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The first stunner in that article is that Cunningham’s lawyers apparently decided to defend their bribe-seeking client by smearing the mental and ethical capacities of every warrior who ever traded dog tags for the low-level notoriety of being recognized by the Speaker of the House when it’s time to fill C-Span air with a few words about mohair or honey subsidies.
The second stunner in the piece is that although the reporter notes in paragraph four (of 40) that the psychiatrist’s speculations about Cunningham are disputed by other doctors and “another former Navy pilot,” comeuppance comes late to the party. It’s on the jump page and 14 paragraphs into the account that we hear from Cunningham’s former executive officer, who reveals his contempt for the speculation of Dr. Saul Faerstein with the says-it-all quote, “I don’t think naval aviation ever trained anybody to be a crook.”
Point made, but since the article leads with a report to that effect and depends on inducing credulous readers into cutting some slack for its author, sanity gets short shrift — and for the same reason that Mike Yon spent time in his first book debunking the idea that soldiers in elite units are taught “secret” punches.
Hand-to-hand combat goes back as far as Cain and Abel, Yon observed, which means that by now there’s nothing secret about it. Neither Green Berets nor Shaolin monks nicknamed “Grasshopper” are initiated into the fraternity of the secret punch. That some people punch properly and some don’t is a function of training and experience rather than gnostic martial mastery.
If more journalists had military experience, the New York Times would not necessarily have published a faked missile photo from a Pakistani village in the aftermath of an American attempt to kill a marquee-level terrorist two months ago. Lacking that experience, editors at that publication and several others did not realize that the ordnance shown could not have been fired from a Predator drone or from a helicopter. Accordingly, they accepted an erroneous caption first written by a stringer for Agence France Presse.
As the source of that particular debacle makes clear, ignorance of military matters is not unique to American journalists. Last week in Moscow, embarrassed officials yanked a poster meant to honor veterans of the Russian military from 20 billboards after belatedly discovering that it used the image of an American battleship rather than a Russian one. Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported that the U.S.S. Missouri appeared on the poster because employees at the civilian firm handling that billboard contract for the Defense Ministry mistook the Mighty Mo for a Russian cruiser. The Guardian quoted a former commander of the Black Sea Fleet railing against what he called “the incompetence of the designers” even as he graciously allowed that it wasn’t a big deal to confuse “two heroic ships.”
True, any one episode of confusion over martial matters is not a big deal. But when paying moderate attention to current events gives one enough ammunition (pun intended) to dredge up several such examples in a few minutes, it’s time to recommend remedial reading in military history to any journalist who has never worn khaki that he or she couldn’t find at a Banana Republic outlet store.
Revolutionary War artillery chief Henry Knox was a bookseller by trade, and Gettysburg hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a teacher before and after donning Union blue, but experience made both of them role models for any civilian writing even tangentially about the armed forces. As smart-mouthed Josh Arnold said to alingering relative Jimbob Buel in Richard Bradford’s magnificent Red Sky at Morning, by way of torpedoing Jimbob’s ignorant discourse on naval strategy during a farewell dinnner for a family relocating during World War Two, “Is that khaki you’re wearing? Because in the candlelight, it looks more like seersucker.”
Journalists tread beyond their expertise all too frequently, and we who depend on them to varying degrees deserve better, especially in wartime.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?