War Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the weekend authorized the deployment of 62,000 more troops to the Gulf Region, and for the first time since the Gulf War, the Marine Corps has barred Marines from leaving the service.
As the Pentagon prepares its soldiers for war, it is also helping another group to prepare: the media.
Over the last few months the Pentagon has held a series of journalist-training programs at military bases. One hundred twenty journalists trained last November at the Quantico Marine Corps Base and the Norfolk Naval Station; another wave of reporters trained last month at Fort Benning, and another session is scheduled this month at Fort Dix in New Jersey.
The training teaches reporters battlefield survival, military policy and weapons expertise.
The media was quarantined from combat units during the 1991 Gulf War. Now the Pentagon says the US news media will have more direct access to US military operations than in any recent offensive, including the Gulf War and in Afghanistan.
The New York Times reports senior Pentagon officials are acknowledging there is an element of self-interest in the new media strategy. Several Pentagon officials lamented that the military had too often damaged its image by failing to engage the news media. The result, they said, is that the military has found itself surrendering the fight over world opinion to the propaganda of adversaries.
Today, a roundtable discussion and debate …
- Sig Christenson, military writer for the San Antonio Express News and a co-founder of Military Reporters and Editors, an organization devoted to improving journalists’ access to the armed forces. Christenson is one of dozens of reporters who have participated in Pentagon-sponsored journalist-training programs.
- Bryan Whitman, Pentagon spokesperson.
- Chris Hedges, New York Times reporter and veteran war correspondent. Hedges has experienced the war zone from Central America to Iraq, from the Sudan to Sarajevo. His recent book is ??War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning.
- John “Rick” MacArthur, author of ??The Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War and publisher of Harper’s Magazine.