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Rumsfeld, the troops, and the biased activist "reporter"

By Charles Bloomer
web posted December 13, 2004

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with US troops in Kuwait last week. I haven't seen any news coverage of the subject or any important points he made at the meeting. In fact, Rumsfeld's attendance at the inauguration of Afghanistan's first democratically elected president that preceded his visit to the troops was overshadowed by the news that a soldier had "challenged" the Defense Secretary.

U.S. Army Spc Thomas Wilson, left, speaks to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, not pictured, during Rumsfeld's visit to Camp Udeira, 120 km (74 miles) north of Kuwait City, on December 8
U.S. Army Spc Thomas Wilson, left, speaks to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, not pictured, during Rumsfeld's visit to Camp Udeira, 120 km (74 miles) north of Kuwait City, on December 8

After Rumsfeld's speech to the troops, he opened the floor to questions. The "challenging" question was this: "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?"

It was a valid question, and Rumsfeld gave a reasonable answer -- we go to war with the Army we have, not the Army we wish we had.

The story grew more interesting when the word got out that a "reporter" had prompted the soldier to ask the question. (I put the word "reporter" in quotation marks for reasons I'll explain momentarily.) Since Rumsfeld's meeting was with the troops and not a press conference, reporters were not allowed to ask questions.

The "reporter" who tried to set up Rumsfeld is actually a biased activist, without any notion of objectivity. What gives him away is not the way he managed to get his question asked, but the nature of the question itself. It seems pretty obvious that his question was intended as an attack on the Secretary of Defense.

If this biased activist had done two minutes worth of research, he would have known that the problem of armor for Humvees was identified over a year ago. He would also have found out that the Defense Department has a program in place to provide the necessary armor, and that three-quarters of Humvees have been equipped with armor plating modifications. While it would be nice if all the vehicles could be equipped with armor instantaneously, reality shows that manufacturing, shipping and installing the armor takes time.

The major reason that I challenge this guy's characterization as a "reporter" is because his bias and prejudice led him to miss the real story. The real story that the "reporter" missed (while he was busy thinking up ways to hammer the leadership) is actually in the question he raised.

Here's the real story.

We have the finest military in the world for several reasons. We try to provide our troops with the best equipment and the best training. The military tries to develop the best leaders and is successful the vast majority of the time. We develop effective, complex logistics programs to make sure our troops are supplied with what they need, when they need it -- everything from food, weapons, and ammunition to tanks, trucks, and Humvees.

One of the important reasons that our military is the finest in the world is the resourcefulness of our troops. When confronted with problems, our troops find solutions. When confronted with obstacles, our troops come up with ways to work around the obstacles. Our troops don't sit on their hands and whine about problems, they find innovative and creative ways to do the best they can with what they have, while waiting for the leadership to come up with a permanent solution.

So, why are our troops scouring the landfills looking for scrap metal to armor their Humvees? Because they are smart, innovative, and creative. They know that it takes time for the manufactured armor to be delivered and installed. They recognize that they need to find a temporary solution to protect themselves. They have found their temporary solution in the landfills. The solution isn't perfect, but it beats doing nothing but complaining.

In a perfect world, our troops would go into every conflict with everything they needed. But ours is not a perfect world. None of us can predict every contingency, every problem, or every difficulty. The troops know that. The troops know that there are an infinite number of potential obstructions that could crop up in the course of their mission execution, and that they may have to come up with solutions on the spot. And they will. They do it all the time.

The embedded activist calling himself a reporter has learned nothing from his experience working among our troops. His entrenched bias prevented him from seeing the real story. He saw his opportunity to slam the Secretary of Defense and make points with the liberal mainstream press. What he doesn't realize is that his attempt to put Rumsfeld on the spot failed miserably. He may be getting a lot of attention, but he isn't earning any respect

Maybe one day this guy will grow up, conquer his embedded biases, and become an honest, objective journalist. I won't hold my breath.

Charles Bloomer is a Senior Writer for Enter Stage Right. He can be contacted at clbloomer@enterstageright.com. © 2004 Charles Bloomer


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