Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Marine view of pernicious Media..

Sgt. Christopher Hicks has been a Marine for 18 years. He is currently serving his second deployment in Iraq as part of an Army Reserve unit from Newburgh, N.Y. He is part of a fixed wing KC-130 Hercules squadron that flies cargo, people and fuel "all over the country, every day." Like most soldiers in the war zone, he is flabbergasted and angry about media coverage of the Iraqi operation. He has sent two e-mails to his family and friends since before the elections and has given me permission to reprint them. He tells another side of the war that we don't often hear about in the news reported by the television networks. Here are some excerpts sent via e-mail Jan. 28 just before last month's elections. He calls his observations, "a Marine's point of view." His statements are reflected in his own words with little editing: For every one thing you hear bad on the news, there are 10 good things that go on here that fail to get reported. In the past few weeks, our squadron aircraft have shuffled hundreds, if not thousands, of election officials to every city in this country. Our planes are packed full of the locals, which for some is their first time ever in a plane. Some are puking their guts out, singing praises to Allah for protection. The Iraqi officials are for the most part in good spirits. They were actually clapping when they saw that our crew and the plane was there to pick them up. They know they have a job to do and this is an exciting time for their country. I have always said this place is like the Wild West of the 1800s in America. The police here are slowly getting a hold on things, and although I wouldn't go walking around in the streets at night by myself, we have thousands of Marines all over this country coming back alive every day after interacting with the Iraqis in their home towns. The people here want a better life. I expect there to be a few who are scared to vote and won't come out of their house. Then again, judging from what I have seen of this country, most of them don't even have a radio or TV to know about the insurgents and their attacks. Consequently, they will be voting while being oblivious to a lot of the craziness in the news of late. I am being a little sarcastic, but I hope that whatever they have heard, it won't stop them from participating. I think we have done the right thing by locking down the borders and not allowing transportation between the provinces here. Personally, I think we should have done that a long time ago, but I am not the president. The base I am at hasn't received a mortar attack in at least two to three weeks, so I have not seen an increase in insurgent activity as we get closer to the elections. I don't want to discount what you are seeing on the news too much; yes it is happening, but I guess I just want to get across the point to you that the attacks you see on the TV are but a small portion of what is going on over here. Every day in America somebody, somewhere, is getting shot at, despite the best efforts of the police to prevent it. Same thing here, no difference. We will never get rid of the few radicals who exist just to disrupt the little bit of normalcy around here. The media is just focusing on this as they have been for the past two years now. I wanted everyone to hear another side of the story compared to what you are being beat to death with every time you turn on the news. We are doing fine over here, the elections are going to go as planned. There are 18 provinces in Iraq, and 15 are at peace. Keep your prayers coming for those other three. Here are excerpts from a letter sent by Hicks on Jan 18. -- I don't get CNN or Fox News over here, so I don't know what those silly reporters are up to most of the time. You should only believe 20 percent of what you hear on the news because most of the time it's not true or goes under the assumption that we all feel that way. -- Nothing gets me twisted around the axle faster than a news reporter calling this "another Vietnam." That simply isn't true. While it's true that we will never make Iraq into a totally safe place, which we haven't even done in our own country, we are making tons and tons of progress. -- Don't be snowed by some reporter who happened to find the one whining soldier out here. There are soldiers, sailors and Marines that would whine about the color of their Kool-Aid if you let them. The media puts a lot of pressure on us to get the job done now, because the media is what drives public opinion. If we pull out, the country will dip into a bloody civil war with no winners. Then we will ask the question, "Did our troops die in vain? For nothing?" But if we stick with the Iraqis and get them going, no matter what the cost, then we are looked at as dragging this whole thing on and turning it into another Vietnam, yet we have secured a safer future for ourselves and our children. Bottom line is this: there are many critics and we can't listen to them. It's not the critic that counts. It's not the news reporter or protester who points out how we have stumbled or how we could have done things better that should deserve credit. The credit belongs the military men and women who are in the arena. It's our faces smeared with the dust, the sweat and the blood that strive valiantly for our country. It is us who err and fall short again and again. And who, if we succeed, will know the triumph of high achievement. And who, if we fail, at least fail while daring greatly so that our place will never be with those weak and timid souls -- the naysayers, the reporters and the critics who know neither victory nor defeat. Sgt. Hicks returns to his home in New York later this month, where he will be promoted to sergeant first class.

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