WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It's good to be home. After covering Operation Iraqi Freedom for more than two months for Fox News Channel, Radio America and this column, I've now had the opportunity to reflect on what my colleagues and I saw and how it was reported, and see some of the effects of that reporting back here at home. It's also an opportunity to correct a few misperceptions -- some of them, my own.
First, my personal error in understanding. Every old soldier wants to believe that the best of the best were those he served with under fire. I must confess I felt that way when I went off to cover the U.S. Marines and our Army in Iraq. I should have known better, for I spend much of my life among them for my television series, "War Stories." But even I had to see for myself how they perform under the most adverse of circumstances: combat.
Now, having lived with them for 67 days, it is evident. The soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines serving in Iraq are without parallel. There has never been a brighter, better trained, better equipped group of men under arms than those who responded to our country's call in this war. No military force in history has ever gone so far, so fast, with so few casualties as this group of young Americans.
And while "major combat operations in Iraq have ended," as President Bush said this week aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, Iraq is still a very dangerous place for tens of thousands of young Americans.
Second misperception: Too many of the "embedded" reporters became "flag waving advocates" and failed the ultimate test of objectivity. Time Magazine's James Poniewozik, among others, scalded those of us who covered the war from the U.S. perspective, branding us "biased" for the way in which we reported the swift victory over the vaunted Republican Guards and the Saddam Fedayeen. And Harper's magazine publisher John MacArthur, citing the event in which we covered a U.S. Marine scaling a giant statue of Saddam and draping the black metal sculpture with Old Glory, accused not only the embedded media -- but the U.S. military as well -- of being "propagandists" for the Bush re-election campaign. But the reality is considerably different.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.