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Soldiers Question Rumsfeld

The media lads are quick to jump on their own planted questions, but I doubt they will pick up on this rather incisive remark from a soldier when Rumsfeld spoke in Mosul yesterday:

Q: Sir, how do we win the war in the media? It seems like that is the place where we’re getting beat up more than anybody else? I’ve been here – this is my third tour over here and we’ve done some amazing things. And it seems like the enemy’s Web sites and everything else, they’re all over the media and they love it. But the thing is everything we did good, no matter if it’s helping a little kid or building a new school, the public affairs sends out the message, but the media doesn’t pick up on it. How do we win the propaganda war?

It is not really the job of the DOD to win an internal propaganda war. Mr. Rumsfeld indicated his understanding of this in his answer. The press has a right to do what it is doing and nothing can or should be done about that side of the equation. On the other hand, every Yin must have its Yang. The one-sided nothingness of the old media universe begat the blogosphere in a balance restoring reaction.

Here on Samizdata, terrorists are named the enemy and coalition forces are our people. We make no bones about it, make no false pretentions of neutrality. I consult in Manhattan (I will be on that side of the Atlantic much of January) and DC; I grew up in small town Western Pennsylvania(*); people I know work or have worked in the Pentagon at low levels. Perry worked in the World Trade Center during one phase of his life. For us, neutrality is not an option. We and people we know and love are in the enemy’s crosshairs.

This does not mean we will give the State a pass on much of anything. You will find us solidly against most of the civil liberty undermining machinations in Congress. We do not believe in winning a war by turning America (or the UK here) into a prison camp. We believe in winning it by going out and killing the enemy.

* However I was born in Florida and most of the family is in the Carolinas. I therefore claim red-blooded American status. Besides which, the Western Pennsylvania towns and countryside where I grew up are pretty solidly Jacksonian.

EDITOR: For those who may be interested, here is the transcript of the original DOD Town Hall Meeting at which a soldier passed on a question for an embedded reporter. It has been much reported on since so I will not bore you with a rehash. Other DOD transcripts following the aforementioned cover the up-armouring issue in excruciating detail.

26 comments to Soldiers Question Rumsfeld

  • Daniel

    Don’t know if the expression was around back then, but Western Pennsylvania is often referred to as “Pennsyl-tucky” as opposed to Eastern Pennsylvania which is referred to as “Pennsyl-Jersey.” Of course the former being red-state (lots of gun owners out there), the later being blue-state (gun-control leaning shall we say).

  • Lee

    The east/west divide within western PA may reflect the early settlements. Easter PA was primarily English & German. Western PA was Scot & Irish (with a lot of Scottish families that spent ~100 years in Northern Ireland before coming to the US).
    They were far more independent and self-sufficient than their eastern brethren.
    Don’t forget the Whiskey Rebellion – started in Western PA by Scot-Irish who opposed the taxes.

  • There’s a war of public relations that we are not winning and that we are not even fighting!

    The DOD should hire some big Madison Avenue ad agencies to enhance our image. It would be a much better use of money than 99% of what the military wastes money on.

  • The media lads are quick to jump on their own planted questions


    the question you are alluding to was a good one, as the applause of the troops in the audience showed. That a journalist suggested the question to the soldier who asked it is besides the point. And since this question has by now been countered by a good answer you might want to leave it at that.

    You are also displaying a certain condescension towards the troops here, though I’m certain that you don’t mean to. By calling the question ‘planted’ you are implying that the soldier who asked it is the journalist’s stooge, unable to think for himself, and you are also disrerspectful towards those who applauded.

  • Verity

    Donald Rumsfeld is a BABE.

  • Dale Amon

    I expect the guys there are grown up enough to bitch at me if they don’t like what I have said.

  • Verity,

    I’ll take your word for it.


    it’s not just you, and they have to contend with worse.

  • Edward Teague

    So the US Army have done some amazing things, well they’ve unloaded a lot of JDAMS, Tomahawks, etc etc.,

    If they’ve done good, ie construction, re-construction will somebody tell us about it.

    Day 1 Oil shipped 1.6 bn bpd Now 1.6 b bpd abt 60% of the time

    Day 1 4,000 MW generated and supplied NOw the same target for handiover June 2004 was 6,100 MW

    The airwaves are free for the propaganda, kite flying kids, new sewerage works, water treate,ent, oil wells, pumping stations, electricity supply lines, etc.,

    I have friends ex SAS / French Foreign Legion doing security workand they tell me it’s a hell hole and generally accepted that the place was better run under Saddam.

  • Teague the fact that nearly a million Iraqi refugees have returned home indicates to me that some people would be to differ.

    Of course your freinds think its a shithole – that what the third world is like.

    have friends ex SAS / French Foreign Legion ……generally accepted that the place was better run under Saddam.
    BTW how did your “SAS friends” visit Iraq while Saddam was still in power? Easy for them to get a visa was it?

  • Eric Anondson

    Well, to be a nit picker. I don’t think Rumsfled was in Mosul yesterday as your posts says. The transcript itself says it was December 24th. 6 days ago.

    Eric Anondson

  • Dale Amon

    True. They do not release the transcripts for several days after the events. The email containing the transcript was dated yesterday, not the transcript itself.

  • David


    The question was a bad one. The reporter fed a hoax question to a gullible soldier, regardless of how much applause the questioner received.

    1. At the time the soldier asked the question, his unit was in Kuwait preparing to enter Iraq. It was not facing hostile fire.

    2. The unit had 830 humvees. At the time the soldier asked Sec. Rumsfield about vehicle armor, in which he implied the unit was forced to make ad hoc improvements, the unit had approximately 810 humvees fully armored with the best armor available. Indeed the armor had been added by trained mechanics, not by the soldiers themselves.

    3. The next day, the last 20 humvees received the armor upgrade per schedule and not as a result of questions posed to Sec. Rumsfeld.

    4. The soldier who asked the question should have known this. Was he ignorant (and therefore easily manipulated by a scheming reporter) or was he the type of guy who just likes to needle people to gratify his ego?

    5. The fact, as you mentioned, that other soldiers, not in the unit, applauded the question tells us nothing about the question itself. It merely shows us that people will applaud someone who they THINK just showed great courage by asking a difficult and pointed question of someone in power.

    6. The question remains, why did the reporter set up this hoax question to Sec Rumsfeld? Isn’t a reporters job to determine facts, such as the fact that the unit would have all of its humvees fully armored by Army logisticians by the time the unit entered Iraq? Did the reporter make any attempt to determine the truthfullness of the assertions in the hoax question or was he merely interested in making Sec Rumsfeld look bad?

    I’ll let you decide.

  • There is a analysis of the humvee armour problem here< ?a>

  • David,

    The question remains, why did the reporter set up this hoax question to Sec Rumsfeld? Isn’t a reporters job to determine facts, such as the fact that the unit would have all of its humvees fully armored by Army logisticians by the time the unit entered Iraq

    The reporter probably had no way of knowing that sufficient armor available; if he had asked this military spokesmen, he would have been told that this is classified information. Also, the fact that there was a good answer to the question doesn’t make it a hoax-question.

    And anyway, classified or not, this information needs to be spead out proactively, so that it doesn’t have to be ferreted out.

  • Anthony


    For a quick run-through of construction going on in Iraq, go here. All you have to do is key up “Find” and type in “construction”.

    Most news stories prefer insurgency violence. What they only sometimes mention is that these attacks intend two forms of demoralization: the undercutting of American confidence by random acts of mass murder, and the undercutting of Iraqi hope by blowing up the very infrastructure our soldiers build. Except where dishonest men in dishonest times prefer linguistic confusion to clear thinking, these actions are widely understood as “terrorism”.

    And except for those people sloganeered into thinking Baathists are heroes and Jihadis are freedom fighters, most of us recognize how degraded civilization has become in the Middle East.

    I suppose a quitter might say that’s a reason for leaving Iraq, but civilization wouldn’t get very far if the spoilers always won.

    And those remarks of your friends that Iraq was better under Iraq are simply unworthy of serious response.

  • Anthony

    Apologies for the following error:

    The first part of the last sentence of my post to Teague should read:

    “And those remarks of your friends that Iraq was better under Saddam…”


  • Verity

    As far as Edward Teague is concerned, I believe the general rule is, if someone tells you they are/were a member of the SAS, they definitely are/were … not.

  • David


    The reporter was embedded with the unit in question. He could walk around the camp, look at the humvees and immediatly determine that they were being rapidly modified. He had complete knowledge of the true situation, he didn’t need to ask anyone. He was an eyewitness, a person on the scene, a man in the know. That is why it was a hoax question. The reporter obviously knew that the main claim in the question was not true. The reporter also knew that the rest of the audience, Sec Rumsfeld, and the world at large, did not know the truth. Which gave the reporter a fantastic opportunity to launch a cheap shot, knowing that the far left press would use the hoax to attack the Bush administration.

    Here is a site with some more information: http://hoystory.blogspot.com/2004/12/about-those-humvees-two-weeks-ago.html

  • Gary Gunnels


    On Reason’s blog it was reported that Christian Iraqis have been leaving Iraq in droves (60,000 was the mark given as I recall) due to the violence perpetrated against them.


    It has become fairly obvious to me that for supporters of the war any problem in Iraq will be discounted or ignored, and that for those who oppose/d it any benefit or progress will be discounted.

  • Michael Farris

    I seem to recall that the soldier in question angrily denied that the journalist thought up the question. He did say he conferred with the journalist, but at most the journalist helped pick one of several questions the soldier wanted to ask and helped him formulate the question for maximum effectiveness.

    The big problem in Iraq of course is that it’s easier to topple a government than it is to establish one, even when there is a reasonable intention and feasible plan to do so, both of which were lacking for far too long in this case.

    I’m really hoping the elections go off with a minimum of bloodshed (of course none would be optimal, but ….) and that reasonable precautions are being made to ensure voter security.

  • Edward Teague

    In response to Anthony – yes I read (intermittently) Chrenkoff and entertaining it is. So much of what is to happen…..Promises, promises…

    The ineluctable fact is that power supplies are equal to or down on pre invasion levels, as is oil shipped…..and way, way off declared targets. Peri-natal mortality is up, shortages ov every type of drug, medical services after the uncontrolled looting… (Source Iraqi In Of Hlth website)

    Some of this stuff is comical …..

    The British Government is also doing its bit to help; the Department for International Development is now providing funding to develop and publicize Iraq’s nascent tourism industry:

    “Sightseeing tours would include the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, dating back to 3,000BC, and marshlands thought to be the location of the Garden of Eden… Basra – regarded by some as the Venice of the East with its lush gardens and lagoons… [and] the capital, Baghdad… packed with ancient bazaars, restaurants, museums, palaces, mosques and shrines.”

    Mind you, any plucky travellers will be safe from the possible effect of a tsunami.

    What are you saying ? The invasion was a triumph ? That all this destruction , the aerial bombardment, the mass killings of Erbil, Fallujah, Mosul was planned ?

    That the movement of troops by air instead of overland for their safety was what was intended from the start ?

    The absence of welcoming crowds strewing the path of the conquering heroes with rose petals is due to their being too overjoyed ?

    Are all the Iraqis firing off the RPG 7’s . etc., still learning the cakewalk from the invading warriors ?

    A new “planet” has been discovered beyond Pluto this year … book yourself a ticket.. or maybe take a sightseeing trip to Baghdads fascinating bazaars and exotic restaurants, courtesy of Mr Blair’s British Government

  • Verity

    The British Government is not Mr Blair’s. It is the Queen’s on behalf of the people.

  • David,

    even if he is embedded with one unit, he stil isn’t likely to know how thing in the military look elsewhere. The soldiers of said unit certainly didn’t know themselves, or they wouldn’t have applauded.

    Anyway, it’s not a journalist’s job to make government look good. Whatever you may think of the media, government is not your friend, no matter which party is in charge. In fact, the busier they are kept by the press and others, the less time and effort they can devote to screwing up your life.

  • Sylvain Galineau

    Verity, I’d add one more : if someone compares the SAS and the Foreign Legion in the same sentence, as if they were similar or equivalent, they don’t know squat about either. Except for a few small teams, the bulk of the latter is not, and has never been in the league of the former. Nor was it ever meant to be.

    Maybe, some day, Edward will meet someone who was in Sarajevo when people lived in basements with little or no electricity and running water, running the sniper gauntlets outside. Who saw Mogadishu under Aidid. Went into Rwanda after the genocide. Saw Congo during the bloody mess that killed millions there in the late 90s. Or maybe a legionnaire who was in Beirut back when it was a ruined city divided by factions defending their turf with artillery ? How about Darfur ?

    If today’s Iraq is a hell hole, how do we describe those places ?