Pentagon may punish GIs who spoke out on TV (SFgate.com, July 18, 2003): Morale is dipping pretty low among U.S. soldiers as they stew in Iraq's broiling heat, get shot at by an increasingly hostile population and get repeated orders to extend their tours of duty. [...] On Wednesday morning, when the ABC news show reported from Fallujah, where the division is based, the troops gave the reporters an earful. One soldier said he felt like he'd been "kicked in the guts, slapped in the face." Another demanded that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld quit.
The retaliation from Washington was swift.
"It was the end of the world," said one officer Thursday. "It went all the way up to President Bush and back down again on top of us. At least six of us here will lose our careers."
Well, that ought to just do wonders for morale, won't it?
To be sure, the soldiers are not officially allowed to voice such complaints. And it was unwise, to put it mildly, to be televised making such complaints. Nonetheless, it also seems unwise for the administration to retaliate in this way. Yes, it will probably keep soldiers from speaking out on camera again in the near future -- although it probably won't stop them from giving off-the-record or anonymously sourced quotes. However, the domestic audience is also a bit peeved at the administration for yanking the soldiers and their families around like this (largely because the administration chose to be dishonest with the country about the sort of commitment this would entail in both the short and long term, and the sorts of fighting the soldiers were likely to face). It will not go over well to punish soldiers this way, even if it's noted that they violated regulations to criticize their leaders in public.Posted by iain at July 21, 2003 01:34 PM