The Marine incident, and its aftermath, at Haditha tells us much more about the media than it does about the Marines. And what it tells us ought to outrage us to the core.
On every radio and television show I appeared on last week (and all I observed) in which this topic came up, without exception at least one of the media people immediately attempted to implicate not just the still-presumed-innocent Marines, but the American military's leadership and methods in general.
The "Drive By Media" (Rush Limbaugh's scientifically accurate description) has already started to report this story in a manner that is likely to do vast damage that may last for several years to the morale (and possibly recruitment) of our military. It will create a propaganda catastrophe of strategic proportions in our mortal struggle with radical Islam and its terrorist spear point.
And all this is being done by journalists who are seemingly oblivious to the consequences of their acts.
President Bush noted the extraordinary damage that reported events at Abu Ghraib caused and continue to cause. One can only imagine what the radical Islamist propagandists and recruiters will do with the Haditha incident -- especially since they will merely have to accurately quote from major United States and European newspapers and television news broadcasts. Is this any way to fight a war?
It is commonplace to observe that since the dawn of man -- and currently -- in the crucible of battle, warriors sometimes cannot contain their emotions and their violent actions. It is amazing our troops act as civilized as they do in combat.
It is particularly commendable of our American troops that they willingly go into battle under such restrictive rules of engagement that they are required to constantly risk their own lives in order not to offend civilian/terrorists(?) until they are almost sure they are really combatants.
No other military force in history has been so tightly limited in its defensive actions. And probably no other military force has been sufficiently disciplined to maintain such restrictive rules in the heat of combat. God bless our troops -- if not necessarily the policy that so restricts them.
For the parents, wives, husbands and children of our young warriors who are killed because they followed the restrictive rules and didn't fire first, this is a damned bitter pill to swallow -- whatever the geopolitical wisdom of it.
But what further cuts is to listen to media people casually perpetrate libel against not just the still-presumed-innocent Marines but against our services more generally. To see the gleam in the eyes of reporters happily cackling on about "other possible incidents" -- about which they know not whether they even exist -- is to be filled with a fury that we have a system of journalism that permits people with such mentalities to poison the minds of the world with their malice.
Of course if an American soldier, sailor, Marine or airman is found by a court martial made up of seasoned officers with a practical understanding of the exigencies of combat to have violated the standards of combat, he or she must face American military justice. But in time of war, there is no reason why military censorship should not be enforced to shroud the carrying out of justice from the eager eyes and ears of enemy propagandists -- domestic and foreign.
Pending the implementation of such a policy, journalists should sharply limit their reporting to the bare established facts, preferably reported once on page A36. (You know, the way they report Democratic Party scandals.)
But in the lunatic asylum that is today's America-at-war journalism, one possibly unfortunate event opens a floodgate of over-reporting, misreporting and just plain lying. Nothing is too harsh or too untrue to say about our military by these (fill in the blank).
At journalism conferences, the question is often brought up whether a journalist should see him- or herself as an American first or a journalist first. Often the consensus is that they are journalists first.
I wonder how many of them would report a story if it would mean the death of their own child. And would any of those reporters who would be journalists first in even that appalling instant cheerfully misreport a story in order to cause the death of their child? I suspect virtually none would.
If only they loved their country's young and willing warriors as much as they loved their own children.
But the journalists today are too swept up in their own danse macabre to even notice the murderous consequences of their own malfeasance -- or to hear the demands of simple decency.