U.S. Soldier From 184 Infantry Reports: "We Were Smeared" By the Media

Robert C.J. Parry, a first lieutenant in the California Army National Guard's 1st battalion of the 184 Infantry, has published a must-see op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times (Sunday, February 12, 2006), entitled, "The war you didn't see." In the piece, he reports something that is rarely reported but has been known by many all along: The mainstream media has been giving our troops a raw deal by harping on negative news and ignoring positive accomplishments.

"We served with honor. We served with valor. We earned distinction," writes Lt. Parry, as he recounts a number of brave actions in battle from men with whom he served. (Emphasis mine:)

"So far, 14 of our soldiers have been decorated for valor and another 48 have earned the Bronze Star for service. But that cannot be found in print.

"Our unit ... conducted more than 7,000 combat patrols totaling nearly half a million man-hours. We captured more insurgents in one month than did whole brigades. We stand nominated (with the rest of our brigade) for a Valorous Unit Award.

"But instead, people who didn't know the first thing about us trumpeted the misdeeds of a handful of young men who scoffed at the concepts of honor and duty that our commander invoked."

What happened? Unfortunately, "a few of Alpha's young NCOs had abused a group of Iraqi detainees" shortly after Parry's unit arrived in Iraq in 2004. "It was immature, nasty, stupid stuff," but,

"The Army PR machine touted the news, almost proudly, much like Access Hollywood touts B-list celebrity gossip: 'Baghdad Troops to Face Court-Martial for Detainee Abuse.' ... What was not said was that it was one of the soldiers in our own battalion who had found the video of the abuse and turned it in to our commander.

"Lots of folks had lots of theories about why the Army made such a big deal of it. Mine is that the Army wanted to get out in front of 'another Abu Ghraib'."

The damage was done. Lt. Parry recounts how the media clung to this one episode and set out to smear the reputation of the 184 Infantry. (Emphasis mine:)

"The facts [of the abuse episode] did not live up to the hype, but the hype was what we, and you, were left with.

"While our Delta Company patrolled a stretch of Baghdad road where five of our soldiers were eventually killed, people who had never set foot in Iraq were quoted about our performance. People who rarely left the safety of an operations base damaged our reputations. We never flinched in a fight, but we were smeared nonetheless.

"What none of us could explain was why no reporter actually met a single 184th soldier in Iraq until November. Even that only came after the tragic death of our new commander, Col. Wood, an amazing active-duty officer who held us together and made us strong again. Whether it was some form of politics or simply the realities of journalism in war, I do not know. The hype was all that mattered."

Look at what Lt. Parry accomplished, and what our mainstream media failed to report (emphasis mine):

"I patrolled the streets of Baghdad's elite Karrada neighborhood and its insurgent-rich Doura sector, shaking people's hands and learning their problems. I lived and worked alongside American contractors upgrading a key power plant. I trained Iraqi police, saw their enthusiasm and came to understand their different approach to things. I worked as a junior officer on our battalion staff, witnessing how the decisions governing the street fight were shaped. I was shot at and attacked with IEDs.

"I saw the successes. I struggled with the failures. But most important, I saw people who once had nothing now bursting with hope and thanks."

"People who once had nothing now bursting with hope and thanks"? Gee, I don't remember hearing that on 60 Minutes.

Lt. Parry concludes his piece with some sobering words (emphasis mine):

"While I was in Iraq, I read Walter Isaacson's remarkable biography, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life ... Franklin and company recognized the importance of having a fully informed American constituency involved in making the decisions of government.

"When it comes to Iraq, in my experience, that constituency is poorly served."

Lt. Parry elucidates and reiterates the fact that the biased mainstream media is failing to fully inform the constituency.

Thank you, Lt. Parry, for all your service. God bless you.

Dave Pierre
Dave Pierre is a contributing writer to NewsBusters and the creator of TheMediaReport.com.