCon -- the 61st World Science Fiction Convention, to be held August 28-September 1, 2003 in Toronto. In this vein, I was interested to hear: "For Us, the Living, the first novel Robert A. Heinlein wrote, has been sold to Scribner's and Pocket Books. All copies of the novel, which is believed to have been written between late 1938 and April 1939, were thought to have been lost or destroyed, but a copy was located recently and passed on to the Heinlein Society, which turned it over to Heinlein's literary estate, and which subsequently sold at auction. No publication date has yet been announced." The similarity between Heinlein's book and Rand's "We the Living" (Macmillan, 1936) is striking.

Sam continues to heal nicely tho' he and I are not friends at the moment. He does not forgive me for removing a bandage that ran the length of his abdomen in order to check out his wound.

Best to all,

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