On war journalism, truth-telling, and independence

I read a few things recently that I thought were worth highlighting. The first is a bit of historical background on the brutality of war: an Atlantic article from 1989 on World War II and how its reality differed from its presentation to civilians in propaganda back home. I wonder to what extent movies like Saving Private Ryan have changed this perception. I read it a few days ago, and was reminded of it when I read a letter to Andrew Sullivan from a combat vet:

“You see what you’re sending us to do? You see who is dying because you support a war in a part of the world you know nothing about?” The ignorance of the population is so vast that when I was deploying to Iraq and (thankfully) coming back, as I passed through Atlanta-Hartfield, people would congratulate me and my fellow servicemembers, shake our hands, say thanks, etc., and all I wanted to do was scream at them, “Get educated you ignoramus! This isn’t a great thing; it’s futile!”

In tangentially related news, Pro Publica has a new report showing that contractor deaths are exceed military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, the number of casualties haven’t necessary dropped because more of the jobs that would have traditionally been done by soldiers are now being done by contractors / mercenaries.

And even more tangentially, some historical context for how intertwined our media and military / intelligence establishments can be: more than 400 American journalists have carried out assignments for the CIA in the last 25 years. This sort of line-blurring is understandably problematic for both journalistic integrity and issues of access, somewhat analogous to how militaries co-opt the independence of humanitarian and public health workers in war zones.

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09 2010

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