Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Missing Dateline: Barwana, Iraq

(UPDATE: Bill Roggio responds on my Haloscan comments thread and tells me to shut my hole)

Why weren't there any journalists in Barwana, Iraq during the recent election?

A major offensive - Operation River Gate - was launched in early October to rid the cities Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwana of Qaeda in Iraq affiliated insurgents.

Soon after there were reports that Coalition air strikes resulted in vast evacuations of tens of thousands of civilians.

As a result of Operation River Gate, the Military was able "to establish bases to maintain a long-term security presence" in the three cities.

As I asked above: Why weren't there any journalists in Barwana, Iraq during the recent election?

Whoops, my bad.

There was a journalist who filed reports from Barwana: Bill Roggio.

The thing is, though, Bill Roggio didn't become a journalist until a little over a month-and-a-half ago. Before he was a journalist, Bill Roggio was a military blogger (or Milblogger).

From a Washington Post article, Bloggers, Money Now Weapons in Information War, written by Jonathan Finer and Doug Struck:

Retired soldier Bill Roggio was a computer technician living in New Jersey less than two months ago when a Marine officer half a world away made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

Frustrated by the coverage they were receiving from the news media, the Marines invited Roggio, 35, who writes a popular Web log about the military called "The Fourth Rail", to come cover the war from the front lines.

He raised more than $30,000 from his online readers to pay for airfare, technical equipment and body armor. A few weeks later, he was posting dispatches from a remote outpost in western Anbar province, a hotbed of Iraq's insurgency.

"I was disenchanted with the reporting on the war in Iraq and the greater war on terror and felt there was much to the conflict that was missed," Roggio, who is currently stationed with Marines along the Syrian border, wrote in an e-mail response to written questions. "What is often seen as an attempt at balanced reporting results in underreporting of the military's success and strategy and an overemphasis on the strategically minor success of the jihadists or insurgents."

Finer and Struck end their article by noting (by the way...there's also new info in the article about the military making propagandistic use of a local television station which is worth checking out, too):

On Dec. 15, when Iraqis voted in nationwide elections, Roggio reported from Barwana, a Western town where turnout was far heavier than in Iraq's constitutional referendum held Oct. 15.

"Barwana, once part of Zarqawi self declared 'Islamic Republic of Iraq,' " he wrote, "is now the scene of al-Qaeda's greatest nightmare: Muslims exercising their constitutional right to chose their destiny."

Roggio, Finer and Struck all failed to note that tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians had been sent running from their homes just before the October constitutional referendum.

Roggio's Barwana reporting received widespread coverage.

Why did the Marines invite a blogger to cover the election in Barwana and why weren't there any journalists there?


Roggio on Halloween:

I have received media credentials, thanks to Dr. Michael Ledeen and the American Enterprise Institute

Finer and Struck in The Washington Post:

After military officials in Baghdad said Roggio could not be issued media credentials unless he was affiliated with an organization, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning research organization in Washington, offered him an affiliation, according to an entry on Roggio's blog.

Despite the protestations of Roggio and others, not factually wrong by a longshot.

Michael Ledeen "is a former employee of the Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security Council" who played a role in Iran/Contra dealings as a former adviser to Oliver North and has forcefully advocated an expansion of the War on Terror into Iran the last few years.

Ledeen's also a frequent commenter at Roggio's blog.

Roggio complains:

I was not credentialed by the American Enterprise Institute. This would be impossible as the needed press credentials must be provided by a media organization. A friend suggested I approach the American Enterprise Magazine, which is a periodical published by the American Enterprise Institute. We were unable to work out an agreement, so I searched for an alternative.

Another friend suggested I contact The Weekly Standard. Richard Starr was happy to help and provided the necessary credentials to embed. Also, Rod Breakenridge of the Canadian talk radio show The World Tonight kindly provided documentation for credentials as well. The two letters allowed me to successfully embed, and there were no questions about my credentials in Baghdad or elsewhere.

The Weekly Standard or Mr. Breakenridge did not establish any preconditions for providing the credentials, nor did they fund my trip in any way. I wrote a single article for The Weekly Standard about Election Day in Barwana, and gave two phone interviews from Iraq to The World Tonight.

How does "I have received media credentials" somehow become "we were unable to work out an agreement"?

Allow me to theorize. Call it the Talon News Theory. Bobby Eberle launched Talon News partly because ace reporter Jeff Gannon was having trouble getting White House press credentials as an employee of Perhaps Roggio and Ledeen decided that his report from Barwana would be better received without the telltale mark of a conservative think tank.

I have absolutely no idea if anything Roggio wrote was inaccurate but by entangling himself with someone like Michael Ledeen it's hard to expound on whether the Milblogger is a journalist or not.


As mentioned at the top, Roggio left some comments on this post. I've written a follow-up and am waiting to hear back from Roggio by email for an additional follow-up that I'll post some time in the next few days.


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