Sunday, June 24, 2007

We will not acknowledge this reporter’s attempt to stain the engagement with the misnomer “killings.”

NATO spokesmodel Nick Lunt responds to Afghan PuppetPrez Karzai’s criticisms of all those NATO bombings that have killed civilians in large numbers recently, sounding like one of those infuriating oh-so-calm customer-relations phone reps. Karzai, he says, “has a right to be disappointed and angry,” and NATO will try to “do better.” He added, “But unlike the Taleban, we do not set out to cause civilian casualties, and that is a critical difference.” Not to the civilian casualties, it isn’t.

Headline of the day (AP): “Man Throws a Log at a Bear, Killing It.”

Today’s must-read: the NYT has excerpts (I want to see the whole thing! I want it I want it I want it!) from a memo written in response to emailed questions from Time magazine reporter Tim McGirk, who would break the Haditha Massacre story by Marines on Col. Chessani’s staff, including the egregious Lt. Mathes. Actually, I’m just going to reproduce all the excerpts. I love the one bit that goes off in increasingly paranoic terms on the need to avoid runaway sergeant storylines, My Lai, and “Platoon” analogies.
McGirk: How many marines were killed and wounded in the I.E.D. attack that morning?

Memo: If it bleeds, it leads. This question is McGirk’s attempt to get good bloody gouge on the situation. He will most likely use the information he gains from this answer as an attention gainer.

McGirk: Were there any officers?

Memo: By asking if there was an officer on scene the reporter may be trying to identify a point of blame for lack of judgment. If there was an officer involved, then he may be able to have his My Lai massacre pinned on that officer’s shoulders. ...

In the reporter’s eyes, military officers may represent the U.S. government and enlisted marines may represent the American People. Given the current political climate in the U.S. at this time concerning the Iraq war and the current administration’s conduct of the war, the reporter would most likely seek to discredit the U.S. government (one of our officers) and expose victimization of the American people by the hand of the government (the enlisted marines under the haphazard command of our “rogue officer.”) Unfortunately for McGirk, this is not the case.

One common tactic used by reporters is to spin a story in such a way that it is easily recognized and remembered by the general population through its association with an event that the general population is familiar with or can relate to. For example, McGirk’s story will sell if it can be spun as “Iraq’s My Lai massacre.” Since there was not an officer involved, this attempt will not go very far.

We must be on guard, though, of the reporter’s attempt to spin the story to sound like incidents from well-known war movies, like “Platoon.”

In “Platoon,” Sergeant Barnes, the movie’s antihero, is depicted as a no-nonsense, war-haggard platoon sergeant who knows how to get things done in the bloody jungles of Vietnam — and it ain’t always pretty. During one scene, Sergeant Barnes is shown on the verge of committing war crimes in front of his platoon by threatening to kill women and children as a means of interrogation. This is a classic “runaway sergeant” storyline wherein the audience is supposed to be sickened by the sergeant’s brutality and equally sickened by the traumatic effects war has on soldiers. This schema is especially fruitful for Mr. McGirk because if he tries to adapt our situation to this model it simultaneously exposes a “war crime cover-up” and shows the deteriorative (albeit exaggerated) effects of war on U.S. marines (the best of the best), which could be expanded by the general press as a testament for why the U.S. should pull out of Iraq.

[Colonel Chessani later shortened this answer to “No.”]

McGirk: How many marines were involved in the killings?

Memo: First off, we don’t know what you’re talking about when you say “killings.” One of our squads reinforced by a squad of Iraqi Army soldiers were engaged by an enemy initiated ambush on the 19th that killed one American marine and seriously injured two others. We will not justify that question with a response. Theme: Legitimate engagement: we will not acknowledge this reporter’s attempt to stain the engagement with the misnomer “killings.”

McGirk: Were there any weapons found during these house raids — or terrorists — where the killings occurred?

Memo: Again, you are showing yourself to be uneducated in the world of contemporary insurgent combat. The subject about which we are speaking was a legitimate engagement initiated by the enemy. ...

McGirk: Is there any investigation ongoing into these civilian deaths, and if so have any marines been formally charged?

Memo: No, the engagement was bona fide combat action. ... By asking this question, McGirk is assuming the engagement was a LOAC [Law of Armed Conflict] violation and that by asking about investigations, he may spurn a reaction from the command that will initiate an investigation.

McGirk: Are the marines in this unit still serving in Haditha?

Memo: Yes, we are still fighting terrorists of Al Qaida in Iraq in Haditha. (“Fighting terrorists associated with Al Qaida” is stronger language than “serving.” The American people will side more with someone actively fighting a terrorist organization that is tied to 9/11 than with someone who is idly “serving,” like in a way one “serves” a casserole. It’s semantics, but in reporting and journalism, words spin the story.)
Don’t they just.

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