The last Iraq war started live on CNN. Back then, that was about as intrusive as the media got into the activities of the military. Of course, every war brings about new revelations in media coverage. We've come a long way since World War II, when Lorne Greene--the "Voice of Doom"--read the casualty lists over the radio from well behind the front lines.
The latest war has brought us "embedded journalists," the next best thing to the helmet-mounted soldier-cam. Six hundred trained reporters went through boot camp to prepare themselves as war correspondents, and many of them have been assigned to military units.
As a journalist--if you will permit me to call myself that--it sounds like a great idea. I'd do it. All the excitement of the front lines without the responsibility of killing anyone. Other than that, though, does the program have any merit?
Do embedded journalists really prevent the army from censoring information? All the real atrocities and casualties are taking place beyond the front lines, as a result of the bombing campaign, where amazing technology makes sure only the right buildings are hit. There must be new technology since last year in Afghanistan, where a Red Cross building was bombed, or since the Chinese embassy was bombed in Yugoslavia.
There are no embedded journalists doing Slim Pickens-style bomb rides into Baghdad.
When an American missile crashed through five homes in residential Baghdad without exploding, it was a non-embedded CBC radio reporter who sent back photos.
The embedded journalists will serve as no more than additional employees of the armed forces who may appear to lend a sort of credibility to the U.S. military. In the movie Three Kings, George Clooney's Desert Storm major is seen having carnal relations with a reporter from a CNN-type network. There isn't a more appropriate metaphor for the current relationship between the U.S. military and the mainstream media.