Information Warfare: Bashing the Troops and Getting Away With It

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February 5, 2007: In light of the blog based blowback over his original post, Washington Post writer Bill Arkin fired off two responses. Arkin's replies seemed to fall more into the "I'm sorry if you were offended", and actually heaped more insults on the troops. As if he did not get his butt kicked enough after referring to the all-volunteer force as mercenaries, Arkin seemed to be asking for more. However, Arkin's response also seems to indicate that the media is more willing to fight a war against the war on terror rather than to call out opponents of the war on apparent hypocrisy.

It seems that the media and the anti-war movement understands some implications that the internet and 24-hour news coverage have for the troops, but seems unwilling to keep that in mind. It is not 1942, when the Chicago Tribune's revelation of American codebreaking at Midway managed to escape the attention of the Axis. Today, when the New York Times blows intelligence programs, the Washington Post's columnists labels the troops mercenaries, Newsweek releases a report that is inaccurate, or when an anti-war politician compares American troops to the Khmer Rouge, it spreads across the world at the speed of light. 

Naturally, such ill-considered decisions by these media outlets and politicians draw fire. This then leads to polarization. The offended troops see this as elite media members not understanding what is going on. The media, of course, digs in its heels, charging the military with wanting to censor the news, never considering that there is a responsibility to carefully consider the words one uses in that debate, particularly given the fact that those comments will spread around the world. The troops usually are caught in the middle, taking incoming fire from the media, while those who support their mission return fire. Too often, those troops caught in the middle of the debate, often see their opinions lost in the din.

It is a stretch for anyone to believe that the military wants to preclude debate about the war on terror. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are part of what they are defending - and indeed, are trying to make possible in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places. That said, the troops do have a right to request that the American people conduct the debate in a manner that does not put the troops in greater danger. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 

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