As anticipated, the counter-intelligence psyche-ops post Al-Zarqawi’s demise are well underway. I don’t know who’s more distressed about the growing possibility of our success in Iraq, the Democratic National Committee or Al Qaeda. Is it just me, or are their talking points on Iraq a little too similar?
Yesterday the US House of Representatives held a non-binding vote on House Resolution 861; formally titled “Declaring that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror, the struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary.” The final tally was 256 Yeas, 153 Nays, and 24 who did not vote. While 3 Republicans voted nay, 42 Democrats crossed over and voted yea. By my calculations, and rooted in a deep conviction that our elected officials represent the truest expression of our national will, the results indicate 59% are for persevering in Iraq, 35% are cut and runners, and 5% are fixated on their belly buttons. A CNN opinion poll dated June 15th put the numbers at 38% in support of staying the course, 54% for pulling out and 8% unsure. Since CNN’s reporting of the War on Terrorism in general, and the fighting in Iraq in particular has usually been 180 degrees out from my personal experiences, I’m going to go with House Resolution 861 results and enjoy, on the heels of Al-Zarqawi's death, another much needed morale boost. Additionally, the Senate voted 93 to 6 to reject a John Kerry proposed pull-out by December 31st. Hey, do you think Howard Dean is planning a trip to Iraq to reassure and raise the spirits of his folks?
On a disappointing note, my former college roommate, a Democratic congressman, voted against HRes 861.
The number of press inquiries I've recieved over the past two weeks with regards to Haditha have stayed high. There have been ongoing contacts with The New York Times, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, the BBC, The Washington Post, ABC News, US News and World Report and the LA Times. I thought I'd share two of these exchanges to illustrate a couple salient points central to my decision to forego contributing to the pyranhaic feeding frenzy. The Marine Corps has actually formally extended to me, through both MARCENT and HQMC, the right to speak when and if I see fit.
Here's an exchange with a journalist from The New York Times. Almost every media type who's contacted me has tried to pre-qualify themselves with their combat pedigree and time out in the "goo". Here goes:
From: Xxxxxx@nytimes.comSent: 6/7/2006 6:50:09 PMTo: firstname.lastname@example.orgSubject: your iraq blog Officer Fay: I'd like to talk to you about your experience in Haditha last fall, if you have a few moments. Rgds,xxxxxx, The New York Times, 212-556-xxxx
Mr X, The Marine Corps has asked us to temporarily refrain, while the official investigation is underway, from making comments regarding the alleged incident in Haditha. As you probably gathered from my milblog I was with K/3/1 for a couple weeks last October. I can't really add anything to what I've already written. In a more recent blog entry I referenced a CNN reporter's recollection of her time spent with K/3/1 in Haditha (same time frame as myself) as being very similar to my own (http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/05/30/damon.iraq.btsc/). Kilo Company was a well led, trained and seasoned unit. Over the past five years, in my capacity as a combat artist, I've deployed twice each to Iraq and Afghanistan. I have only seen and experienced my fellow Marines treating civilians with the utmost care, respect, dignity and consideration. The consistent humane professionalism of my fellow Marines under the harshest and most challenging of conditions is a constant source of inspiration for me. I also wrote a series of blog entries for your TimesSelect website in the Frontlines section for Peter Catapano.
Respectfully, Warrant Officer Michael Fay USMCR
From: email@example.comSent: 6/8/2006 11:55:00 AMTo: michael faySubject: Officer Fay: Thanks for your note, and I understand to delicacy of the situation. I've gotten used to having the Marine Corps brass tell folks they shouldn't talk to me. But please see the attached pieces I've done on Marines in Iraq. Most of the Marines quoted in these stories decided to talk me even though they were asked not to, and they were pleased with the outcome. With Kilo, unfortunately, we are writing in advance of the investigative report being released. I'm doing everything I can to be complete and fair and heedful of all perspective. I haven't been to Haditha, but I was on a similar mission in a village near Falluja in September and have a feel for the work they endured. Yours would be an important, independent and as an artist, uniquely trained viewpoint, and it'd be great to speak with you on whatever terms you wish. Rgds, Xxxxx, 212-556-xxxx
Xxxxx, I actually have permission from higher ups to speak with the press. They've pretty much left it up to me at this point. I'll review your material. I've had a good experience with Peter Catapano. However, an article which appeared on the frontpage of the NYTs with a headline of "Here's Donny" in which General Peter Pace was described as a "prop" to Rumsfeld has me seriously questioning the ability of your paper to inform without spin. I realize that this was not an article written by you, no more than I was directly involved in the Haditha incident. None the less, this particular pieced I found particularly offensive and deeply shades my current attitude towards your paper. As someone in the military who's experienced history first hand and have then read about it in a major print media outlet, or have seen the very same events reported on the television with gross misrepresentations I am hesitant in speaking on the record. Michael Phillips, of the Wall Street Journal, did an article about me....we spent a significant period in the shit together and allowed me to review the article before it went to press. Mike
Here's why I didn't talk to this gentleman. Firstly, he addressed me in both messages as Officer Fay. Believe me, I'm not obsessed with being called warrant officer (or "gunner", the Marinespeak slang for WOs), but being addressed this way is consistent with the police, not the Marines. This seemingly minor slip is odd enough to suggest to military types that we're talking with someone not all that savy on our culture. Secondly, and most important to me, was the spin he put on my reply to his first inquiry. My initial reply of "The Marine Corps has asked us to temporarily refrain, while the official investigation is underway, from making comments regarding the alleged incident in Haditha" morphed into his "I've gotten used to having the Marine Corps brass tell folks they shouldn't talk to me." This spin to my first exchange with him was a show stopper. Plus, the self-aggrandizing of himself as someone the "brass" gets in a tizzy about is just plain weird. Bottom line, spin and narcissism were deal killers.
The second exchange was with a producer from ABC News. I believe he was a very reasonable guy and probably a good journalist.
<-----Original Message----->From: X@abc.com: 6/14/2006 2:43:29 PMTo: firstname.lastname@example.orgSubject: 3/1
My name is X. I'm a producer for ABCNEWS. Currently I'm working out of Oceanside, California just outside Camp Pendleton.
I understand you talked to our Los Angeles Bureau Chief, Y, recently. I did take a look at your blog and saw your commentary on no comment.
It's been my experience that there will be an explanation for what happened at Haditha and Hamdaniya. It will be buried in the details and the split second decisions Marine's make in a combat environment. It's my job to make sure our reporting is accurate in both fact and context. I need details. That doesn't mean I'm going to rush on the air with every detail as it becomes available. What I'm looking for are puzzles to show the big picture. Then when we hear something, either through sources or the court proceedings, I know if that information is accurate or important.
Can you talk on background, or even off the record about your time with 3/1?
(Can I get a copy of some of your work or does it belong to the Marine Corps?)
<-----Original Message----->X, I notified, up the Marine Corps Public Affairs chain-of-command to HQMC, of your interest in my experiences with F/3/1. They in turn extended to me the right to speak with you. In your initial message to me, which has much in common with every inquiry I've recieved over the past couple weeks from a multitude of organizations, you spoke of wanting to be accurate in facts and in context. With an ongoing investigation I cannot speak to the facts, of which I am no more cognizant than yourself. There is nothing of value I cound add to the public record.
For myself the proper context, the correct background setting for the reporting and analysis of alleged incidents involving Marines are; Firstly: The tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of incidences of care, consideration, respect, sacrifice and devotion that American GIs have, and continue to extend with great humanity to Iraqis and Afghanis on an hourly basis. These I have witnessed personally by the thousands in the field under the harshest of conditions by virtually every Marine and unit I've patrolled out at the tip of the spear with. Secondly: The grueling historical realities of war, whether now or in all past conflicts, regardless of political popularity or lack thereof. These contexts, in my opinion, have been grossly, if not negligently, underreported by the American press. To use a well worn analogy, if there's a thousand cats and one up a tree.....we'll hear about the one up the tree and not learn a thing about why cats go up trees in the first place.
My personal trust in any mainstream media organization placing facts within a valid context is nil. Consequently, I decline to speak directly with you and will simply allow my milblog comments to represent my sentiments.
Respectfully, Warrant Officer Michael Fay
At the end of the day I decided that ABC News was a day late and a dollar short in putting the facts in the proper context, and I didn't have the time or inspiration to help them catch up.