Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Media bias (cont'd.)

Tests today confirm that an artillery shell that blew up in Iraq on Saturday contained an estimated three or four liters of the deadly nerve agent sarin. I might point out that it's "only one shell," but only one WMD is like only one cockroach.

Alan, at The Command Post has an informative piece about "Sarin, Binary Agents, and 155mm Shells" including an explanation of how they work, and why, just because nobody got killed by this particular shell, it was still a WMD:

A binary artillery shell is projected from an artillery piece with an acceleration of over 100g, and spins at thousands of RPM. It also gets very hot, from the flame of the propellant, but also from air friction. This is quite enough to break the membrane separating the two chemicals, and mix them very thoroughly indeed. By the time the shell reaches the target, the chemical reaction is complete, and a small bursting charge shatters the shell and spreads the fog of droplets over a wide area.

If the artillery shell is (accidentally or deliberately) detonated without being fired from an artillery piece, there is very little mixing of the chemicals. Although the chemicals are not totally safe (I wouldn’t drink them, for example), the amount of Sarin produced would be very small, and chemical wounds would be minor and easily treatable.

Meanwhile, my own newspaper buried the story on page A4 this morning. At least one reader called to complain about that. It was hard for me to argue with the guy. If the story had been "No Sarin shells found in Iraq" you can bet it would have been 72-point on page A1. After the call, I mentioned to the wire editor that someone had wondered why we buried the story. His response: "I guess Rush told him to call."

Chief Wiggles, one of the most prominent milbloggers, has been an interrogator for 34 years. He knows his business, and he is frustrated by the media's half-story coverage, and he's willing to help them get it right, if they want to. Here's an expert commentator offering his services:

I welcome any news media that would like to delve into the details of the other side of the story, the one that represents the way most American soldiers act. I would love to have the opportunity to explain my world, from my perspective, the one shared by the majority of soldiers and especially interrogators. I will gladly give them the finer details of each phase or approach that was used.

Why can’t we show the world that what they are seeing is an isolated incident not representative of the thousands of soldiers who do sincerely care and who have accepted the humanity of our fellow brothers, the Iraqis.

This is your chance News Media. This is a way for you to redeem yourselves from the barrage of accusations that you are biased and one sided, that you are just looking for any opportunity to crucify us and our leaders, and that you fail to provide us the American people with balanced factual reporting. We need to offset the continual flow of negative degrading reporting with factual positive stories of all the good that is being done.

Think anyone in the networks will take him up on it? Neither do I.

Meanwhile, Belmont Club, in "News Coverage as a Weapon," cites historian John Terraine and compares U.S. casualties in Iraq to unit loss rates in the Civil War, the Battle of Britain, German U-boat crews, and ponders the nature of "defeat."

Viewed in this context, the American "defeat" in Iraq projected by the press must be understood as being something wholly different from anything that has gone before. The 800 odd US military deaths suffered since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom a year ago are less than the number who died in the Slapton Sands D-Day training exercise in 1944. The campaign in Iraq has hardly scratched American strength, which has in fact grown more potent in operational terms over the intervening period. Nor has it materially affected the US manpower pool or slowed the American economy, which is actually growing several times faster than France, which is not militarily engaged. The defeat being advertised by the press is a wholly new phenomenon: one which leaves the vanquished army untouched and the victor devastated; the economy of the vanquished burgeoning and that of the victor in destitution; the territory of the loser unoccupied and that of the winner garrisoned. It is an inversion of all the traditional metrics of victory and defeat.

That the assertion is not instantly ludicrous is an indication of the arrival of a new and potentially revolutionary form of political wafare.