For New York Times readers, the big news on September 12th this year was the Chicago teacher's strike (click image for larger version...)
Near the middle of the front page - just above the fold - they were treated to an exposé of Mitt Romney's college years (he didn't protest Vietnam!!!!). Those who actually unfolded a copy might have noticed something in the lower left corner of the front page about "Anti-American anger" erupting somewhere or other. A thumbnail image was captioned
Protesters, at right, angry over a video denouncing Islam attacked the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing a State Department officer.
Any reader wanting details could turn to page 4.
By the time they were reading it, President Obama was jetting off to Vegas for a campaign fundraiser. Of course, the Benghazi incident couldn't really stay on page four. In fact, by the 13th, intrepid reporters at CBS had spent hours investigating the story, and were already 'raising questions' - like the one in their big headline that day ...
(More to follow.)
October 3, 1993 - actual footage from the "Blackhawk Down" mission in Somalia:
October 7, 1993 - President Clinton announces a surge of US troops in Somalia, but also a March 1994 withdrawal date for all US troops there:
Recently, General Colin Powell said this about our choices in Somalia: "Because things get difficult, you don't cut and run. You work the problem and try to find a correct solution." I want to bring our troops home from Somalia. Before the events of this week, as I said, we had already reduced the number of our troops there from 28,000 to less than 5,000. We must complete that withdrawal soon, and I will. But we must also leave on our terms. We must do it right...
August 1996: Osama bin Laden declares war on America:
But your most disgraceful case was in Somalia; where- after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA and its post cold war leadership of the new world order- you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty eight thousands American solders into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge, but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the "heart" of every Muslim and a remedy to the "chests" of believing nations to see you defeated...
Nineteen years ago today - and "always go to war with an exit strategy" has been Democratic Party policy ever since.
You've probably heard a bit (perhaps a lot - and will likely hear more) about the troops President Obama brought home from Afghanistan recently. You'll hear less about the troops President Obama sent to Afghanistan to replace them - but here's a report on several thousand of them.
The recent end to the US troop surge in Afghanistan has reduced the overall number of American troops on the ground, even as some new faces have arrived. It's a revolving door reminding us just how much we've asked of our men and women in uniform. NBC's Lester Holt spent time with members of the 3rd Infantry Division this week and has their story.
They are the new comers to Afghanistan..but old hands at war. Few Army divisions have deployed into battle more often than the Third Infantry Division. This time it is volatile southern Afghanistan... birthplace of the Taliban...where Captain Steve Nepowada leads a patrol in search of insurgent weapons stashes. He says, "We got the call we are going to Afghanistan. Everyone was excited and we were pumped ready to make a difference here for the first time."
The 3rd ID is accustomed to those calls. For the last ten years it's virtually been on the Pentagon's speed dial. In 2003 it led-off the historic invasion of Iraq...becoming the first to reach Baghdad. Business hasn't slowed down since. There were three more Iraq deployments to follow...and now Afghanistan.
I was on the 3ID's 2007 tour in Iraq - the surge - but I'm not going to share those old war stories here just now. (Oh, okay - just one.) A bit of division history is in order here, though - as their Iraq tour that followed that one is worth a look in the context of this latest adventure.
It began three years ago, in late 2009:
Iraq may not be the "central front" in the era of persistent conflict, but clearly it remains the number one destination for deploying troops.
The Third Infantry Division, the Ft Stewart, Georgia based U.S. Army division that toppled the Saddam Hussein regime with the "Thunder Run" in 2003, returned to Iraq in 2005 and again during "the surge" in 2007 is now beginning its historic fourth deployment to Iraq.
Many observers at the time - with violence at low levels in Iraq as Afghanistan was spinning rapidly out of control...
American deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq, Jan., 2006 - May, 2011. (More here)
...believed the Third would be diverted to Afghanistan. After all, President Obama had campaigned on the idea that it was the Real Central Front in the War on Terror (from which his predecessor had diverted resources to Iraq), and in fact, Obama had already diverted another brigade from Iraq to Afghanistan earlier that year (though that was actually part of a fraud perpetrated on the American public - he quietly sent another to Iraq in its place). So - given that it's where the troops were needed, and where the president had repeatedly said they were needed, it was hardly surprising that earlier in 2009, 3ID units had diligently completed training in mountainous northern Georgia, anticipating an Afghan tour.
But it didn't happen - and upon departure the division's commanding general explained that even though they weren't going to be in a combat environment like Afghanistan, Iraq was still important.
"For the newest soldiers who don't know what combat is like yet, there might be some, 'gee I wish I was going to Afghanistan'. But for the old soldiers, and take it from an old soldier like me who was in Afghanistan when it was not the main effort and Iraq was, I am now going to Iraq where Afghanistan is the main effort and Iraq is not - it's still an incredibly important fight."
It must have been - the 3ID deployment, along with other units deploying or in theater at the time, enabled U.S. force levels in Iraq to be maintained at approximately 120,000 troops well into 2010. But as they deployed, near the end of President Obama's first year in office, the commander-in-chief hadn't yet figured out exactly what to do about all that war stuff. He was working on it, or at least thinking about it, but the 68,000 troops then in Afghanistan would just have to muddle through for a little while more.
The Third's 2009-2010 deployment to Iraq wasn't uneventful - they did experience combat (and deaths in combat) in Iraq, even though they weren't allowed to call themselves "combat" troops. To some degree they weren't, as they spent much of the tour confined to various FOBs, and the only time they really "made the papers" back stateside was for the backlash that followed after their general expressed his desire to do something about the number of female troops returning to the states early because they had gotten pregnant while deployed.
But other units in Iraq made bigger headlines. For example, later in their own tours - immediately before the 2010 elections in America - if they had time to watch the news, members of the 3ID would be able to "ride along" with a very excited NBC news crew ("It is really, really hot right now," declared Rachel Maddow, "but yet, seeing what we just saw, right here live with that gate closing, the last U.S. combat troop, I'm totally covered in goose bumps") as they accompanied the "last combat brigade to leave Iraq." Still, even after NBC News' official declaration of the end of combat in Iraq, the 3ID troops never considered going anywhere without their weapons through the remainder of their own "non-combat" tour.
End history lesson - and on to the future. We can hope and pray for other outcomes, but their long delayed Afghan tour will certainly be different - with levels of blood and thunder more like their earlier Iraq tours than their last. But once again the men and women of the Third Infantry Division have deployed at an inconvenient moment, this time to a very hot war zone even as the surge of forces their commander-in-chief eventually ordered there ends, exactly as he had publicly pledged it would when he ordered it ("...as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home...")...
...and just in time for another election in America.
"We got the call we are going to Afghanistan. Everyone was excited and we were pumped ready to make a difference here for the first time."
Spare a prayer for them, when you've got a moment to spare.
"U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan reach 2,000" proclaims the headline over this October 1, 2012 story.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The killing of an American serviceman in an exchange of fire with allied Afghan soldiers pushed U.S. military deaths in the war to 2,000, a cold reminder of the perils that remain after an 11-year conflict that now garners little public interest at home.
Every death is a tragedy, of course, but that claim that Afghanistan "garners little public interest at home" reminded me of this story from last August, headlined "'No one really cares': US deaths in Afghanistan hit 2,000 in 'forgotten' war." That same day, under a shorter headline ("U.S. death toll in Afghanistan hits 2,000") the UPI even reported the name to go with the number 2000:
The number of U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan... hit 2,000 last week when Specialist James A. Justice died of wounds in an Army hospital in Germany.
Certainly every death is a tragedy, but equally certainly some of us are paying attention. In fact, that August 22 story reminded me of one from two months previously: "US death toll in Afghanistan surges past 2,000." That same month (June) the Minneapolis Star-Tribune even reported a name to go along with the number 2,000. Even more tragically, the 2,000th American killed in Afghanistan was a Marine Corporal from Minnesota who had just married his high school sweetheart:
Three months ago, Taylor Baune married his high school sweetheart shortly before his first deployment to Afghanistan with the Marines. On Wednesday, the 21-year-old Andover man became the 2,000th American killed in combat in Afghanistan, during operations in Helmand Province, the Defense Department said Thursday.
Returning to today's news, the name of the soldier to become the 2,000th American combat death in Afghanistan was not included in the story. In fact, a Pentagon press secretary - perhaps not sure of exactly how many American troops have been killed there - declared it to be an "arbitrary milestone" that the US does not mark.
"We honor all courageous Americans who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan to make the American people more secure," he said. "The fact of the matter is that America is safer because of all of those who have served in this war, including our fallen heroes."
And who can argue with that? Tragically, if current trends continue, that total of fallen heroes will reach 2,000 some time this December, and whether the Pentagon wants to admit it or not, we Americans are paying attention, and we do care. We know exactly what's going on over there, and hopefully our news media won't bombard us with insulting stories about how much we aren't paying attention when it happens again.
(Note: Originally posted in August, 2010 - reposted now because it's that time of year again.)
Via yesterday's email:
Today, August 6th, marks the 65th anniversary of the American bombing of Hiroshima. Monday is the 65th anniversary of Nagasaki. To commemorate those dates, LIFE.com has created a gallery of never-seen pictures by LIFE photographers Alfred Eisenstaedt, Bernard Hoffman, and J.R. Eyerman -- all three of whom were there, on the ground, very shortly after both cities were destroyed.Apparently we really lit 'em up:
"When the [Nagasaki] bomb went off, a flier on another mission 250 miles away saw a huge ball of fiery yellow erupt. Others, nearer at hand, saw a big mushroom of dust and smoke billow darkly up to 20,000 feet, and then the same detached floating head as at Hiroshima. Twelve hours later Nagasaki was a mass of flame, palled by acrid smoke, its pyre still visible to pilots 200 miles away. The bombers reported that black smoke had shot up like a tremendous, ugly waterspout. With grim satisfaction, [physicists] declared that the 'improved' second atomic bomb had already made the first one obsolete." -- From the article "War's Ending" in LIFE, 8/20/1945.
That was the second Hiroshima pictures email I've gotten recently. The first, a "Hiroshima 64 years later" email (yes - it's from last year) popped into my inbox last month. Maybe you got it, too.
The pictures in it are amazing.
But they're pictures of Yokohama:
A chain letter has been making the rounds that compares old pictures showing the devastation of Hiroshima by the 1945 atomic bombing with colorful night time pictures claiming to show it's current state. The same pictures and text have been republished on numerous blogs and personal websites.
The truth is, the email is a blatant fake. The set of 10 current pictures does not show Hiroshima at all. The pictures were taken in Yokohama, a wealthy port city near Tokyo, some 670 km (420 miles) east of Hiroshima.
"I can't even begin to understand why someone would fabricate such a blatant fake," says the author of the de-bunking. "It's a bit like contrasting pictures of Pearl Harbour in 1941 with shots of Las Vegas in 2009, claiming it was the same city."
Google "Hiroshima 64 years later" and you'll find multiple examples of victims of the fraud. So, one lesson replaces another: the ultimate irony of the information age is that no matter how easily an indisputable truth can be found (this example took 30 seconds), few will bother to seek it out. Less obvious truths don't stand a chance.
Another 30 seconds of fun with Google - Yokohama didn't escape destruction in WWII:
Next up was Yokohama, an important shipbuilding and automotive center. 517 B-29s were involved, but there was a much stronger Japanese fighter effort, with around 150 Zekes involved. P-51 Mustang pilots destroyed 26 of them, and possibly as many as 23 more. The raid destroyed 6.9 square miles of the city, which was about a third of the city's area. This brought the total area destroyed in all attacks on the city to 8.9 square miles.
SMOKE BILLOWS FROM AN INDUSTRIAL SECTION OF YOKOHAMA, JAPAN, as B-29s continue to dump fire bombs during a daylight raid on May 29, 1945.
...but that just doesn't have the emotional impact of the one bomb solution.
As for Hiroshima today, while not quite Yokohama, it does appear to have recovered.
Its largest industry is the manufacturing industry with core industries being the production of Mazda cars, car parts and industrial equipment. Mazda Motor Corporation is by far Hiroshima's dominant company. Mazda accounts for 32% of Hiroshima's GDP.
That last bit being of particular interest, as the hoax email attempts to make a comparison between Hiroshima and Detroit - via photos of buildings and homes (presumably in the Motor City - but I've never seen an American city without them) crumbling with decay.
This Detroit photo is not included:
Nor is this even more thought-provoking image:
You can see at least two nations that launched surprise attacks against America in this one. One of them lost the war that resulted, the other is North Korea.
Milblogger Sgt. Eric E. Williams, on coming home from Afghanistan:
This deployment is coming to an end, in a few days we will be on a plane back to the United States to rejoin our family and friends and to try to readjust to a certain semblance of what we think life should be. The truth is everything has changed, we collectively have changed. We have changed as people, as an army, as citizens of the United States. We face uncertainty in nearly every aspect of our lives. Our families have been without us for a year and we have only two weeks to try to enjoy the extremely limited time we have with them before its back to the daily grind.The North County Times:
A Murrieta soldier killed in combat Monday was just starting his long journey home when he came under enemy fire and died, according to a statement released Wednesday by the U.S. Army in Fort Bragg, N.C.
Sgt. Eric E. Williams, 27, who graduated from Murrieta Valley High School in 2002, was just completing his second deployment to the Middle East, the statement from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division said.
Williams is survived by his wife, Wendi. He was the only child of Bruce and Janet Williams. A family friend said the family has gone to Dover, Del., where Williams' body is being delivered.
The first comment on his final post: "Well written, son....Can't wait till you're on American soil once again. Right or wrong, it is your home, and always will be. I love you...and safe journey! XXXOOO Mom."
- "Managers and Supervisors: To lower morale and production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work."
Sound familiar? If so, perhaps you can identify the business plan containing that quote and these:
(a) Organizations and Conferences
(1) Insist on doing everything through "channels." Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
(2) Make "speeches," Talk as frequently as possible and at great length., Illustrate your "points" by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate "patriotic" comments.
(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for "further study and consideration." Attempt to make the committees as large as possible - never less than five.
(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
(5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
(7) Advocate "caution." Be "reasonable" and urge your fellow-conferees to be "reasonable" and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision - raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lis within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.
The source for the above is the CIA's "Simple Sabotage Field Manual," from 1944. (Actually, the OSS - forerunner of the CIA.) "This classified booklet described ways to sabotage the US' World War II enemies," the CIA web page hosting the now de-classified document explains.
You might think it unreasonable, but I believe it would be worthwhile to print and distribute copies in all government agencies today, to ensure we aren't "unintentionally" sabotaging ourselves.
Certainly we could at least form a committee and consider it...
In 1826, Thomas Jefferson was invited to attend the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence to be held that July 4th in Washington, DC. With his health failing at age 83, he sent his regrets in a letter to Washington Mayor Roger C. Weightman. This was the last letter written by Jefferson, who died ten days later - on July 4, 1826...
"I think it's something that many of us are conflicted about, but we also feel like this is the right action to take," he noted, adding that there was a lot of consensus on the returning of the medals. "It is a sacrifice, but it's one that we feel is worth it."
Actually, it's a sacrifice worth about five bucks on ebay.
They're "giving back" something you can pick up in a surplus store. It would be something else entirely if the military actually purged their records of whatever qualified them for those medals - meaning what those medals actually represent. That would be an meaningful gesture. (And our heroes would scream bloody murder if it ever happened.)
I do have one meaningful question, however: Do these geniuses know they're protesting a summit meeting to plan the Afghan withdrawal?
(More/comment on facebook here. Happy to 'friend' you at your request.)
[Senator Feinstein] said the leak to AP "jeopardizes" the agent and that it could not have come from Congress since she and House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) had not been briefed on the operation.Unhappy representative:
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said Obama did not "play [it] straight" with him. "They [did] not notify Congress, which is, by the way, law, under the National Security Act of 1947," he said on CBS's Face the Nation. "They're obligated to do it."Meanwhile, President Obama assured Americans there was no need to worry, he was "on top of this the entire time."
"I was briefed on this in April," Obama told ABC News in an interview aired Thursday. "At no point were American lives in danger or American aircraft in danger."There were, however, some foreigners at risk. Some of them are unhappy, too.
Mike Scheur, the former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit, said the leaking about the nuts and bolts of British involvement was despicable and would make a repeat of the operation difficult. "MI6 should be as angry as hell. This is something that the prime minister should raise with the president, if he has the balls. This is really tragic," Scheur said.
He added: "Any information disclosed is too much information. This does seem to be a tawdry political thing."
He noted that the leak came on the heels of a series of disclosures over the last 10 days, beginning with a report that the CIA wanted to expand its drone attacks in Yemen, Barack Obama making a surprise trip to Afghanistan around the time of the Bin Laden anniversary and "then this inexplicable leak".
Robert Grenier, former head of the CIA counter-terrorism centre, said: "As for British Intelligence, I suppose, but do not know, that they must be very unhappy. They are often exasperated, quite reasonably, with their American friends, who are far more leak-prone than they.
"In their place, I would think two and three times before sharing with the Americans, and then only do it if I had to. The problem with that dynamic is that you don't know what you don't know, and what opportunities you might be missing when you decide not to share. The Americans are doing a very good job of undermining trust, and the problem starts at the top."
My good friend Robert Stokely sent an email update to this story from a few years ago:
- "Now a 1st LT and on Friday, April 27, 2012 at 1300 hours, Elijah Carroll will graduate Ranger School at FT Benning. I hope to be there.... Mike would expect me to go."
Congratulations, Lt Carroll. And thank you, Robert, for all you've done and been through over the years, too. I'm more than proud to call you friend. Robert's 2008 story on Elijah Carroll follows - it can't be improved by any further introduction from me. (I will add: read the comments, too.)
From Robert Stokely:
Tonight, as we approach midnight EST the Moon over Yusufiyah (as I call it) is full and shining brightly. I am reminded of a midnight a little over three years ago on October 20, 2005. Members of E 108th CAV 48th Brigade Georgia National Guard were patrolling their sector in the "Fiyahs" that formed the northern part of the Triangle of Death - Yusufiyah and Mahmudiyah. One particular patrol near Mahmudiyah suddenly had its night shattered by a violent IED explosion. Chaos reigned for what seemed an eterinity as several sodliers in the Humvee were seriously injured, one hanging upside down his leg torn to shreds along with other injuries as he was pinned in. Fellow soldiers rushed to their aid as Medevacs were called in. It didn't look the good for Elijah Carroll as his fellow soldiers struggled to free him, as other fellow injured soldiers lay on the ground, unit medics working on them.
Soon the thump thump thump sounded nearby as the Medevacs got closer. A landing zone was set up even as Elijah Carroll remained pinned in. Then the unthinkable happened as the Medevac came in - the tail rotor clipped a nearby Humvee worse yet it clipped the fifty caliber machine gun setting off a spray of rounds including toward the men working on Elijah Carroll. Imagine seriously hurt but alive and then watching your Medevac crank into the ground as 50 CAL bullets spray all around you. Chaos just got more chaotic.
"But next week's visit is an official one as commander-in-chief..." sez "A White House official speaking on background..."
His Fort Stewart visit provides an opportunity for the president to try to shape news about his handling of the military in Afghanistan in light of recent events. His administration has been apologizing for the murder of 16 citizens there by an American soldier on a rampage, reports that copies of the Koran were burned and the recent revelation of 2-year-old photographs of soldiers posing with the maimed corpses of insurgents. Obama said this week he wants an investigation into the pictures.
His Republican rival Mitt Romney, the likely nominee, has been critical of the president's military leadership, saying he should be more involved with military leaders. A visit with troops and their top brass could help deflate Romney's attacks.
So now you know - it's official.
It does remind me of this "oopsy" from 2009, though:
The images and the sentiment of the president's five-hour trip to Delaware were intended by the White House to convey to the nation that Mr. Obama was not making his Afghanistan decision lightly or in haste.
Except that one appeared beneath a NY Times headline - "Obama visits returning war dead."
How the LA Times explained their decision to publish gruesome photos in the "Bush era":
These days they've found other reasons:
He said the photos point to a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops.
He expressed the hope that publication would help ensure that alleged security shortcomings at two U.S. bases in Afghanistan in 2010 were not repeated.
The bigger reason for those (or any other examples through the years) is that snuff porn = money, baby - but at least the earlier excuse was honest, too.
(A tale originally published in June, 2011...)
On a recent morning in Boston, at the Old North Church...
The governor's entourage pulled up around nine... Fifteen or twenty media people materialized seconds after. The first to greet the Governor was Dino DiFronzo of Parziale's Bakery, who encouraged the governor to stop by for coffee and pastry after her visit to Old North.
So says the Vicar, who then proceeded to give Sarah Palin a tour of the building from which - on the evening of the 18th of April in '75 - two lanterns were displayed. The story of that day over two centuries ago is one every American should know, but during the tour he imparted some of the more obscure details that make visits to such historic sites worthwhile.
Afterward she went to that bakery. Edited video of what happened there is now more familiar to many Americans than the true story of Paul Revere's ride. "What have you seen so far today?" She was asked (apparently - no full video of the moment has surfaced) by one of those reporters who'd been along for the ride. "And what have you taken from your visit?"
"We saw where Paul Revere hung out as a teenager, which was something new to learn. He who warned, uh, the British that they weren't going to be taking away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells and making sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed."
The 20 or so reporters present doubtless knew everything there was to know about (yawn) Paul Revere (old dead white male - what else is there?) before they (ick) set foot in some old church. That's unfortunate. Had they been paying attention to the vicar during their tour a teachable moment could have followed.
They weren't. It didn't. (End of prologue.)
...was a Marine - and one who "became the youngest Marine drill instructor ever. A boxer and devoted Harley rider, Dunagan served three tours in Vietnam and was wounded several times."
He now offers this thought on animals:
"If these animals I was leading had ever found out about Bambi -- as much affection as I had for it -- they'd have ridden me out on a rail."
I note with sorrow the death of legendary newsman (and World War II-era US Navy veteran) Mike Wallace.
I'm sure he meant many things to many people, but when I hear his name I'm reminded first of this panel discussion on ethics, from 1987 - in which Wallace dresses down fellow newsman Peter Jennings for declaring he would do what he could to save American soldiers from an enemy ambush rather than simply "get the story."
Moderator: So if you made that decision you would then film the enemy unit shooting the American unit?
Jennings: (Long pause - thinking) No - I guess I wouldn't. I'll tell you now what I'm feeling rather than the hypothesis I drew for myself. If I were with the enemy I would do what I could to warn the Americans.
Moderator: Even if it means not getting the live coverage?
Jennings: I don't have much doubt it would mean my life. I'm glad this is hypothetical. I don't think I could bring myself to participate in that fashion, by not warning the Americans. Some other reporters may feel otherwise.
Wallace: Some other reporters would feel otherwise. I would regard it simply as another story I was there to tell.
Moderator: Enemy soldiers shooting and killing American soldiers? Could you imagine how you would report that to the American people?
Wallace: Yes, I can. (Talking down to Jennings) Frankly, I'm astonished to hear Peter say that. You are a reporter. Granted you are an American. But you are a reporter covering combat. And I'm at a loss to understand why, because you are an American; you would not cover that story.
Moderator: Don't you have a higher duty as an American citizen to do all you can to save the lives of American soldiers rather than this journalistic ethic of reporting the fact?
Wallace: No. You don't have the higher duty. You are a reporter. Your job is to cover what is going on in that war. I would be calling Peter to say, "What do you mean you're not going to cover the story."
Jennings: I think he's right. I chickened out. I agree with Mike intellectually. I really do. And I wish at the time, I'd made another decision. I would like to have made his decision.
I could almost see Wallace's point - but a commenter on that post asked a followup question, one I'd have liked to have heard Wallace address. "So, if he were covering a school picnic, and two little girls were in the road, and he saw a big truck about to run them down, he should start reporting immediately. He is of course there to cover the story, not save little lives. Now I understand."
Two years before that panel session, Wallace had settled a lawsuit with General William Westmoreland.
A far bigger case followed when Wallace interviewed General William Westmoreland for the CBS Reports documentary The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception (1982). When TV Guide and CBS' own in-house investigation charged that the producers had violated standards of fairness, Westmoreland sued the network. The charges Wallace aired--conspiracy to cover-up the size of Viet Cong troop strength--were substantiated by trial evidence, but CBS' editorial tactics proved suspect. Early in 1985, just before Wallace was to testify, CBS issued an apology and Westmoreland dropped the suit.But before it was settled, the case sent Wallace to the hospital, and almost to his grave.
But depression consumed him. Wallace described his rock bottom point, when he attempted suicide. "'I have to get out of here,' so I took a bunch of sleeping pills, wrote a note and ate them, and as a result, I fell asleep," he said.
Mary found him unconscious in bed around 3 a.m. Doctors were able to pump his stomach and revive the journalist before undergoing psychological treatment.
I'd forgotten the lawsuit story back when I first wrote about that panel discussion; now I have to wonder if those experiences didn't help guide Wallace in developing his personal ethical beliefs. Oddly enough, Westmoreland was also a participant in that panel discussion - but I'll give the last word here to another participant, Colonel George M. Connell, United States Marine Corps.
Colonel Connell: I feel utter contempt. Two days later they (Jennings and Wallace) are both walking off my hilltop and they get ambushed and they're lying there wounded. And they're going to expect I'm going to send Marines up there to get them. They're just journalists. They're not Americans. Is that a fair reaction? You can't have it both ways. But I'll do it. And that's what makes me so contemptuous of them. Marines will die going to get a couple of journalists.
I'll tell you something I noticed about Lex, but it's at the end of this ramble. First, a confession: I used to tell lies about Neptunus Lex. I'd call him "One of the best writers in milblogs," but the truth is, he was the best. No shocker there, I think everyone who read his blog knows that. It's hardly fair for me to say it now, when he can't humbly deny it.
Of course it's hardly fair that he could write true, first-person stories about being a fighter pilot, something most of us could only dream of doing. It gave him an edge on the rest of us. But doing something and writing about it are two different skill sets, and Lex was one of the very few mortals to be gifted with both. (Hey, even Chuck Yeager had a co-author on his autobiography.) And as for the fighter pilot bit, "Lex could tell a rousing story of painting his house and you'd read it and be glad you did." I quote myself there. If you hadn't gathered from such an observation that any others I'd made about him being merely one of the best writers around was an understatement (really - the "in milblogs" qualifier isn't needed, either), then I failed. What can I say? I am no Neptunus Lex. He was the best of us, we all knew it, it didn't need said.
There are any number of brief testimonials to him on the web now. Here someone who once served with him recalls that "We shared a passion for air warfare and saber fencing."
And here's Matt Gallagher, who himself might have been the last milblogger in Iraq, and whose own write-ups of his adventures there landed him in a spot of trouble among the higher-ups (and split the opinions of those others of us milbloggers who might have had an opinion, which we mostly kept to ourselves, as we much appreciated him regardless). Matt was Army, a junior officer, and Lex was Navy, and very senior.
Though I never met LeFon in person, we exchanged many emails, and he was one of the first to email and tell me to "stay frosty," in the wake of my own blog getting shut down in 2008 by command. (For a young lieutenant, certain that he'd stoked the full ire of the military beast for one rambling blog post, to hear reassuring words from a retired TOPGUN pilot was ... comforting, to say the least.)
Stay frosty, our saber fencing aficionado fighter pilot said. More than a mere slogan, that was exactly the right advice, delivered at exactly the right moment, to someone who needed it from someone who really was, simply put, the most interesting man in the world.
He left us much too soon, and left us much to talk about. None of us are up to it just now.
Here are the last things he wrote about flying - about the flights he made in the last week of his life. WX CNX is shorthand for weather canceled; here Lex writes well of flying and not flying. But that's followed by a busy Saturday: "There are very few things to admire about a 0500 brief on a Saturday morning. The Weapons School lost some sorties during the course of the week due to weather, and quality being the measure by which all things are reckoned, they would have to be made up. . . ." But Early Go is not a complaint, it's about the seriousness of the flying business.
Headed back to the field down low to stay out of the way. With plenty of gas left I hugged the deck and shot the gaps between mountains and foothills. Popped up when clear of the fight to fly a ground controlled approach, just for the training that was in it. It's important to work hard at such things when the conditions are easy to ensure that you can do them when they're not. And yes, the controller overshot my turn to final. I was on deck by 0830 or so, having flown more Kfirs before 0900 than most will fly in their lifetimes.A Streamer is a parachute that fails to properly deploy. The parachute that earned itself a title in the next entry in Lex's collection of flying tales was expected to slow his jet upon landing, and did not.
I supposed it had to happen eventually, everybody has one in time. And I had mine yesterday.By the time I read "Streamer" I'd already heard the bad news, and those words took me back to Andy Olmsted's final bit of prose, written pre and posted post. I thought for a moment Lex had done the same, but this was not the case. "Streamer" was an account of something went wrong the day before, something he walked away from, another lesson learned. That made it similar to Rain Seal, the first post in his last series. Therein another little piece of the plane that failed earned itself a title.
It's funny how quickly you can go from "comfort zone" to "wrestling snakes" in this business.
That quote from "Streamer." I think many might conjure the wrong mental image from that - that most of us imagine something out of Indiana Jones. But I suspect the guy who wrote Streamer and Early Go and Wx Canx and Rain Seal wrestled snakes with his heart rate only slightly elevated from comfort zone level. He was frosty. Those posts don't have exclamation points. He didn't use them, they were not in his vocabulary.
Had you noticed?
So when you fly at Lex's shoulder - which is what you do when you read his words - don't add imaginary exclamation points to what you hear him say.
Those of us who knew him - whether we met him or not - will tip a bit of Guinness tonight at 6 Pacific, wherever we are. If you can't make that time, any other will do.
And leave a comment here. I have it on good authority there are those who will much appreciate it.