November 22, 2004

Kevin Sites, You're Still a Traitor

The thing about traitors is that they rarely realize that they have committed treason. Traitors tend to believe either one of two things (or both). First, traitors believe that they are acting in the best interests of their country. They believe that the nation's leaders are taking the country down a terrible path. Therefore, they justify there acts of treason as a higher love of country. If only the leaders of the nation were as smart as me, they think, they would understand that Israel needs these secrets. I'm doing it for the good of my country.

The second way traitors rationalize their acts of treason is by saying they have an obligation to something higher than country. America is my country, they say, but world stability and peace are a higher duty. It's not so much that I sympathize with Soviet communism, it's that I know the Russians having the bomb will ensure it will never be used again.

Several days ago I called Kevin Sites a traitor. Today, I am even more sure of it. By putting journalism above the lives of his fellow citizens Kevin Sites reveals that his devotion to journalism supersedes his love of country and of the Marines he claims to love. James Joyner says that Sites argument is persuasive, but do not be fooled. Sites rests his argument on the assumption that journalists have a higher duty to that of country--their duty is to journalism itself.

Here is what Sites' says:

For those who don't practice journalism as a profession, it may be difficult to understand why we must report stories like this at all -- especially if they seem to be aberrations, and not representative of the behavior or character of an organization as a whole.

The answer is not an easy one.

In war, as in life, there are plenty of opportunities to see the full spectrum of good and evil that people are capable of. As journalists, it is our job is to report both -- though neither may be fully representative of those people on whom we're reporting. For example, acts of selfless heroism are likely to be as unique to a group as the darker deeds. But our coverage of these unique events, combined with the larger perspective - will allow the truth of that situation, in all of its complexities, to begin to emerge. That doesn't make the decision to report events like this one any easier. It has, for me, led to an agonizing struggle -- the proverbial long, dark night of the soul.

Kevin Sites, I have also searched your soul. You love your job more than you love your country. I hope you rot in hell. Here are Sites' conclusion on the incident:
So here, ultimately, is how it all plays out: when the Iraqi man in the mosque posed a threat, he was your enemy; when he was subdued he was your responsibility; when he was killed in front of my eyes and my camera -- the story of his death became my responsibility.

The burdens of war, as you so well know, are unforgiving for all of us.

I pray for your soon and safe return.

Mr. Sites, you have pronounced judgement on this Marine and I now pronounce judgement on you. You are guilty of treason. You put your devotion to the story above your devotion to your nation. You put your devotion to the story above the lives of your 'friends' you are embedded with. You are not their friend, you are their enemy and you are now an enemy of the people of the United States.

Like most traitors, you did not pause to think of the long-term consequences of your actions. I'm sorry, as a journalist you should have known about how the Arab media would have covered this. You should have known that this footage would incite others to murder Americans. There is a reason Muslims around the world hate us, it is because they believe Americans are out to get them. They believe we are in Iraq to steal their oil. They believe American soldiers are just as bad as the terrorists we fight. Your video has just proved this to them.

Like most traitors you excuse your actions. You had reasons to do the things you did. Fine. You had a reason to release this video footage. And Charlie Manson had reasons to kill Ms. Tate. So what? Unlike Texas Native, I will not be so forgiving of you. If you wish my forgiveness then ask for it. An excuse is not an act of contrition neither is it repentance. But before you ask for my forgiveness I suggest asking for forgiveness from the 17 Iraqis murdered in Mosul last week. Before you released your tape, hostages were murdered in the garb of Abu Ghraib. Now, they will be murdered with a shot to the back of the head as a way to remind Muslim viewers that the terrorists are just doing what the Americans are doing. Ask forgiveness from the hundreds of American soldiers who will die because the resistance has found a new piece for their recruitment videos.

Erik at No Pasaran brought to my attention this article by Jack Kelly:

Fallujah ranks up there with Iwo Jima, Inchon and Hue as one of the greatest triumphs of American arms, though you'd have a hard time discerning that from what you read in the newspapers.
There is only one reason why the enormous victory in Fallujah seems so hollow, and that reason is Kevin Sites. All military offensive have questionable acts committed in them, but Kevin Sites has made one action the focal point of attention for a billion Muslims. It is as if D-Day happened and the headlines were about the act of a single corporal in a single French village.

Kevin Aylward at Wizbang wants to know what we think of Kevin Sites' response. Did I mention yet that Kevin Sites is a traitor? No? Ok, Kevin Sites is a traitor.

Charles Johnson at LGF writes of Sites response:

The importance of journalists in war can be debated. But if the ultimate objective of any war is to win, then having people like Sites accompany soldiers on life-and-death missions, when his objective is not to win but to record and publicize and play everything “straight down the middle,” is a very dangerous situation.
The solution to this problem is clear: replace embedded reporters with military pool reporters. After Vietnam, the military realized that reporters were not patriots. Reporters were interested in the story, not America's victory. At the end of the Gulf War, though, the military rethought their position. The US had just won the most decisive victory in military history only to find that there was no video of it. The propaganda value of such a victory was clear to them. The solution was the present system of embedded reporters.

Reporters embedded in US military units are there for a purpose. They are there to spread our version of the events of battle. They are part of the strategy of victory. When reporters no longer serve this purpose they should be cut off. Kevin Sites has proved that the embed system is a failure.

Reporters working for such organizations as NBC, ABC, CBS, etc. should be replaced by reporters working directly for the US Armed Forces. To these reporters their highest obligation will be clear. Such military reporters could then give pool feed to the networks. The networks would then be free to run stories as they wish, given the limitations of the information given to them by military reporters.

Chad mentions that Sites' did not want any special attention from this. Fair enough. But it is also fair for us, the American public, to ask whether having people like Sites around serves our national interests? If the answer is no, then let us end the embed system. If all journalists have a higher allegiance to journalism than they do to America, then it is the system that is broke. Sites is just a sympton of the system.

Pennywit suggests that Kevin Sites' response gives a hint at what it might have been like to be there. It does not. What it shos is what it was like for an NBC reporter to have been there. What Sites' response does not tell you is what it would have been like had another Marine been taping the incident. Facts are facts, but cameras and film do not just show facts. As Hindrocket notes, Sites story does not factually differ from that of the Marines. But stories can be told from more than one angle. And since images are tools of propaganda, then let the images coming out of Iraq serve our purposes and not the purposes of our enemy.

Al Jazeera understands this. This is why the Sites video is shown over and over. This is why the images they show coming out of Iraq are of dead children, burning houses, and of American GIs dead on the streets. What does al Jazeera know about journalism that Kevins Sites does not? Al Jazeera knows that America is their enemy.

Kevin Sites believes that journalism precludes one from having enemies. I do not blame Sites personally for believing this. That is what they teach you at journalism school: journalistic ethics are higher than all other moral obligations. Beck claims Sites account is unbiased, but he is wrong. Sites account is biased by the very assumptions he makes about a reporters ethical obligations. Just read this NY Times article which Boing Boing (found via Wes Roth) claims is a first of sorts. The Times takes Sites' version of the story as the final word on the subject. And why should they not? They share the same ethical standards, the same guiding principals of what is right and what is wrong. The NY Times is not shocked at Sites behavior. They would only be shocked had Sites chosen not to pass along the footage.

Via Sue Bob I found this article by Ken Myers in the Telegraph. Like Sue Bob, I also think Ken Myers gets it:

We in the media must learn what our role in that struggle will be. Vicarious indignation at so-called atrocities is a moral frivolity: it proves that we are unaware of the scale of the crisis we face, now and into the foreseeable future. Our common enemy has vision, dedication, courage and intelligence. He is profoundly grateful for whatever tit-bits come his way: our media have a moral obligation to ensure that we are scattering absolutely none in his direction. (emphasis Sue Bob's)
Let me end this ranting by stating that I am agnostic on the Marine in question's behavior. I do not know if what he did was a war-crime, a violation of military rules of engagement, or completely justified given the context of the situation. I will let a military tribunal decide that question. But I trust our military will do the right thing. Give them the tools, and they will win the war. But cameras are also tools of war. Cameras are can be just as deadly as guns. I would not trust a neutral observer to ride around with the Marines carrying a gun. Why would we let one carry around a camera then?

Either reporters are on our side or they are not. If not, remove them from combat.

I echo the words of the Editor when I say, "nice going asshat!" But Sites is more than an asshat. He is a traitor. A man who put his professional obligations above his country is a traitor by definition.

If there is any hope to be found in this story it is to let this story serve as a clarifying moment for us. The Islamofascists had declared war on the US long before 9/11, but that event woke us up from the slumber we were in. Fallujahgate was not the moment that the media declared they were not on the side of US victory, they had always claimed their neutrality if not hostility. However, let us now wake up from our slumber and realize that the media is not on our side. Let this incident serve as the 9/11 of the media. The Bush doctrine says that if you are not for us in the war on terrorism, then you are against us. What Fallujahgate reminds us is that the media is not for us. If not for us then they are against us. And if they are against us, then WTF are we allowing the enemy riding around in a Humvee full of Marines?

That's all for now. I'd appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 06:00 PM | Comments |