Larry Elder

" . . . Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. . . . Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story." This is part of the "Code of Ethics" of the Society of Professional Journalists, an organization dedicated to protecting and improving journalism.

During a "town-hall" style meeting with the troops in Kuwait, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asked the 2,300 or so soldiers to ask him "tough questions." Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, a Tennessee National Guard outfit, asked, "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?"

Rumsfeld, seeming a bit rattled by the question, said, "I talked to the general coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever they're not needed, to a place here where they are needed. I'm told that they are being -- the Army is -- I think it's something like 400 a month are being done. And it's essentially a matter of physics. It isn't a matter of money. It isn't a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It's a matter of production and capability of doing it. As you know, you go to war with the Army you have.

They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time. Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary at a rate that they believe -- it's a greatly expanded rate from what existed previously -- but a rate that they believe is the rate that is all that can be accomplished at this moment . . . "

Certainly whether our soldiers are supplied with the best equipment is a serious matter. But what happened during the question-and-answer in Kuwait raises another issue -- the role of the media. It turns out that a Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter, Edward Lee Pitts, learned the day before that Rumsfeld insisted that only soldiers ask questions. So, according to his own e-mail, the reporter said, " . . . I brought two of [the soldiers I'm embedded with] along with me as my escorts. Beforehand we worked on questions to ask Rumsfeld about the appalling lack of armor their vehicles going into combat have. While waiting for the VIP, I went and found the Sgt. in charge of the microphone for the question and answer session and made sure he knew to get my guys out of the crowd. So during the Q&A session, one of my guys was the second person called on."

Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit