Monday, June 26, 2006


Thomas Smith, Jr. in
So I receive a phone call from a reporter at ABC News. They are working on a story about Haditha, and the reporter’s comments to me go something along the lines of; “I am particularly interested in your recent pieces on Haditha in which you say that in order to understand what happened, we must first understand the men involved, the dynamics of the system in which they operate, and the realities of ground combat.”
The reporter’s referencing of my own comments are somewhat paraphrased, but his following questions are clearly etched in my mind verbatim:

“Don’t you think the killings at Haditha [November 19, 2005] are the result of a wrong war and a failed policy?” he asks. “Much like the tragedy of My Lai [the killings of unarmed civilians by U.S. soldiers in the village of My Lai, Vietnam in 1968] was the result of a wrong war and a failed policy?”

I was taken aback for about as long as it takes to silently mouth the words, “This is going to be too easy.” After all, it’s one thing to read and listen to politicized versions of news stories spun by the various national news organizations. But to actually experience the machine as it begins to process what they plan to feed the masses is quite another.
I like that phrase, what they plan to feed the masses.

Much has been written today about the rationalizations of Bill Keller of the NY Times, trying to justify his newspaper's release of classified information during a time of war.

I particularly liked these two responses highlighted by Instapundit, Michael Barone asks: "Why does the Times print stories that put America more at risk of attack? They say that these surveillance programs are subject to abuse, but give no reason to believe that this concern is anything but theoretical." and Tom Maguire asks: "Tell me again whether there are any checks at all on this 'power that has been given us.' Where is the accountability at the Times - can We the People un-elect Bill Keller? . . . Or, if there is no accountability, is that really how we want to run our democracy? Don't We the People have the right to decide that some national security secrets need to be kept secret? Or can any bureaucrat with an agenda overrule his elected superiors? Let me re-phrase that - can any bureaucrat with an agenda with which the Times is comfortable overrule his elected superiors on national security issues?"

But the completely self-absorbed Keller can only pat himself on the back for his skepticism of the government's motives, and claims to need a "compelling" reason not to publish national security secrets.

Some of the reporting in The Times and elsewhere prior to the war in Iraq was criticized for not being skeptical enough of the Administration's claims about the Iraqi threat. The question we start with as journalists is not "why publish?" but "why would we withhold information of significance?" We have sometimes done so, holding stories or editing out details that could serve those hostile to the U.S. But we need a compelling reason to do so.

Protecting American citizens from another attack is not a compelling enough reason for him apparently.

Last night I was watching a series on the American Revolution on the History Channel. The show was detailing the abysmal failures of General George Washington during the first year of combat. So poor was the morale, that there were plots to actually wrest away the leadership of the continental army from Washington.

What caught my attention in this episode, however, was the impact of one particular person during the gloomy and hopeless time for American independence. A young journalist and pamphleteer who was in the Army under Washington decided that what the colonies needed more than anything, was inspiration. Thomas Paine had already come to some fame as the author of Common Sense , a pamphlet published in January 1776, and whose ringing defense of liberty united the young nation and inspired the leaders to stand up to the British.

With Washington in full retreat, Paine hastened back to Philadelphia--which was already being evacuated in expectation of occupation by the British--and published The Crisis, which was rapidly disseminated through the colonies. Washington himself was so moved by Paine's words, that just before he crossed the Delaware in a surprise attack on the British-- the boldest move he made in the war--he had the stirring words read aloud to his troops.

From The Crisis, December 23, 1776:
THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but "to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER" and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.

But, before the line of irrecoverable separation be drawn between us, let us reason the matter together: Your conduct is an invitation to the enemy, yet not one in a thousand of you has heart enough to join him. Howe is as much deceived by you as the American cause is injured by you. He expects you will all take up arms, and flock to his standard, with muskets on your shoulders. Your opinions are of no use to him, unless you support him personally, for 'tis soldiers, and not Tories, that he wants.

I once felt all that kind of anger, which a man ought to feel, against the mean principles that are held by the Tories: a noted one, who kept a tavern at Amboy, was standing at his door, with as pretty a child in his hand, about eight or nine years old, as I ever saw, and after speaking his mind as freely as he thought was prudent, finished with this unfatherly expression, "Well! give me peace in my day." Not a man lives on the continent but fully believes that a separation must some time or other finally take place, and a generous parent should have said, "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace;" and this single reflection, well applied, is sufficient to awaken every man to duty. Not a place upon earth might be so happy as America. Her situation is remote from all the wrangling world, and she has nothing to do but to trade with them. A man can distinguish himself between temper and principle, and I am as confident, as I am that God governs the world, that America will never be happy till she gets clear of foreign dominion. Wars, without ceasing, will break out till that period arrives, and the continent must in the end be conqueror; for though the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to shine, the coal can never expire.

Offhand, I can't think of any of our sunshine patriot journalists today whose writings would do much to inspire America's troops. Endanger them; outrage them; or undermine them perhaps...but hardly inspire.

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