But SO MANY "military" correspondents are SO IGNORANT of the military that they are supposed to report about, and it is dangerous to our republic.
For instance, the identification of a soldier in the Army Times as a marine, despite his US Army clearly visible and his unit patch clearly visible.
The problem of course goes beyond the difference between the Marines and the Army. It isn't that identifying a soldier as a marine hurts anybody - it is that the "military correspondents" are shown to know next to nothing about the military, which means they will either believe everything they are told, dangerous to our republic which does not rely on trust of those in power, in uniform or not, or instead they will not understand what they hear or even how to verify what they hear. In short, it is dangerous. To us.
For example, this from the Navy Times (part of the same company that publishes the Army Times) showing a typical instance of staggering ignorance that civilians won't catch, but those who are reporting on the military should understand: " A Marine with the 3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 3rd Division, secures a position as other Marines carryout house-to-house searches in Fallujah, Iraq, on Tuesday." Civilians see nothing wrong in this report. But the identification of the unit goes "Bravo Company, 3rd Division." Apparently the entire 3rd Marine division has only one Bravo company? I think not.
In the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division there are at least two infantry Bravo companies alone: B company, 1st battalion, 327th infantry regiment, and B company 2/327th infantry (notice how I worked in the way the military writes unit designations down (B 1/327 IN) - you get it now, in one sentence, and yet reporters don't). There is also a Bravo battery, a Bravo troop, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the "slice" elements such as engineers or medical have bravo companies assigned to the 1st Brigade. There are other brigades in the 101st. They also all have "Bravo" companies. So imagine how little information is provided by a reporter who says "Bravo Company, 101st Airborne Division" when there are well over a dozen "bravo" companies. Or "Bravo Company, 3rd Division" of the USMC (although there are fewer "bravo" companies in a Marine division since they wisely letter their companies like the Army used to do, with every line company in a regiment having a different letter - but still there will be at least three Bravo line companies in a Marine Division, plus Bravo engineer companies, aviation, etc, just as in my 101st example.)
Some might claim "perhaps it was deliberate for operational security reasons." Nope. First, if the enemy is shooting at you then they probably know you are there. Keeping that info from the folks back home won't protect you. And, from the same paper, same day, a military correspondent that seems to know what he is doing - a USMC reporter in fact, not a civilian:
I could be wrong. Perhaps there is only ONE bravo company in all of the USMC. From the Navy Times, same exact day as all of my other examples: "Marines from Bravo Company drive their Armored Personnel Carrier outside their camp near Fallujah, Iraq, on Thursday." Oh, Marines from BRAVO company. Now I know who they are. Of course they were not even in an APC but were in an Amtrack. Which leads to my next example:
Bradley fighting vehicles are NOT TANKS. Self-propelled howitzers are NOT TANKS. APCs are NOT TANKS. But in the world of "military" correspondents, if it has tracks it is a tank. Even with no gun at all, and a giant red cross on the side so that the enemy knows it is not a tank. Either the reporters are too stupid to know the difference, or they assume Americans are too stupid - which, again, shows that the reporters are stupid.
And why did I not use the 3rd Marine Division in my first example, but used the 101st Airborne? Because the 101st does NOT JUMP FROM AIRPLANES. THEY ARE NOT PARATROOPERS. They are an "air assault" division and quite proud of it. But "airborne" means to "military" correspondents only parachute troops - paratroopers. Even those who don't use parachutes, of course. Even though the Army has NEVER used "airborne" to identify only parachute units, even back in WWII when airborne units were first created (the glider troops had the most hazardous jobs of all - and never jumped with parachutes - and were part of the airborne divisions.) Yet in the first gulf war Wolf Blitzer breathlessly reported that the "101st Airborne is jumping behind enemy lines from Apache helicopters." Wow, how brave of those troopers to jump without parachutes from Apaches that can't even carry troops. I guess they were hanging on to the wheels and just let go over enemy territory. What was Wolf's punishment for being CNN's "military" correspondent yet being so totally ignorant of the military? He now has his own show. Imagine that. He reported that the 101st was "jumping" - but they don't use parachutes and aren't paratroopers and pretty much EVERYBODY in the Army knows this - and he said they were jumping from "Apache helicopters" which only carry a gunner and a pilot, which anybody who has watched the Discovery channel (we used to call it the "Defense Contractor channel" can tell you. My "Dodgers beat the Rams" example isn't so far-fetched now, is it? He also reported on the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and said it is "mounted on the back of a Bradley tank." Bradleys aren't tanks, of course, and the MLRS launcher is about twice as big as a Bradley IFV (they are HUGE). This same guy (Wolfie baby) interviewed some smartass PFC who was on a range firing an M2 .50 cal machine gun, and asked him what it was. The guy was shocked (doesn't everybody know what this is?) and made up a wise-ass response on the spot. "It's a new anti-tank weapon that can destroy tanks" he said with an impish grin. Wolf breathlessly reported this. Of course firing a .50 cal at even the weakest tank is not 'habit forming,' and the M2 .50 cal has been used by the Army from WWI to today. No, that is no typo. I said World War One. Yet Wolfie knew nothing about it. Well, it isn't like it is his job was to know such things. He was only CNN's top "Military" correspondent at the time. Well, I guess it would be too much for him to know about EVERY Army division, right, since there are something like 101? The most divisions we have had since the end of the Vietnam war is 18. How many MLB teams are there? Do sports reporters have ANY trouble knowing that the Dodgers are in LA, the Yankees in New York? Do they have any trouble telling the difference between the White Sox and the Red Sox? Do LA reporters confuse the Lakers with the Clippers? But Wolfie, well, he can't be expected to know that the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) is in fact an Air Assault division that is helicopter-borne, or that .50 cals are common weapons throughout the world, or that the MLRS is NOT "mounted on the back of a bradley tank." And he came out of the first gulf war a star, instead of being seen for a clown.
You may ask what difference it makes that so many reporters who report on the military are so woefully ignorant about the military.
It makes a HUGE difference.
Because of the incredible ignorance of the American people when it comes to even the most basic military concepts, the decisions that affect the lives of our military personnel, and the survival of our nation, are often flawed. At great cost in lives and money. Any politician that votes against ANY weapons system is labeled "weak" on defense. Even though the purchase of the weapon can in fact weaken our military. We spent billions and billions on the "SGT YORK DIVAD" anti-aircraft gun in the '70s, and it never, ever worked. And the Army never wanted the damn thing. The tests of the system were rigged when it was shown to Congress. And the defense contractor still made a profit, and nobody went to jail like they should have. We spent billions on "star wars" during the Reagan era, despite the knowledge in the military that it would not improve our defenses one little bit, not one bit. The result of such wasteful spending? The politicians who wisely opposed it were castigated as weak on defense, most notably in the famous Dukakis "tank" commercial.
Of course it isn't just republicans who make wasteful decisions. Carter was the one who approved the purchase of the B1 bomber at a cost of billions and billions. A weapon that sits unused today, yet still is in the inventory at enormous expense. We spend $$$ training pilots, mechanics, etc, maintaining and training with the B1. So what bomber do we use when we go to war? We use the B-52. Imagine if the B1 weapon system had NOT been purchased. We might have already had a viable replacement for our aging B-52 fleet, as that ancient airframe reaches the end of its useful life and metal fatigue causes fatal failures, not to mention exhorbitant maintenance costs.
Now we have "National Missile Defense." I compared NMD to the Maginot Line recently. The "military" expert I was chatting with said "what's that?" Jeez.
For those who can't be bothered with history, the Maginot Line was a series of forts and underground bunkers that the French built, at huge national expense, to protect themselves from Germany after WWI. Politicians who opposed it were called "weak" on defense and voted out of office. The huge expense made some French contractors incredibly rich, while the French army was denied the money for troops and training and tanks they desperately needed to prepare for the war they knew was coming. The project in effect forced the French army to commit most of its manpower to static defensive positions, even though many (most?) French army officers knew better. Those that spoke out were destroyed, their careers ruined, many forced into early retirement or second-class assignments - including men like Charles de Gualle and Gen. LeClerc, who understand "blitzkrieg" warfare before "military" correspondents coined a name for it. Politicians who tried to correct the situation were sent packing. And France fell, despite spending a fortune in time and money on defense, despite the economic sacrifices the nation made to protect itself by purchasing the Maginot Line defense. The Maginot Line presented a strong point, and thus the Germans simply didn't attack there, so I guess it did succeed, but didn't help (although, in fact, in some places the Germans did attack the line - successfully.) Had the French NOT built the Maginot line they would have had resources available to build a stronger, more capable, flexible army. The Maginot Line weakened them - at great expense.
Well, that was France, right? We are America, not weak lily-livered wussy France. Except that prior to France's fall in 1940 the French had the reputation of having the best military in the world. And they deserved it. The French people and the leaders they elected were to blame, not the French military, who actually fought like hell in impossible circumstances (Gen. LeClerc and his French 2nd Armored Divison fought with distinction at Normandy, and they were given the honor of entering Paris to "liberate" it along with the US 4th Division; much of the French Navy escaped or scuttled their ships rather than let them fall in to German hands). But we never seem to learn from the experience of other countries, especially the French. We ignored them in Vietnam, and ended up just like they had, and 58,000 American soldiers died. We also ignored their lessons from Algeria, and now we have our own in Iraq. But how many "military" correspondents even know about the Algerian war and can draw conclusions and/or educate the public? By the way, there is another reason I bring up the heroism of Gen. LeClerc: http://www.thinkingpeace.com/pages/arts2/arts204.html (see it and learn from history). And now back to NMD - if it works (doubtful) we will have spent untold billions on a system that defeats incoming missiles. Are we safe from nuclear attack then? Of course not. It just won't come from a missile - and meanwhile, the huge NMD project will suck up valuable resources that won't be available to do something really useful, like better security at our nation's ports. Imagine the damage not just in lives, but to our economy, if one of the many huge shipping containers unloaded every day at the Port of Los Angeles contained a nuclear bomb? Or hell, even a "dirty" bomb? But no, we will spend the money on defending ourselves from a missile threat - which won't make us any safer even if it works, which it probably won't. The Maginot Line.
Why are we buying the F-22 stealth fighter at the same time we face a manpower deficit on the ground? Will twice, or five times, or 100 times as many aircraft overhead change the situation on the ground? Will more aircraft carriers improve our national defense at all? No. Why do we spend so much money then? Because few civilians have any idea that buying unneeded, expensive equipment detracts from our national power, both militarily and economically, even aside from what good that money could do elsewhere. After all, there are no "infantry" lobbyists trying to get Congress and the people to understand that we need more trained riflemen, and that we should raise the pay of infantrymen in order to recruit more qualified troops. Defense contractors, on the other hand, have LOTS of well-paid lobbyists, and they make huge contributions to political campaigns. Thus we have the most technologically advanced military in the world, but have weapons systems that cost billions that we don't (or can't) use. We don't have enough infantrymen or MPs or Civil Affairs soldiers, but we have 12 aircraft carrier battle groups and are buying the F-22 stealth fighter (which can evade the radar of the enemy - except that there is no force in the world that can even begin to challenge our air superiority, including China, Russia, or the entire European Union combined - in short, it is unneeded. Research yes, procurement no.) We spend large amounts of money on batteries that soldiers have to lug around, and batteries run out, and they are toxic to dispose of (lithium or magnesium batteries) but we could have hand-cranked chargeable batteries that could power much of our equipment, never run out (you just crank them back up) - and that technology exists NOW. But we buy more batteries. The Defense Department buys millions of dollars of coal every year. We don't have anything in the inventory that burns coal. Nothing. Not a thing. Why aren't we all informed of this, and pissed off about it?
And of course we are buying more expensive aircraft (including the joint strike fighter (JSF), the largest military procurement contract in history) at a time when it is clear the next generation of fighters should be unmanned aircraft controlled from the ground, so our incredibly expensive fighters will be obsolete before the end of the production run because modern fighter aircraft are limited in how they can turn by the human factor of the pilot inside - too quick and sharp a turn pulling too many "gees" and the pilot can black out and die, or die from the forces of the turn alone. Thus the first nation to field unmanned fighters will be able to defeat any manned fighter in the world, skill of the pilots notwithstanding. And we are leading the world in this research, and shortly we should be able to field unmanned fighters, well before our current generation of fighters even begins to approach the end of their useful life. So what do we do? Buy the manned JSF at nation-breaking, mind-boggling expense. As a result we will be forced to use them well into the year 2050, while our potential enemies leapfrog us with unmanned aircraft that can destroy any JSF regardless of the skill of the human pilot. Oh, and at much less expense, since much of the cost (and weight) of the planes today are devoted to keeping the pilot alive. No cockpit needed, no displays/gauges needed, no windshield, no ejection seat, no need to build the aircraft large enough to fit a human (also with corresponding advances in flight time due to less fuel consumption), and no worry about pilots being shot down over enemy territory, meaning aircraft can fly lower than we do today, etc. etc. etc. Does buying the JSF help or hurt our national security? It hurts, but any politician who opposes it will be "weak" on defense and lose office. I mentioned "ADA" before - Air Defense Artillery. We are desperately short of MPs, Civil Affairs, and most of all, trained infantry, yet we still have ADA. Not a single American soldier has died from enemy aircraft fire since the Korean war (and it wasn't much of a threat then either). Few even died in WWII from enemy air, and in any case the most effective protection was gaining air superiority, which we did in 1944 and have never lost since. So why are there tens of thousands of soldiers in the Air Defense Artillery branch? Does this improve our military capabilities, or harm them? By the way, don't even think of trumpeting the "success" of the Patriot Missile System. That is a GREAT example of the ignorance of the general public and the incompetence of the media when it comes to military affairs. The Scud missile attacks were "barely" guided missiles, not much better than the V1 and V2 German weapons of WWII. They pretty much landed at random. So what do we do to "protect" our troops? We spend billions on the Patriot, which shoots into the air and blows up the Scud - and as a result, MORE flaming wreckage (from the Scud AND the Patriot) drops at random below than would if we just ignored the damn Scud in the first place. MORE damage is done. At a cost of billions. But hey, we felt like we did something. It kind of reminds me of a time when I was subject to less than accurate "cover fire" during a live-fire exercise. My team (I was a fire-team leader at the time) had to run for cover from our "support" team. They almost killed us. Pissed off, I confronted the weapons squad leader and demanded to know why he was shooting at my team. He said "we couldn't make out where you were, but we had to do something." Well, no, he didn't. And we don't need the Patriot.
You can, of course, like many people, blame those politicians (remember how so many people cheered Oliver North and his open hostility to Congress, not understanding that Congress represents the people?). But that would be wrong. We have a representative government, and the people decide. And those people are ignorant when it comes to making such decisions, and thus make the wrong decisions - such as thinking that any time a politician opposes a weapons system he is "weak" on defense. Why? Because "military" correspondents know next to nothing about the military, which shows when they can't even do simple things like understand the way the military identifies units - or when they call anything with tracks a tank - or when they don't know the difference between the Marines and the Army. And they thus don't inform the public about things like spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the JSF will actually harm our national security, and any politician who votes for it is weak on defense. See, it makes a huge difference.
Recently most Americans were unpleasantly surprised to learn the Army was overstretched in Iraq, despite so many generals warning against that very thing. Why? Don't you know the Army is HUGE? Don't we have like 101 divisions or something? Of course not, but many thought so. Most Americans also assumed that this second gulf war would be like the first, with a quick battle that made everybody proud, and then there would be a parade, and then the History channel and the Discovery channel could make more documentaries about how awesome our military is, and it would all be over. This despite the Chief of Staff of the Army (Gen. Shinseki) raising so much hell about how dangerous this would be that he was replaced, his designated successor (Gen. Bud Keane) refused the job in protest and preferred to be "acting"
chief of staff while a replacement was selected (first time ever that has happened) and no other active-duty general would take it (first time that has ever happened) and a general (Gen. Schoomaker) had to be recalled from retirement to take the most senior Army post (first time that has ever happened, ever.) How many of you knew about that? That the Army's senior leadership were so opposed to the invasion of Iraq (because they KNEW it would harm our national security - as it has) that several ended their careers in protest? It seems the only people who clearly saw that invading Iraq would be a mistake were senior Army officers who have devoted their entire lives to our national security and a mastery of land warfare. But what do they know?
The result: Since then Rumsfeld has prematurely ended the careers of numerous brilliant officers in place of less capable ones who toe the "party line." This will harm our national security for decades to come. How many of you heard about that? How many of you knew that Rumsfeld personally decides on general officer promotions and assignments, the first Secretary of Defense in history to do that, a job normally done by the respective service chiefs instead of political appointees like Rumsfeld? How many of you knew that Rumsfeld considers the political inclinations of the officers before he decides on promotions? Well, what harm could come from that, right?
The Soviet Union did much the same, but even at the height of the Cold War we didn't. Remember, it was a lawyer representing the US Army who bravely asked McCarthy "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?" and brought an end to McCarthy's reign of terror. I can't imagine that today. Can you? Well, actually, it happened. Judge Advocate General officers (military lawyers - JAG) contacted the American Bar Association and warned about the "torture memo" and Rumsfeld's flouting of the Geneva Conventions long ago, well before Abu Ghraib Guantanamo Bay degredations came to light. This included many of the most senior JAG officers in the military. They were desperately trying to stop such counter-productive, harmful, shameful policies. Yet most of you have never heard about this, and now our nation's chances of success in Iraq have been damaged, not to mention the additional harm that has been done to our influence in foreign affairs throughout the world and the increased risk to our own troops from such shameful and illegal acts committed at the behest of the President and the Secretary of Defense over the objections of uniformed military officers. And of course, the previous heroism of Gen. Shinseki, who informed Congress of what Iraq would take - and was publicly castigated by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. Shinseki, of course, has been shown correct. You know why? Because the facts were clear, and it didn't take much knowledge to know Iraq was a mistake and that it would take years, billions, and tens of thousands of troops to reform/rebuild/transform Iraq, which was NOT a WMD threat or linked to the war on terror. Hell, I said so at the time in editorials published as early as November 2002, months before the March 2003 invasion - not because I am a seer or an incredibly gifted analyst. Because it was shockingly obvious what the outcome would be to those who understand national security policy and the limits of American power - obvious to all but those who made the decision to invade, that is. On a side note: http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/topic.jsp?topic=iraq_investigation for what people knew, when they knew it, and what was said at the time.
Why has such important information either been ignored or reported simply as ammunition in the "left v. right" propaganda wars during the recent election? Why are such issues considered political at all?
Because "military" correspondents who have the job of informing us on vital issues of national security don't know the difference between the Marines and the Army, that's why. If they don't know that, how the hell can they know deeper issues that impact our very survival as a nation?
I guess it isn't as important as sports. And we have only ourselves to blame.
Good luck to the only Bravo company in the Marines. They will need it.