02 April 2007

What does he know, and when did he find out?

Attention has been turned on Michael Ware, one way or another, about a misreporting of his heckling or not as the case may be. Can't say that I know the man or his background, so reading Hugh Hewitt's interview with him on 02 APR 2007, I did find a few things that were very, very interesting! A number of topics were brought up about reporting on 'insurgents' and jihadists, and the amount of that Mr. Ware had done and so on. There are times when I do wonder if trying to 'get the story' puts a reporter's ethical compass into a tizzy.

Now I am under muscle relaxants and such, so if I get a bit intemperate and appear not to be thinking straight than do excuse me, but there are some things that really do need to be pointed out here, on the moral compass concept.

Take, as an example, the following:

HH: So Michael Ware, what do you think...and you've spent time with insurgents, too. That's very controversial reporting that I've read. Explain to the audience how you connected up with them, and how much time you spent with them in Iraq.

MW: Well, in the course of the past three years, I've had ongoing contact with different elements of the insurgency. It all began immediately after the fall of Saddam's regime in the early months of the occupation. I was doing a story which was looking at the invasion. I was trying to find out from the Iraqi commanders themselves what had happened on their side, what was the chaos like, what was it like as a dictatorship deteriorated, and dissolved before their eyes in the midst of this American attack. Now at that time, I met these men. They were Republican Guard commanders, members of the secret police, the intelligence service, the secret service, all manner of agencies, asking them what had happened to them during the war. Then as time went by, these men started to feel more and more disenchanted, more and more dishonored. And one by one, they started picking up arms, and in a very ad hoc fashion, started attacking passing American vehicles and so on. Then over time, they started to evolve. And I got to watch that with my own eyes, as they did take shape as the insurgency we've ultimately come to see today.
This has two interesting sections in it and one, in particular, has been my long-term and standing problem with ALL of those saying that the US should have 'kept the military around and the government in place'. Saddam's government, that is. As far back as my 'What is the Strategy in Iraq?' article I had placed that there was NO power structure left to keep up. And here is Michael Ware saying that exact thing with: "...what was it like as a dictatorship deteriorated, and dissolved before their eyes in the midst of this American attack."

I will get back to the responsibilities of reporters in a war in a bit, but there is an extremely interesting juxtaposition by Michael Ware in the following:
HH: All right. So we've got a good grounding here. Now this brings me to the interesting issue that we talked about on CNN, and that is the morality of doing that. Why do you do that?

MW: Well, there's a number of reasons. I mean, you can look at it very, very cynically. One is know thy enemy. Now I cannot begin to tell you how much the American people, not to mention the Brits and the Aussies back home, have been significantly misled about the nature of the enemy. I mean, I've been at press conferences under the CPA. I've been at press conferences under the interim Iraqi government. I've been to press conferences under the current regime. I've listened to all manifestation of U.S. military spokesmen, of diplomats, of ambassadors, discuss and describe the enemy. And so often, it has been wrong. And it's either because these people don't understand what they're up against, or more likely, it's that these people are not telling the public the truth about them, about the fact that they're not just one homogenous group, that there are many different motivations. And that was a very, very valuable thing to come to understand, because it's led to the point now, that we see, where we have this Bush administration opening dialogue and negotiations with the more nationalist, or Baathist elements of the insurgency. So learning that this was not one homogenous, scary boogeyman was vital to not just my and the public's understanding, but also to military intelligence and this administration's. Look what it's led to.
Look what it's led to... yes, Mr. Ware, and why, exactly, have you NOT set the record straight with all of those who claim that there was any sort of government or military structure LEFT from the invasion? Could we get some of that vaunted "truth" instead of having misdirection and outright lies from the punditry and the press on this? What is the "truth" when it is not told and one knows about it? I certainly have not heard an inkling from Mr. Ware that the regime deteriorated and disintegrated so rapidly as to be unstoppable by anyone. The US certainly couldn't do it as we were still *fighting* at that time by those elements that had some cohesion. This is how I put it in my strategy article:
Next up, the immediate post-war memes. Luckily I handled that with a previous post so a quick summary is all that is needed: there was NO Iraqi Army left, the Government had fled, these folks could *not* be rounded up on a timely basis, they would still *not* be trusted by the populace, the US would be seen as replacing one puppet with another, the US would be seen as an Imperial ruler, and, most of all, the person putting forth the memes had over two MONTHS to find the Iraqi Army and Government and DIDN'T. All post-war plans were based on some sort of orderly stand-down or keeping some integrity to the Iraqi Army, Police and Government. NONE of those happened so ALL of the pre-war plans were trashed. Got a problem with that? As the old maxim goes: 'No battleplan survives contact with the enemy. That is why they are called *the enemy*'. In this case the total disintegration of the Army, Police and Government was something that NO ONE foresaw. All post-war problems of insurgents and such pre-supposed the existence of those vital organs of Government. They were not used for the simple fact that they were NOT THERE. Declaring them to be gone in JUN 2003 was recognition that starting in MAR 2003 they had already started to drift into oblivion. By the cessation of hostilities in MAY 2003 they could NOT BE FOUND. We spent a month and a half trying to find them to no avail.
So where have you been on this issue, Mr. Ware? When letting people use a false image of what was going on to then continue on with that and hear no one set the record straight, then YOU are the one giving the false impression by remaining silent. That is a lie by inaction. Wouldn't it have been good to describe in 2003 or 2004 that there was NO coherent regime left, and that it had, indeed, disintegrated and dissolved before their eyes? One does *not* have to sign up with any Administration or Government to ensure that the "truth" is known. Have you spent much time on disabusing people of this toxic meme, Mr. Ware? Because that is what happened to one of the enemies that we faced, and by not telling the "truth" on that, you have let people be misled about it for years.

Now, lets move to the other and more interesting bit, where Mr. Ware is immediately looking for the Republican Guard, secret police and other regime elements. These, in actuality, were the enemy at the time, and when they continue to take up arms or take them up again they REMAIN the enemy. These are individuals that have targeted the soldiers from your Nation, Mr. Ware: they are killers and supporters of a tyrannical regime. You say as much yourself:

HH: Do you think it's true that everyone has understood from the beginning that there were Iraqis who were nationalists, and that there were jihadists who were Islamists, who just simply want to kill? I think that distinction has been there, my gosh, going back to the first blows of the insurgency against the coalition forces.

MW: Well, that's not entirely correct. Remember these famous glib, sad excuses for expressions like the dead-enders who are out there fighting us. Well, these dead-enders are still putting 15-20,000 men in the field on any given day. You know what? Today the current average for attacks on coalition forces is about 74 attacks a day. Now only about one in four of those attacks is what anyone would consider effective. But nonetheless, there's 74 odd attacks, any given day, right now. You know how many there were a year ago? Pretty much the same. And the year before that? Not that much different. So this enemy that is out there, these dead-enders of 2003, are still putting something close to a division in the field, and maintaining their tempo of attacks.
That is a pretty interesting way to say that - "putting 15-20,000 men in the field". Do they still wear uniforms? Are they distinguishable by their garb and report to a given command structure that can be held accountable? And, as they have not *ceased* attacking, why are you having anything to do with them as they are enemies in this war? Or more correctly, they are out of uniform, under no coherent and accountable command structure, take no prisoners and act, not like Nationalists, but as Terrorists. Nationalists, like Fidel Castro and Mao Tse Tung put on a *uniform* so they could be identified with their organization and fought for it. They fought to build a Nation, no matter how much their form of it was detested, they did the honorable thing and put on a uniform and were soldiers. The reason they are called 'dead enders' is that they are dishonorably fighting just to kill, and not FOR anything. They could have done the honorable thing when they saw their Nation disintegrating and *surrendered*. And be treated well and respected and then, after demobilization, they could have said that I fought and *lost* honorably.

Why didn't these 'Nationalists' do that?

And why don't they put on their uniforms to show their support of a Nation?

Or would it be fairer to say that these are 15-20,000 so-so committed terrorists that just enjoy killing when they have a good chance of surviving, and then hide out when their odds of survival are low? Why don't we hear the "truth" of what they do and who they are and how cowardly they are, even in their brave boasts of their killings and actions?

Now this part gets to be very interesting also:
HH: But I do think that that distinction between Islamists and insurgents has been well understood, and for a very long time. And I'd look for you to tell me when were you misled about that. But more importantly, going to the Islamists, about whom...you'll agree with me, they're evil. Won't you, Michael?

MW: Well, I certainly...I mean, one has to be careful that as the Islamic army of Iraq reminded just last week on Al Jazeera, the insurgent groups study very closely everything that we hear, say and write. And given that we're within their grasp, one always must be diplomatic. Suffice to say, it's very hard to relate to the goals or tactics that the hard-line Islamists employ.

HH: Now that's very interesting, because that would indicate that...and I understand it, but that fear is affecting your reporting, or your candor level.

MW: Well, it certainly affects the way you couch things. It doesn't stop you saying things. I mean, like I said for example, I came across a tape once of Zarqawi himself, on an audio cassette, instructing or giving a seminar to some of his recruits and fighters, somewhere outside of Baghdad. Now this was a tape that was meant purely for internal consumption, for ideological or for training purposes. Now by one means or another, that fell into my hands, and I published it. I published its contents. Now within that discussion, Zarqawi himself showed that there was great division between his organization and one of the leading Iraqi Sunni organizations, and you're hearing him criticizing this very important Iraqi leader. Now by me publishing that, that aired their dirty laundry. As a result of that, he threatened, or his organization threatened to kill me. I mean, one has to be careful about how you couch things, but it doesn't stop you reporting the facts.
Effects the way one would 'couch things'? One has to be 'diplomatic'? So when in reporting are we getting the "truth" or the "facts" or are we getting spun output that may make things look in a not so bad light to those that are being reported on allow one to can retain access to them? And when reporting this "truth" does it bear relationship to the "facts" or is it, perhaps, one's couched opinion or analysis? Does one dare to report everything, all the time, or does one let some things slide and play up others in order to not piss off those that are giving one the information? Because when a reporter gets 'diplomatic' and 'couches things' certain facts may be left out to please some audiences and other attitudes taken to please others.

Mr. Hewitt follows that up:
HH: No, but it does, however, get to the question of whether or not media from the West should be...what's the right word, Michael Ware? It's not assisting, but providing information flow to the jihadis about whom I'm quite comfortable, and I think most Westerners are quite comfortable, just declaring to be evil, because they kill innocents, and that killing of innocents is evil, is it not, Michael?

MW: Well, absolutely. And I think you'll find that that's the source of one of the greatest divisions amongst all the insurgents here.

HH: And so, is it easy for you to do good journalism with the threat of reprisal hanging over your head, perhaps even greater, because you've been given access over and over again to the bad guys?

MW: Well, yeah, it's still more than able to be done. Nothing is easy in this country. But it's just like how when you're writing about, let's say, an American unit that you're embedded with. You get into some very heavy, some very nasty combat. And I've done that so many times, I can't even begin to count. And something happens, something that may not exactly play well back home. And yet, it's something that you know, well, people outside of this experience would never understand that. I mean, how do you relay that without betraying the trust and the confidence of the troops? And for some journalists, they have to bear in mind well, if I write a negative story about the military on this embed, will they give me another embed? So there's always these pressures from all the players. For example, I wrote a story last year that reflected very, very badly on the Iraqi government, or very significant parts of the Iraqi government. And I was discussing and exposing through documents smuggled out of Iran, their links to the regime in Tehran. Now that resulted in elements of the government showing up at my house, demanding the production of these documents, which clearly we refused to do. So you're always at risk from everyone, either directly or indirectly, through self-censorship or through direct intervention.
I do understand one thing and that is if your life is on the line where you are at for trying to bring the "facts" to those of us who are the Public, then one should LEAVE and report what you has been seen. That should be a relatively simple concept and a good survival skill. It may not get one the 'scoop' or the 'whole story' but that is a judgment call to make. Is that 'whole story' worth one's life? Or are the "facts" worth bringing to the airing of the Public? And would it not be worth getting those out so we can learn the "facts"?

Even more interesting is the idea that you have problems reporting news that may not 'play well back home', about the troops. Here is the deal on that, and it is pretty simple: you write about the soldiers and their unit, what they get to do and why. You do *not* just report the bad incidents, but you tell us of their lives and outlooks and what keeps them going and what they see as troubling. This is not 'couching' or being 'diplomatic' but it is telling us the surroundings and context so that bad things are understood within what is happening. You cannot get away being a carrier of only good news or bad news, but you are there to 'report' and tell us what you see and who you meet and how that fits together or doesn't. You cannot remove your personal feelings from anything, and that is an impossible thing to do. But you can explain how you see them and *why* and be transparent on your own qualities and defects. That is something known as 'honest reporting' and requires that a reporter understands who they are and what they are about or, if that is in question, then why this seems like a good way to search out those answers.

Fair, honest reporting in which the reporter knows they cannot change how they feel, but have the responsibility to tell us why they feel the way they do.

Even more troubling than these, however, is this section:
HH: So you would have encouraged such reporting, had it been possible in World War II?

MW: Well, I don't know. I wasn't around in World War II, so I'm not sure I'm really in a position to determine. All I can talk to about are the circumstances that have presented themselves to me, and the wars I've found myself in.

HH: I'm really fascinated by the question of whether or not it's ever good journalism to consort with the enemy in search of interesting stories. And there's not denying, Michael, where you get scoops. It's fascinating to read. You've got a great deal of courage, of physical courage, in doing this. So no one's denying that. I'm just wondering whether or not there's a line that you have in your mind reconciled yourself to crossing not once, but scores and scores of times, to report on the enemy, and whether or not that's a good thing. And you think it is, I think I hear you saying, because the public will not otherwise know what it is that you're reporting. Is that a fair summary?

MW: That is fairly accurate, and let's look at it this way. I mean, you're sitting back in a comfortable radio studio, far from the realities of this war.

HH: Actually, Michael, let me interrupt you.

MW: If anyone has a right...

HH: Michael, one second.

MW: If anyone has a right to complain, that's what...

HH: I'm sitting in the Empire State Building. Michael, I'm sitting in the Empire State Building, which has been in the past, and could be again, a target. Because in downtown Manhattan, it's not comfortable, although it's a lot safer than where you are, people always are three miles away from where the jihadis last spoke in America. So that's...civilians have a stake in this. Although you are on the front line, this was the front line four and a half years ago.

MW: Absolutely, and I think that's really the reason that a lot of us are doing what we're doing. I mean, it's because of that horror that so much has ensued. It is because of this fight that these people came and picked, that so much has happened. But I mean, what I'm saying to you is that if you think anyone would have the right to complain or to take umbrage at what I do, it would be the troops here on the ground. It would be U.S. military intelligence. It would be the U.S. military. You'd think that they wouldn't give me embeds, wouldn't you? You'd think that they wouldn't grant me backgrounders, or wouldn't take me out on special events. You'd think that they wouldn't give me access to the generals, or to military intelligence. You know, in this war alone, I've been in combat with virtually every kind of U.S. fighting force there is, from the SEAL's, to the Green Berets, to Delta, to Infantry, Airborne, Armored, Mechanized. I mean, I've been there, done that in combat. I've been in every major battle of this war, except from Najaf and the first battle of Fallujah. That includes the battle of Tal-Afar, the Battle of Samara, and the Battle of Fallujah, with front line units. I witnessed an event that the Pentagon subsequently asked me to write about as a witness, which is now a matter for the Congressional Medal of Honor nomination. And I am mentioned in that citation. So if anyone would have a problem with what I do in exploring the issues of this war, you'd think it'd be the military. Yet strangely, they don't.
This is a war unlike any that has been fought in history, where there is no real 'front line' and yet there are places where combat does take place. Not just counter-insurgency, but places where those without uniform, without Nation and who try to bring down all Nations pick up the weapons of war to kill without discrimination. The conceptual line is that there is no permanent front line in this war, that it can appear on one's doorstep at any moment, of any day. The harsh and open combat is a major theater in this war, of that there is no doubt. But this is a global war, to ensure that civilization is kept, so while not everyplace is seeing active combat, everyplace is under threat of sudden, deadly violence.

On the morning of 25 JAN 1993 I drove past the CIA entrance in the morning, with many police vehicles there. I had assumed that it was a standard car accident at the time. Only later did I find out that I had just missed being there by minutes when Mir Amal Kansi had murdered CIA employees. As working for the DoD at the time, that was not a place I went to often, but did drive past every morning on my way to work. Terrorism struck there, too, the sudden death for those who worked jobs to support their Government, and yet they were not soldiers and not armed. So while the open combat areas are deadly, without doubt, the violence can appear anywhere, without cause and without reason. That is why it is called 'terrorism': it is inflicting the realm of war and its horrors unexpectedly so as to terrify populations.

But the most interesting quote from Mr. Ware is the one I pointed out in the comments section of the interview, and now reproduce for you:
HH: Oh, that's interesting. I missed that one. I have to go back and find that. That's a very significant find. What about the weapons of mass destruction...I lied. I got one more. The weapons of mass destruction, Michael Ware. What do the insurgents tell you about what happened to them, or what the story is there?

MW: Well, I did a weapons of mass destruction story back in 2003, and back then, most of the people I was dealing with were not insurgents. I believe some of them probably went on to become insurgents. But back then, they were former Republican Guard, officers, former scientists, former secret police of intelligence officers, whose job was to monitor the U.N., or monitor the scientists. Basically, what all of them tell me was that all the stuff had been destroyed in the early 90's, just as Saddam had told the U.N., and the CIA subsequently found to be true, that whatever wasn't destroyed was so rotten it was unusable, that if we'd had it, by goodness we would have used it. The other thing was that the whole weapons industry, including the WMD industry that Saddam had mothballed, was riddled with corruption. So a lot of these guys were saying, you know, some of these big characters in the regime, were selling Saddam on the idea of this wonder-weapon, that actually never really existed. They fired once, it didn't really work. They dodgy up the report. He throws $10 million at them, which they all pocket. So that was what I learned from regime figures about WMD.
The reason why, as I cited, is this from the Joint Congressional Authorization of the Use of Force in Iraq:
Whereas after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Iraq entered into a United Nations sponsored cease-fire agreement pursuant to which Iraq unequivocally agreed, among other things, to eliminate its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs and the means to deliver and develop them, and to end its support for international terrorism;
When a dictator 'mothballs' an industry, that is to set it aside for the moment, but to keep it intact for future use. This issue was not *just* about WMDs but the ability of Iraq to continue research, development and production of same. That does not include 'mothballing' or temporarily shutting it down. That means dismantling and ending it, permanently. Congress was quite clear on that.

Why has Mr. Ware let so many go on about there being no WMDs when, in point of fact, the entire industry was merely in mothballs waiting to start up once more? As Congress ruled it was not *just* the WMDs but the entire industrial basis for them that was to be dismantled under oversight and verified.

And why has Mr. Ware not spoken up about this and about many other things?

Why does he support certain memes over others, when he does not fully disclose his "facts"?

Doesn't the Public have a right to know that the Congress committed the Nation to war in a full and just manner with cause and reason supported by what has been found on the ground?

In this war there are no real 'front lines' and helping the enemy by being quiet allows them to prosper on lies that go unkilled, when one could justly use the "truth" to kill them.

That is supporting the enemy which wishes to bring civilization down, by being quiet when one knows the truth and can show them in their true light. And be unashamed in that doing.

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