Muzzling Soldiers Is Nothing New
- Muzzling Soldiers Is Nothing New
By David H. Hackworth
Soldiers For the Truth: sftt.com
Politicians and military commanders were lying about how wars were
progressing long before the sword and the shield first clashed. And
the long distances and delayed communications made censoring what was
reported to citizens no big stretch.
After all, from the Greek Wars to Gettysburg, it took months for
letters and casualty lists to travel by runner, boat, pony and
finally, rail. By the time the bad news arrived from the front, the
dead were buried and the battle long over.
But as war morphed from cannonballs to aircraft to missiles,
communications also zoomed along from printing press, telegraph,
radio, TV and satellites to the Net.
Even so, the Thought Police headquartered in space-age offices in
Washington, D.C., are still trying to bend any and all information
about military campaigns. Our leaders know that in democratic
America, they must have popular support for their wars, and they
won't keep it if folks start to think we're losing and being lied to.
The propagandists' mantra seems to be the ancient Greek proverb, "In
the land of the blind, the one-eyed Cyclops rules the land." It's
become standard drill to keep the truth for the leaders' eyes only.
Especially when the real story is a downer.
During the Vietnam War, the Eddie Adams's, Kevin Buckleys, Joe
Galloways and hundreds of other daring young reporters brought us a
blow-by-blow about what was going on.
But after dealing with the fallout, Washington vowed that never again
would the press have so much access and freedom. And from Grenada to
Panama to Kuwait to the reporters embedded last year in Iraq, the
Pentagon has been into keeping the American people in the dark. For
example, caskets are no longer allowed to be photographed, the number
of evacuees from war zones and the causes behind any evacuations are
now covered up, and reporters in general are ever more carefully
But one thing no one can control is the Net. Today there's a laptop
in almost every bunker, manned by grunts who are a whole lot smarter
and faster than their watchdogs. Which means that despite a hogtied
press corps, we're getting the unspun word from Iraq and the news
The brass are going nuts trying to stop this electronic tsunami of
truth that's washing over the land courtesy of a generation of sharp
kids who've been armed with computers since age 4. Kids who glory in
staying three irrepressible steps ahead of their minders via blogs,
dummy ISP addresses and cute tricks like sending e-mails to cutouts
for forwarding to guys like me.
So the brass have reverted to the weapon they've used to silence
warriors since long before Caesar was running Rome: intimidation. The
troops are being warned: Shut up; and if you don't button it, you'll
be drummed out of the service.
Sgt. Al Lorentz wrote a piece from Iraq (See "A Sergeant Speaks the
Hard Truth," Special Reports, Sept. 30, 2004, SFTT.org). He now faces
disciplinary action for "disloyalty" and "insubordination." He could
end up with 20 years in the slammer if found guilty.
An officer in Iraq who has asked to remain anonymous says: "The
establishment here wants to present the picture that everything is A-
OK when it's too often not the case. Soldiers shouldn't be punished
or made to feel like they're disloyal, not part of the team,
troublemakers, whiners, dissenters, malcontents, etc., etc., just
because they give somebody a true sitrep on certain things going on
over here. But sadly this is the case."
Then there's the personal attack on anyone with a point of view
that's different from the party line: You're un-American; or you're
supporting the enemy or not supporting the troops. The latest tactic
is to say you're sending out mixed messages that hurt troop morale.
But according to our soldiers in Iraq, this is just not true. They
say their morale is in the toilet because of how badly the war's been
handled, not because of what's being reported or debated by
"I resent the fascist-style approach that tries to paint any
objection of current policy as traitorous," says Ken Druhut. "I am a
proud vet and gratefully enjoy the freedoms that our military has
provided. But this Gestapo stuff has to stop."
--Eilhys England contributed to this column.
Col. David H. Hackworth (USA Ret.) is SFTT.org co-founder and Senior
Military Columnist for DefenseWatch magazine. For information on his
many books, go to his home page at Hackworth.com, where you can sign
in for his free weekly Defending America. Send mail to P.O. Box
11179, Greenwich, CT 06831. His newest book is "Steel My Soldiers'
Hearts." © 2004 David H. Hackworth.
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