By Gregory K. Taylor
During the Vietnam War there was a cadre of television reporters and journalist who were attached to a Company, Platoon, or Squad. These reporters filmed, interviewed, and often endured the same hardships of life in the thick jungles of Vietnam as the soldiers they were filming.
By the mid-1960s over 90 percent of the homes in the United States had television sets and this became the medium through which America on a nightly basis viewed the realities of day-to-day war. This night by night steady diet of KIA (Killed in Action), MIA (Missing in Action), and wounded eventually turned the most conservative-war hawk into a protesting peacenik, and thus, brought an ultimate end to the war.
During the Iraqi conflict under President George W. Bush reporters were imbedded with military units, ostensibly, for their own safety; but in reality it was a not so surreptitious scheme to control the coverage and flow of news. There would be no repeat of the Vietnam nightly body count debacle.
The American public never saw bloodied or dead soldiers. The Bush Administration even forbade the filming of flag-covered metal coffins being unloaded at state-side Airbases. If a shot of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) exploding near a soldier was captured on film the editing bay censored such an image to the extent that one never knew whether the soldier survived the blast or not. There would be no imagery of a Soldier with a Zippo Lighter setting fire to a hooch as was the case in Vietnam. This war was not going to be lost due to bad press.
There is a video montage that can be viewed on Youtube under the heading of “Sniper of Iraq.” I mention this video because while visiting China I tuned into CCTV’s (China Central TV sometimes known as Communist Chinese TV) Military Channel. Much like our Military Channel in America, they cover similar subjects dealing with military hardware, software, tactics, strategy, etc. This particular evening the subject dealt with Sniper tactics and weaponry as discussed by the two uniformed host.
The hosts used as a training aid sniper footage from the Iraqi perspective during its war with America. They would periodically stop the footage to discuss the weapons used, probable distances involved, and a now mystical figure known as “Juba” the reported best sniper in all of Iraq. The footage is raw and unedited. American soldiers could be seen patrolling an area on foot or in a fortified personnel carrier while the Iraqi sniper would take aim at his unsuspecting victim. The filming was sometimes done through the rifle scope, or by, as best as I could figure, another individual close by. The quality in China appeared to be much better than what I saw here on Youtube. Perhaps, the Chinese were better connected and had obtained first generation copies??
The shots were graphic and deadly often resulting in either a flying helmet or smoke emanating from the head of the now slumped-over body. I sat there slack-jawed as I viewed this litany of disturbing images--death by stealth. The American soldiers had no idea where the fire was coming from, nor did it appear that their body armor provided much protection. One scene showed the Iraqi sniper zeroing in on a patrol. He felled one soldier and as another soldier came to help he, too, was killed and then a third soldier was executed trying to duck for cover as he literally did a heartbreaking dance in an attempt to stay upright to no avail.
I had never seen such images before that left little to the imagination and I now know why. The American public would be so disturbed by these images that they would have brought that war to an earlier end—much like they did during the Vietnam era. And, what about the Afghanistan war that is now being waged? If America saw similar types of explicit killings from Afghanistan how much longer would that war be tolerated?
Perhaps, instead of an excuse to barbeque, drink, and celebrate Memorial day a more somber attitude should be struck to truly pay homage to these deceased soldiers. After all, it is Memorial Day.