Sherman on Journalists

The expulsion by U.S. military officials of two embedded journalists in Kuwait, reportedly for photographing a shot-up military vehicle, has prompted outrage from Military Reporters and Editors (MRE), which is calling for a change in embed rules that apparently led to the action.

Sig Christenson, MRE president and a military writer with the San Antonio Express-News, said no rule barring photographs of damaged vehicles existed when he first embedded in 2003. He said the alleged rule is one of several that have been added to the embedding program since it first began nearly three years ago, and should be changed.

"This rule does not have any legitimate purpose in preventing future attacks," Christenson said. "I’m pretty sure the rule was not in the agreement I signed. I think the insurgents already know about the vulnerability of the vehicles."  MRE

Image, Source: digital file from original neg. of left half

Matthew Brady took this picture of a dead man in the trenches at Petersburg, Virginia in 1865.

One thing you can be rather sure of when you see Brady pictures of dead men in the Civil War.  They are all Confederates.  Why?  Brady, the US War Department and commanders in the fiels had an "understanding."  It was that Brady would not publish pictures of Union dead.  The idea was that such pictures of Union soldiers would damage morale on the home front.  This was particularly true with regard to a war which was thinly supported by civilians in the North and for which enthusiasm might have been dampened by pictures like this if the uniform had been darker.  The blanket roll was a sure indicator that this was a "Johnnie."

William Tecumseh (Cump) Sherman had an even clearer position on the subject of journalists who while in his Department area damaged morale or his plans.  He wrote that he intended to try and hang them.

The old "Articles of War" made it pretty clear that any civilian accompanying a force in the field in time of war was subject to military law.  This was true up through World War Two.

If the Army is providing, food, protection, housing and transport for a journalist, then that journalist is part of the force.

If they don’t like that, then they should not "sign up" for "embedded" status.

Pat Lang

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5 Responses to Sherman on Journalists

  1. hk says:

    Now, this is potentially an awkward issue for the Army, I’d think. The idea of embedding journalists came up in the expectation that having journalists accompany soldiers would produce a more positive coverage of the military than not–in this regard, the plan has largely succeeded. This, however, also means that the army has to accommodate journalists enough that they don’t feel “used.” Expelling journalists for unfavorable coverage of the army, it seems, would only convince them that they are there solely for propaganda purposes, i.e. that they are being used, and would cause them to abandon the “embedded” status.
    If journalists leave the army, they’d be truly free to cover whatever they want–the coverage would certainly be less positive for the army. Seems to me that the army would be shooting itself in the foot if they were foolish enough to seem trying to impose an overt censorship over a handful of pictures, all the more so because it is not a secret to the American public that there are indeed military vehicles being shot up in Iraq–a picture or two will not convince them of anything that they don’t already know.

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The problem that journalists would have if they were not embedded is that Iraq ad Afghanistan are such hostile places that they rightly fear to go anywhere without Army protection once they are outside the Green Zone/hotels complec. pl

  3. RJJ says:

    Nobody should take pictures that show the faces of the dead – ANY dead. It is akin to putting heads on the walls of the city. The only difference is that photographs don’t stink. It is a violation of something basic that must have a name, even if I can’t think of what it is.

  4. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes. pl

  5. Patrick Henry says:

    RJJ…Its Called DECENCY..
    Airial Views of the Beaches of France tell it all..

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