Real Journalism and Its Value

One of a long list of people whose boots Ass Missile is not fit to lick: Bill Johnson of the Rocky Mountain News:

BAGHDAD – Downtime.

You can tell when it arrives inside First Platoon barracks. The thin walls throb with the bass notes of rap music or shiver from the twang of the occasional country-western tune that only the toughest of sergeants seem interested in playing.

After 11 days of being in-country, of daily patrols and seemingly never-ending vehicle maintenance checks, the soldiers of Fort Carson’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment are beginning to retreat into themselves during off-hours.

The days of incessant horseplay, razzing and card-playing that were daily staples of camp life in Kuwait have given way to more solitary pursuits, such as book-reading, DVD-watching and letter-writing.

This afternoon, just up the main hallway, three troopers have gathered in silence around a lone soldier sitting in a canvas folding chair, his feet propped on another chair, a 51/2-inch DVD player on his lap.

On the screen is an Iraqi version of Platoon, Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War saga. Why soldiers in the current conflict would want to watch such a thing, I don’t know. But they are enthralled.

“At least those guys (Viet Cong) aimed when they shot,” one of the soldiers says, as a battle scene erupts on the screen, “not like these guys here who just spray and run.”

That’s how you use an embedded position to best advantage: You look around and tell people what’s going on. That’s all he does, and it’s so very valuable. This war has been politicized beyond belief, we start to think all it is is our opinion of it. It’s guys playing videos and thinking about getting mail. It sounds simple, but if it were easy, everybody would do it. Everybody doesn’t.

Johnson and his photographer, Todd Heisier, were both injured when an explosive device went off near the convoy they were riding with yesterday. Heisier was thrown from the vehicle, but picked up his camera immediately and started taking pictures. None of the soldiers they were with were killed, and Johnson acknowledged, in an extraordinary public radio interview here that they got to go back to base and call in and recuperate, while the soldiers had to stay out there cleaning up the mess.

Maybe Michelle would like to call them accessories to murder.