|The messenger shoots back|
On June 23, the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence tabled an interim report on
In fact, the Senate committee was in lockstep agreement with the military’s new proposal to maintain approximately 700 troops in a non-combat training capacity for the Afghan National Army.
This policy was immediately applauded by the very same military pundits and cheerleaders who, only months earlier, had taken to the airwaves to try and convince Canadians that it was not possible to train Afghans without taking the trainees into actual combat. But I digress.
At the press conference detailing their findings, the committee’s co-chairs, Senators Pamela Wallin and retired lieutenant-general Roméo Dallaire, were asked to explain why
Canadians were unsupportive of any military extension of the mission. Their answer was to blame the media.
“I just simply wish there was greater coverage of…what our troops are doing,” said Senator Wallin, herself a former journalist. “Unfortunately because a lot of coverage is limited to what you see on a base, it’s very difficult to report the story and the successes that our soldiers have had in the field.”
Senator Dallaire, who has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since the failed UN mission in Rwanda in 1994, which he commanded, parroted Wallin’s media bashing.
“The [media] A-team hasn’t necessarily been getting out into the field,” he said, adding that this has reduced the level of “good, solid, consistent reporting.”
This sentiment has long been the party-line of the military cheerleaders and warmongers: If only the lazy liberal media would get out and report the good work of our soldiers, the general public would be won over to the cause.
I am the first person to admit that the media coverage of the war has been less than adequate, but not for the reasons claimed by such Colonel Blimps and Tubthumpers. In defence of my colleagues and myself, who report regularly from
First of all, the dangers of reporting from this war zone—either embedded or unembedded— are the exact same as those confronting our soldiers. To date, the Canadian media have had one journalist killed, two wounded and one taken hostage.
If you do the math and compare this figure to the number of soldiers deployed to the handful of journalists in theatre, reporters are suffering a higher ratio of casualties than the military. The very fact that journalists are increasingly restricted to reporting from inside the wire is indicative that efforts to secure the countryside are not going that well.
As for the purported emphasis on negative coverage, this is often referred to by critics as “death-watch journalism,” wherein the embedded media record the ramp ceremonies of fallen Canadian soldiers.
While it is true that the steadily increasing death toll causes Canadians to question both the human cost and continued commitment, it is not the media that stages the ramp ceremonies. This is also true of the motorcades along the Highway of Heroes from
I fail to see how honouring soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice is a negative story, yet there are critics out there who have opined that we should quietly repatriate the bodies instead.
As for actual negative stories regarding the conduct of our soldiers, I am at a loss to think of a single report in the past five years that would fall into that category.
The firing of Brigadier-General Daniel Menard for alleged sexual misconduct and the charging of Captain Robert Semrau with second-degree murder were negative incidents, but no attempt was made to generalize their behaviour into widespread negligence throughout the battle group.
Rather, those reporters who spend time embedded with the troops have essentially lionized Canadian soldiers to the point that, while citizens debate the war effort, no one maligns the professionalism of our military personnel. The propensity of all their “good news” stories in fact led the Canadian Press to select every Canadian soldier as Newsmaker of the Year at the end of 2006.
As for the lack of media focus on the development projects, the fact of the matter is that there really isn’t a whole lot of success to report.
When I travelled throughout
After photographing a model Afghan village where an aid agency had installed some wells and a simple bakery, I was asked not to disclose the exact location for fear it would be targeted for destruction by the Taliban.
The news out of