Peters statement about the preconceived notions of the military reminded me of a conversation I had with a journalist after a press briefing a few days ago. As luck would have it, I dont know who she is, or for what organization she works. She came in late, and was wondering what the Coaltiion said about Fallujah. I told her that there was not a lot new there. Dan Senor, the Coalition spokesman, had attributed recent violence there to international terrorists, and I thought that this was interesting, because, while this explanation had been offered recently by the Iraqi National Security Advisor, I had not heard this strong a statment made by the Coalition.
She began asking me about snipers. She said that she had talked to someone who had seen women and children killed by Americans. In the course of the conversation, however, it became apparent that her witness did not see who killed these women and children, they just assumed that it was the Americans, because the Americans controlled the high ground. I asked if she meant the mosques--which, having driven past Fallujah, I can attest are the tallest buildings in Fallujah--and which for days had been used by anti-Coalition forces. For this she had no response. But what was shocking was her set of presumptions. For days, the military had made perfectly clear that it operates under a very strict set of rules of engagement. While this does not mean that no women and children die on accident, it means that they are not targeted, and in fact we put our boys in greater harm to assure that the collateral risk is as low as possible. On the other hand, she had eyewitness testimony from an observer who claims only to have seen the result, and assumed that the act was perpetrated by Americans without any evidence. It was clear from the conversation that she was prone to believe the latter, and in so doing to believe that the rules of engagement were not being enforced and that the young men were ruthlessly picking innocent kids off with sniper rifles. If she had spent any time with these young men and actually talked to them, rather than rattle accusations at them as many of the press do, then she would not be so prone to think them monsters.