Embed with the enemy

The war between the skeptical news media and the authoritarian military is entering a new era, or so we’ve been told. Unlike the last Gulf War, the government claims this is a new age of cooperation. I say it’s more like co-opted.

Tired of fighting complaints from the media about being locked out of the war zone, the U.S. military has decided to bring the reporters on board. It’s called “embedding,” placing media representatives with the troops in the field. At first blush, it is reminiscent of the days of Ernie Pyle in World War II, when he brought home the real-life experiences of the Army grunts. He traveled wherever he wanted and ate and slept in the mud with the dogfaces.

But this is more insidious. First, the Army and Marines have trained the 400 embeds to follow directions in the field and depend on the military for guidance. Next come the “escorts” to supervise the media in the field during the war. Then, there are the censors to get past. I also believe that by having the reporters live with one platoon for the duration, the journalists naturally will become part of the band of brothers, more willing to help out and less likely to criticize. The reporters will be digging fox holes, not digging for the dirt.

But, by sheer numbers alone and because of the reporters’ proximity to the action, there should be better reporting of what actually happens compared with reporting about Afghanistan and Gulf War I.

If you want to know what an American peace activist in Iraq thinks about the pending war, read our cover story, “An American in Baghdad,” on page 16. He’s embedded himself into the culture of a potential war zone, and his words are not censored.