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WASHINGTON — A Marine general in Iraq ripped
front-line journalists for “Chicken Little” coverage
of the March invasion, and advised military leaders to
“never forget how quickly the press jumped on the
bandwagon of doom and gloom,” a critical internal
study of the war reveals.
“Visions of Vietnam danced in reporters’ heads” during
halts in the march to Baghdad, griped the commanding
general of the 1st Marine Division in a 67-page draft
report obtained by WorldNetDaily.
Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis
Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis heaped scorn on “unilateral”
correspondents in his May 29 report. He said they
“routinely” breached security and reported “errors”
from the battlefield.
Unlike “embedded” reporters, who were approved by the
Pentagon and attached to combat units, unilaterals
were free to report what and where they wished.
“Unembedded, unilateral journalists routinely released
information jeopardizing OPSEC [operational security]
and frequently misreported [sic] errors in fact,” he
said, while providing no examples.
On the other hand, “embedded media were able to
clarify their understanding of events with the
participants before releasing their story to the
world,” he added.
Mattis said he was pleased that “adopted” media, as he
called embeds, got close enough to the action to
dispel Iraqi propaganda about “roasting the stomachs”
of U.S. soldiers at the gates of Baghdad and expose
Fedayeen treachery, such as “hiding behind women and
children while shooting at Marines [and] using
mosques, hospitals and schools to store ammunition and
But he suggested that, when it came to covering
civilian Iraqi casualties, they “reported skewed or
As a result, Mattis stopped short of recommending the
media embed program for future combat operations,
calling it a “limited success.”
His conclusions about the program are not as positive
as those publicly expressed by U.S. officials,
including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and
CentCom commander Gen. Tommy Franks.
The Pentagon declined comment other than to say the
report, entitled “Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF):
Lessons Learned,” is an internal draft that has not
been authorized for release.
The same report reveals U.S. troops were “caught
flat-footed” by Saddam Hussein’s guerrilla warfare
tactics, because they did not have adequate human
intelligence on the ground to predict his commanders’
moves. It blames a “dearth” of information about the
“personalities” and “idiosyncrasies” of the enemy
WorldNetDaily first reported Friday.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists
says cases of alleged security breaches by unilaterals
A Christian Science Monitor correspondent, for one,
was detained by U.S forces after he was accused of
revealing a unit’s location. A few unescorted foreign
reporters also were scolded during the invasion.
Fox News war correspondent Geraldo Rivera was kicked
out of the unit he was traveling with after he went on
the air and drew maps in the sand showing troop
movements. Rivera later apologized for violating
Pentagon ground rules.
The military report, which does not mention Fox,
praises coverage by CNN, NBC and CBS, which also were
part of the embedded media program.
It notes that the networks helped the Pentagon
“establish a firm link between the regime and
international terrorism” after Marines took them to a
grade school in Baghdad it says was used as a Fedayeen
suicide-bomb vest training site. It also extolled CNN
for using its own satellite-capable Humvee to report
“live on the fly” from the battlefield, an idea it
says was originally pitched last year by CBS News
correspondent Kirk Spitzer at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
At the same time, the report faults unilateral media
for recklessly driving their own vehicles.
“The division did experience significant problems with
the unilateral media vehicles on the battlefield
cutting into convoys and getting in between enemy and
friendly units during firefights, in one instance
resulting in the death and injuries of the unilateral
reporters,” it stated, referring to British TV
reporter Terry Lloyd.
The 50-year-old Lloyd was killed when his car, clearly
marked “TV,” was hit by U.S. and Iraqi gunfire in a
battle near Basra. After first denying it, Marines
later admitted firing on the car, explaining that they
thought it contained Iraqi suicide fighters posing as
In his report, Mattis seemed upset by the coverage of
When the media were “confused about events, they
reported skewed or inaccurate information,” he said.
“In the few instances when things went badly, the
media reported on the killing of civilians, and in one
case, the killing of Andrew [sic] Lloyd, a unilateral
ITN reporter from the UK who died in a clash between
the division and Fedayeen.”
Joel Campagna of the Committee to Protect Journalists
says the Pentagon showed little sympathy for
unilaterals, who wanted to see and report things from
outside U.S. convoys and without the permission of
on-the-scene U.S. commanders.
“There was a disturbing attitude from the Pentagon
toward unilaterals,” said Campagna, Mideast program
coordinator for the nonprofit group. “They gave the
perception that if you weren’t embedded, you covered
the war at your own risk, and that U.S. troops were
under no obligation to at least avoid endangering
Campagna said that while many unilateral journalists
covering the war expressed strong fear and
reservations, “embedded journalists we talked to said
they were extremely pleased with the arrangement.”
Mattis said that, on the plus side, the program
allowed for “quick assimilation of journalists into
the ranks, rapidly establishing strong bonds.”
In fact, “many family members used the reporters to
pass e-mails to their Marines and sailors, and vice
versa,” he said. “The media also allowed the Marines
to use their satellite and cellular (in Kuwait) phones
to communicate with family back home.”
Mattis added that the “trust” built between soldiers
and reporters for the most part enabled “our story to
“To the viewers and the readers, the 1st Marine
Division was not an anonymous killing machine,” he
said. “It was an 18-year-old Marine from Anywhere,
Campagna says that although such close ties between
media and military tended to discourage critical
reporting, not all the reporting about troop actions
For instance, he says, an embedded New York Times
reporter quizzed a Marine sharpshooter about the
killing of an innocent Iraqi woman by his unit, and he
got a chillingly blithe reply which he reported in a
page one story. “I’m sorry,” the sharpshooter was quoted as
saying, “but the chick was in the way.”