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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part II

Transition to a New Campaign

Chapter 7
Fighting the Battle of Ideas in Iraq


Preparing Embedded Reporters and the Army for Each Other

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, close to 700 media representatives from all over the world were embedded with military units. To put this in perspective, in World War II 600 journalists were assigned to cover the entire South Pacific, and only 30 reporters covered the invasion of Normandy.76 In OIF, the “embed” program gave journalists unparalleled access to the battlefield and allowed reporters to file uncensored views of the action as it happened. DOD guidance issued before the invasion provided the logic for the embed program in terms of its affect on the success of the overall mission: “The Department of Defense (DOD) Policy on media coverage of future military operations is that media will have a long-term, minimally restrictive access to US air, ground and naval forces through embedding. Media coverage of any future operation will, to a large extent, shape public perception of the national security environment now and in the years ahead.”77 The guidance then stated that the embedding program would likely affect audiences outside the United States:

This holds true for the US public; the public in allied countries whose opinion can affect the durability of our Coalition; and publics in countries where we conduct operations, whose perceptions of us can affect the cost and duration of our involvement. Our ultimate strategic success in bringing peace and security to [the Middle East] will come in our long-term commitment to supporting our democratic ideals.78

In clear recognition of the Army’s dual goals in granting this level of access to the media, leaders in the 3d ID stated that the reasons for the embed program “were several, including the desire to have media tell the Soldiers’ story, but also to have the ability to counter the Iraqi propaganda machine.”79

In preparation for embedding media within their ranks, prior to the start of the invasion embedded reporters received some military training. Most of the media members in the program found this helpful in preparing them with basic survival skills they would need in Iraq. According to Amy Schlesing, a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette who was embedded in 2004 with the 39th Infantry Brigade, Arkansas National Guard, attached to the 1st CAV, “We learned how to stack up on doors, we learned how to take cover, and we learned how to keep an eye on fields of fire.”80 This training, and the reporter’s response to it, helped commanders and Soldiers feel more comfortable with media in their ranks.81 Schlesing stressed it was imperative that reporters be properly trained for their dangerous missions:

I had nothing but a pen. I could throw it if I needed to, but that was about it. So we are a liability. We are something else for them to worry about and that is why it is important for us as embeds to get training and it is also our job to seek it out ourselves and not to expect it. So it is important to remember we are a liability. No matter how invisible we try to be, we are not invisible.82

Given the conditions in Iraq, many reporters displayed great courage in accompanying Coalition and Iraqi forces on operations such as AL FAJR. During those operations, these men and women were certainly visible.

Chapter 7. Fighting the Battle of Ideas in Iraq

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