Embeded Arab News Reporter says "There was no propaganda campaign." - U2 Feedback

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Old 04-16-2003, 08:50 PM   #1
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Embeded Arab News Reporter says "There was no propaganda campaign."

An Account of Marines’ Incredible Gestures
Barbara Ferguson, Arab News War Correspondent

AT AN AIR BASE IN KUWAIT, 16 April 2003 — People are curious about being embedded in the Marines. This is my effort to set the record straight. Some readers suspect I was subjected to propaganda while living with these men and women. There was no propaganda campaign. If there had been, there would have been no embeds. Journalists wrote their own stories, and made their own interview requests and interviews. The Marines’ “PAOs” (public affairs officers) would set up the meetings, but not oversee them.

What happened to the majority of journalists living the Marine life is that we experienced it from the inside. I can honestly say that seven weeks as an embed has changed me forever. And I have often found many similarities between Marines and Arabs.

Why? Let me give you a few examples, all of which deal with generosity of spirit.

Recently, while standing in line for breakfast while on board the hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, a wounded Marine staff sergeant approached me saying: “Ma’am! Ma’am! I can’t believe you’re alive! We thought you were dead!”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know who you are,” I told him.

“I met you at Camp Viking,” he said.

“I never went to Camp Viking,” I said. “I was at Camp Bull Rush.”

“Bull Rush is Camp Viking,” he said.

“It was just before the war, I escorted you to a meeting with Col. Waldhauser of the 15th MEW at Camp Viking,” said Staff Sgt. Sidney Young. “It was just before we broke camp and moved into Iraq.”

Suddenly all became clear. This had been my first embed camp. I slept on the ground, ate MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) used port-o-johns, and female shower time was one hour a day. I was the only journalist, and female, embedded with five other photographers. We quickly formed a tight group, out of necessity, due to the hardships. The atmosphere was tense, as — I would only learn after the fact — this unit was heading to Umm Qasr.

Before breaking camp, Waldhauser had briefed us on the basics. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, it became clear to me that we were heading into battle. I had not joined the embed program to watch Americans fight Iraqis. The thought terrified me. Violence horrifies me. And in this case, it would be like watching my brother fight my cousin. I could not do it.

I explained this to Waldhauser, who was now faced with two choices: Either dump me from the embed program, or move me south. He patiently explained to me that he would let me go, but only very reluctantly. The next day, when saying goodbye, he again repeated his reluctance to let me go, and still hoped I would change my mind. He undoubtedly wanted me there to see, and testify, how his Marines would not slaughter civilians and loot and destroy towns and cities.

But he chose to let me go, God love him, and sent me south to Camp Commando. I left behind the five photo-journalists. All great guys. They were saddened I was leaving them despite my ethical position.

At Camp Commando, a Marine command post, the Red Cross tent offered me the first coffee I’d had in days, which succeeded in ousting a horrible three-day sand-dust sinus headache. For me, life was looking up. It was the first time I understood the importance the Red Cross plays on the ground in foreign lands.

From Camp Commando I traveled further south to this air base, where I was embedded for one month, enduring the Marine hardships while living in “tent city,” or “the ghetto” as many here call it, until an arranged visit to a far more comfortable life aboard a Navy ship, the USS Boxer, which eventually brought me over to the hospital ship, the USNS Comfort. Which brings me full circle to Staff Sgt. Young.

Young told me that from the day his unit broke camp and moved north, they encountered stiff Iraqi resistance. He said they battled several times a day all the way to Umm Qasr. Marines were lost and more were injured.

Young said the journalists were “crazy,” constantly putting themselves in danger and disobeying orders to come to seek shelter, in order to get “action” shots.

Several days into their advance, he said, two of the five journalists were killed.

What Young and his men did not know was that I had left the unit and moved south. “We found their bodies,” he said, “and we looked for yours for three days.”

When they had regrouped, and seen three journalists, he and his men assumed I had been lost with the other two journalists.

“I’m so happy to see you’re alive!” he said again, with a huge smile on his face. I can’t wait to see my men and tell them you’re alive!” Pausing, he said: “So where were you hurt?” Good question. He had been wounded and sent to the Comfort, and assumed I was on board for the same reason. It was a stunning moment in my life for many reasons: First, that someone who didn’t know me would be concerned about me, oblivious to his injuries and excited to find me alive.

Secondly, that two of my colleagues had been killed. This was a terrible blow for me. I did not try to ask who they were. I still see all five faces, hear their voices, and remember their stories. I don’t want to know who it was that died.

People here assure me this is not an uncommon reaction: Sometimes, the easiest way to handle pain and sorrow is to compartmentalize it and deal with it after the stress of war, they say. It later occurred to me that, percentage-wise, more journalists were killed in this war than soldiers and Marines.

Later, when recounting the story, people would ask: “Was that sergeant a Marine?” When I answered in the affirmative, they would say: “That’s the Marines for you. When you join them, you became one of them, part of their family. They always care for their people.” Caring for their people is a big deal with Marines.

Since I became embedded, I have been to six expeditionary camps, three air bases, and two ships. I have ridden in Humvees and on helicopters whose names I had never heard of before now. Currently, I am awaiting a final trip to Baghdad, on a C-130 transport plane, to interview Marines who made it to Baghdad. It will be this embed’s final Marine story.

Most significantly, throughout all these embed travels, I have met extraordinary young men and women — whose selflessness and determination still makes me marvel. It is this that made me think of the similarities between Marines and Arabs.

A few other examples: During our first incoming Iraqi bomb, when we were all supposed to be carrying our MOPP chemical protective suits, I — of course — was out walking, without my MOPP suit.

None of us knew what that first bomb was carrying when we ran to the bomb shelters, but we all feared chemical weapons. A young Marine female officer sat across from me in the bunker while everyone struggled into their MOPP suits.

“Where’s your MOPP suit?” she asked me.

“I left it back at my tent,” I replied.

She looked at me, then thrust her MOPP suit at me, and said: “Put this on.”

“You’re not supposed to give up your MOPP suit, Ma’am,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Put it on,” she said. Then: “PUT IT ON!”

I had never seen this woman before. She didn’t know who I was. We didn’t know what was in that missile. But this woman risked her life for me. It was an incredible gesture of selflessness that still makes me wonder.

There have been so many other examples: The Marine who expressed concern when he saw how the rubber MOPP boots had chewed into my shins because I had no boot socks. He left and returned with three pairs of his own socks. I never learned his name, and never saw him again. But I wear his size 12 socks daily.

One of my “hooch mates,” or tent mate, saw me shivering in my sleeping bag one cold desert night, got up and gave me her blanket to pin over my sleeping bag. I was never cold again, and she assured me she was warm. I wonder. Others made sure I had a cot and bed pad, while they slept on wooden floors. Marines are trained to respond instantly to emergencies. Incoming midnight missile attacks required an immediate donning of the MOPP suit. My Marines would dress themselves, then jump on me, the dazed journalist, to outfit me and yank me into a bunker.

Others, knowing I’m a vegetarian, became concerned about my diet, and would give me their nuts and hard-boiled eggs. Marines constantly give me food sent to them from home — candy bars, sweets, gum, snacks, whatever. Everyone shares. The Marines have a term for it. It’s called: “Share the wealth.” Care packages from home are made available for the entire group, never just for the addressee.

In regards to war, I have learned that Marines follow their orders. They are not responsible for war; those decisions are made in Washington. Many in my travels have expressed a genuine distaste for war.

While colonels have told me, behind closed doors, of their concern for the US foreign policy in the Middle East. Other Marines have expressed skepticism for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. This, I am told, are inside opinions that normally would not be heard off the base. Some tell me they hope these men will not be part of the second Bush administration. Almost all, however, trust President Bush. And Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Marines come from well-bred families; others join because they were living off the street. Some join to be educated, others to become part of a family. Some join because they simply “want to be part of the best.”

Many of these young Marines don’t know the difference between an Arab and an Asian. But a Chaplin told me that some of his hardest young Marines’ hearts turned soft “up north” as they witnessed the hard life and poverty Iraqi civilians and military live.

I am greatly concerned that this war has polarized many Arabs and Americans. Knowing these Marines, however, has given me hope for the future of America and its relationship with the Arab world.
http://www.arabnews.com/Article.asp?ID=25247
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Old 04-16-2003, 09:21 PM   #2
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Nice article. Thanks for posting it!
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Old 04-16-2003, 09:31 PM   #3
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Quote:
In regards to war, I have learned that Marines follow their orders. They are not responsible for war; those decisions are made in Washington. Many in my travels have expressed a genuine distaste for war.

While colonels have told me, behind closed doors, of their concern for the US foreign policy in the Middle East. Other Marines have expressed skepticism for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. This, I am told, are inside opinions that normally would not be heard off the base. Some tell me they hope these men will not be part of the second Bush administration. Almost all, however, trust President Bush. And Secretary of State Colin Powell.
A lot of people share these feelings.
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Old 04-16-2003, 10:19 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by deep


A lot of people share these feelings.
Deep-
the best part of your quote was the understanding there will be a 2ND Bush Administration

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Old 04-17-2003, 05:06 PM   #5
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Originally posted by verte76
Nice article. Thanks for posting it!
WELCOME.
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Old 04-18-2003, 01:30 AM   #6
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Most people in the military who do not like Rumsfeld do so because of his choice to cancel certain weapon systems and his goals of changing the US force structure around. Its not because of foreign policy rather its defense policy, heavy forces vs. light forces, that type of thing.
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Old 04-18-2003, 09:49 AM   #7
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Lots of military people didn't like Clinton for dodging the draft. They get alot of respect from me for serving under people they don't agree with but still put their lives on the line for this country, regardless of who is in charge.

Thanks for the article.
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Old 04-18-2003, 10:39 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by sharky
Lots of military people didn't like Clinton for dodging the draft. They get alot of respect from me for serving under people they don't agree with but still put their lives on the line for this country, regardless of who is in charge.

Thanks for the article.
I agree, it's great to hear some good things about our soldiers. I'm not quite sure that article rules out a propaganda spin though.

P.S. Bush=AWOL
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