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The Effects Of War Through The Media

Updated on November 26, 2012

Today the media has access and ability to cover anything in the world. For the American people this provides information on everything. This may not always be good. With war time reporting there is a line between what the public should know and what they should not. In some instances too much coverage can actually cost American lives. The military’s Rules of Engagement are actually changed frequently due to stories that should not have been made public. A lot of the reporting that gets published is of the misconduct of the US military. This style reporting forces the American people to not only view service members negatively but it also depicts the wrong image of the wars the US is involved in. People do not see the negative impact a news article can have on war. The only way to prove that the article had a negative impact would be to go back in time and change it.

Whenever something dramatic happens during wartime it is instantly hot news. Let’s take the Haditha Massacre for instance. It was described as the slaughter of 24 Iraqi men, women, and children. (Langewiesche) There was a squad of U.S. Infantry Marines that had just lost one of their buddies during an IED went into a village and killed a group of native civilians. That is the story that appeared the Washington Post. After this incident was reported American people were outraged. In order for the military to make sure nothing like this got reported again they decided to tighten up the ROE’s. ROE’s are the set in stone rules the military uses when engaging an enemy in combat. When ROE’s are tightened up, the U.S. warfighter loses some of their ability to protect themselves and their men. It also gives the enemy more freedom of movement because the enemy now knows they can get away with more because they know they have to give more now in order to stop them. It would be like teachers being told that they can’t fail a student. Once the students hear of this they will start acting up and taking advantage of the new rule. If the event was never made public through journalism ROE’s might not have been tightened up. Slight changes in these rule can mean the difference of being able to shoot if someone points a weapon at you and being able to shoot only when shot at. Which one is more dangerous to you?


Hearing about something good the military or it service members are doing is not a common thing. People just aren’t as interested in good news as they are about bad news. They rather read the article about a couple of snipers relieving themselves on some fallen Taliban then the combat victory and all the fellow service members they saved to get to that point. These events being so one sided erases any good things that those service members have accomplished and forever mark them in a terrible manner. The majority of Americans will now see those snipers as terrible people who urinate on dead bodies. Those individuals are not the only ones affected by this. The fact that they wore a uniform they are automatically stereo typed into that service as a whole and not an individual. It was said in an article from the Ney York Times by Graham Bowley and Matthew Rosenburg four United States Marines urinating on three dead Taliban fighters provoked anger and condemnation on Thursday in Afghanistan and around the world. Now it went from a few guys peeing on a corpse to Marines pee on corpses. Our military actually becomes weaker because who would want to join into a service that is known for pissing on the dead? No one realizes the effects that one news article can actually have on our nation’s military because it is all behind the scenes. There are no articles about how just one soldier did something bad and all the others are good. It isn’t a normal thing to link desecrating bodies to smaller enlistment rates and lesser quality military but this does play hand in hand.

How many people end up killed in action every month? Most people don’t even know that the US is still in combat in certain areas. The way media depicts war is what the American people are going to know. Right now in Afghanistan the US is currently working with the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police to get them ready to take back and run their country so that American fighters can leave. Most people think that the US is just aimlessly sending more and more troops there with no goals. The only time the war in Afghanistan is reported bad is if someone dies or there is a terrible event. Reporting only that gives nothing but a negative image on the war. It isn’t all bad though. Our military is over right now protecting people who can’t protect themselves. Things are being done on a daily basis that Americans will never hear about. That being said people get a negative attitude about our military because they only hear bad news. The media spends all this time depicting this terrible monster of a war when that isn’t true at all. Maybe if the media companies started reporting the good with the bad there wouldn’t be such a negative image of the war and the service members themselves.


To compare whether or not the media is actually changing the outcome of war is not an easy thing to do. If a soldier or marine is killed in action it is hard to place blame, if there is blame at all. Let’s take for example the ROE’s in Afghanistan get tightened up in light of a recent news article which covered a child being killed by American troops. Let’s say a patrol goes out and a young machine gunner spots a man with a Rocket Propelled Grenade in his hands. Before the tightening he would have been able to shoot that enemy combatant. Now because of the new rules he has to wait for him to point that weapon so he lets him go. Ten minutes later that young machine gunners team leader gets killed by a Rocket Propelled Grenade from an unknown location. This all could have possibly been prevented if the ROE’s where never tightened. It isn’t a guarantee that the cause of the death was the change in rules due to the news article. In order to prove it you would need a time machine to go back and pull the article from the public and wait to see the new outcome. Although it can’t really be proven it shouldn’t be out of Americans minds. Two Marines killed when Afghan militants armed with rocket propelled grenades and small arms breached the perimeter of the main U.S. Marine base in southern Afghanistan. (Van Susteren) This is the kind of headlines and breaking news you are going to see in the news. What if that could have been prevented by those Marines having a larger ability to react to a situation by having a set of ROE’s that isn’t constantly changing or being tightened due to the military’s rebuttal to negative news. Not taking blame off the insurgent who committed the action but this war for American troops is fought with nothing more than prevention techniques. In the ten plus years the United States has been fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan changing of rules like that has happened many times due to the news.


Most people are unaware that if someone in the service is going to talk to a reporter he is put through classes and prepped on what to say beforehand. This is done to ensure that the news reporter is not taking words and twisting them around to get a story to make that person and his unit looks bad. When enlisted in the active duty Marine Corps many of us had to talk to reporters a and if we said any of our own personal opinions or beliefs you better bet someone was going to get a stern talking to. It isn’t that my chain of command were trying to hide anything but there have been countless amounts of articles published where the reporter interviews a service member and makes him look like a ruthless killer that wants nothing more than to lay waste into innocent people just by taking a few things that service member has said and twisting it a little. Not only is it wrong but it happens all too often to where the higher leader in the military have to have people put in place to censor what is said.


It is a right for people to know about what is going on in the world especially if America is involved. Wartime reporting allows the public to view war in a way that has not been viewed before. It allows people to see the hardships that the service member goes through while forward deployed. It also keeps them updated about how the country is doing and what they are accomplishing. Getting news about current combat operations is very important and should be happening in an accurate and non-bias manner. This is not the case though. Too much bad and not enough good is getting reported and this is not good. There should be a limit and some sort of privacy act in place to protect service members. It can actually cost people there lives and the lives of their friends and family in some cases. Media companies are only going to publish what sells until someone forces them to stop and because terrible sells that what they will publish. This is why as Americans the decision needs to be made by deciding if news is really worth possibly losing sons and daughters.


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