It’s been known for a while now that even though Barack Obama “ended the Iraq war” to fulfill one of his campaign promises, we have troops back in Iraq and Syria these days. The numbers are still small and they are described as being in advisory roles, but there’s a war going on and they are part of it. Unfortunately, this means that our military men and women are in harms way and will sometimes be injured or even killed. But for the immediate future, you might have a more difficult time finding out when that happens. The reason is that the Pentagon won’t be releasing information about such injuries to the press in the interest of national security or something. (Reuters)
The U.S. military will not provide details on specific cases of American service members injured in Iraq and Syria because it could give information to Islamic State militants, a Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday
The spokesman, Peter Cook, was responding to a question at a Pentagon press briefing seeking confirmation that four Americans had been wounded in Syria earlier this month.
Cook said there had been no a change in policy and aggregate numbers would still be provided.
“Our policy is not to identify wounded service members for a variety of reasons, including operational security, including privacy reasons,” Cook said.
“Also, we do not want to provide additional information to the enemy that might enhance their own assessment on the battlefield situation,” he said.
The Pentagon is treating this as no big deal and claiming that this was their policy all along, but as Reuters notes, that’s in direct conflict with how they’ve done business in the past. We’ve had 16 servicemen injured since our involvement in Iraq and Syria began to ramp back up roughly 18 months ago, with two of them taking place just last month. In each case, details including the names of the wounded and the location of the operation were released in a timely fashion.
Some restraint in these matters is understandable and I’ve never seen the press pushing back on the military too much. Obviously you don’t want family members learning about their loved ones’ injuries on CNN, so waiting until they’ve been notified is an obvious and respectable choice. In terms of protecting military intelligence and a battlefield advantage, I doubt anyone wants details of engagements being broadcast while operations are still ongoing and the enemy could be tipped off. If anything, I think we release too much of that type of information on a regular basis. But what the Pentagon is talking about here seems to go well beyond those boundaries and smacks of secrecy which serves no practical purpose in a matter which the public clearly is entitled to be informed.
It’s hard not to read something overtly political into this policy change, no matter how the Pentagon describes it. We’ve already seen the President standing by his policy of not mentioning Islamic terrorism and our own Attorney General has tried to keep mentions of ISIS out of transcripts of conversations with terrorists attacking at home. Any news about battlefield injuries in the war against this enemy clearly plays against the Democrats in general and Hillary Clinton’s election hopes in particular, so suppressing public discussion of such unpleasant realities has a clear political side to it.
So where did this order come from? Our military commanders in the field or the big brass at the Pentagon? I highly doubt it. Something this controversial which affects all of our operations in the region and the public’s perception of them almost certainly came straight from the Oval Office.