Over their dead bodies
By Jerry Fuhrman
Deceit is probably too strong a word. It implies the intention to defraud. And, without evidence of intent, that might be a stretch. Laziness is part of it, though. Perhaps willful ignorance. Certainly sloppy journalism.
I'm reminded of the news account in July, accompanied by fantastic photos, of an ambulance that had been destroyed by an Israeli missile as it was being used to care for innocent Lebanese civilians in Cana. The photos clearly showed a gaping hole in the roof of the vehicle, centered in the large red cross that had been painted there to signify the fact that the vehicle was being used by non-combatants. Very damning stuff. And a complete fabrication.
It was only after the BBC, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and countless other organizations reported, in sober tones, the horrific circumstances of the incident that someone took the time to enlarge the photos and found that the metal around the hole in the roof of that ambulance was badly rusted, meaning the damage was clearly ancient. But the damage had been done, and the story was quickly forgotten as the news organizations involved moved on -- to another fabricated photo, this one of Beirut enveloped in billowing smoke. Shameful episodes both.
Which brings us to ABC News and its treatment of Southwest Virginia's very own 1173rd Transportation Company of the Virginia National Guard.
On July 27, ABC aired a report, and accompanied it with spectacular video, of an attack on a civilian convoy in the streets of a village near Balad, Iraq. The video, shot by the driver of one of the supply trucks in the convoy, clearly showed the line of vehicles coming under assault, followed close on by the disabling of one of the trucks, and the cold-blooded execution of one of the American civilians. Disturbingly, the video also seemed to show a 1173rd Humvee fleeing the scene of the fighting once the escort came under attack, leaving, as reported by the driver and by correspondent Brian Ross of ABC News, the civilians in the convoy to their fate.
In ABC's report, Ross asked the driver, Preston Wheeler, who narrated the video: "You were abandoned?" Wheeler's reply: "Yes, sir."
To many of us who watched the video at the time, it was clear that there was more to this story. In the first place, the video distinctly showed the Humvee that was reported to have abandoned the field to have, instead, simply moved forward with the lead trucks. And one was prompted to ask the obvious: If the driver was left alone to die, why wasn't he dead?
It was only after the broadcast of the incriminating account that the rest of the saga became known. It turned out that Wheeler's truck was being protected all along by other members of the 1173rd throughout the attack, men and women, America's finest, who heroically and selflessly risked their lives to save his.
What's most galling about this, beyond the gross misconceptions created by the report, are the excuses made afterward. In a feeble attempt to "provide the opportunity to respond," ABC noted in the report itself that the Army was "unaware of the incident" and could therefore "not comment."
When a far more factual account of the events that occurred emerged, ABC reacted with all too familiar weasel words: "The report accurately portrayed Wheeler's experience during the ambush." Other news outlets and editorial pages around the country repeated ABC's response and many tried to blame the military for the inaccuracies, writing that, had the Defense Department been more cooperative and less secretive, the full scope of the incident would have been revealed and there would have been a more balanced report provided.
Sure there would.
We often hear people on the left saying, rather incongruously, "We support the troops but not the war." We now have another glaring example showing how delusional -- or deceitful -- they are. ABC News attempted to destroy the reputations of soldiers who had risked their lives in mortal combat in order to, once again, denigrate our actions in Iraq. That is without question.
Here's to the 1173rd. No greater story of heroism and devotion to duty has ever, finally, been written.