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Limited Hangout Strategy: The 2003 Iraq Invasion

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Limited Hangout Strategy: The 2003 Iraq Invasion

Article excerpt

Ron Martz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had more than just the trip to Iraq on his mind when he joined the 3rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army in March 2003, as it prepped for the journey to Baghdad. Embedded with the Fort Stewart, Ga.-based unit, Martz, 58, had recently become engaged. After his first embed tour, which ended that April, and another spanning July and August, the couple married in October 2003.

Looking back on that year, Martz says, "The sense I get is that we did provide, overall, a very comprehensive view of what was going on." He remains a military affairs writer in Atlanta and wrote Heavy Metal: A Tank Company's Battle to Baghdad about his adventure. But he notes that the pre-war hype surrounding the embed program might have misled readers into thinking they would get more from those who were with the troops: "The media did not do a good job of explaining to the American public what they were going to get -- not explaining that every embed would have a very narrow view of the war. That readers would have to use a variety of sources of news to get a broad view."

Most of the original embeds, including some who took on multiple assignments, feel that the initial experience was a success. Few would assail the program for not fully reporting the critical failure of troops to keep order following the first days of the offensive.

"The fall of Baghdad was the initial story," says Joe Galloway, the legendary Knight Ridder military writer whose combat experience dates back to Vietnam and who was charged with lining up slots for that chain's first 32 embeds. "You miss some stories, but your purpose is to cover the troops you are embedded with -- and it seems to me they did that job well." Galloway, who was embedded later in 2003, says criticism should instead be leveled at "the guys in the Pentagon who didn't plan to do the job after the invasion."

Others who praised the program pointed to the few limitations they found on what could be reported. "I think it worked very well," says Greg Zoroya of USA Today. "You could get much more authoritative information and detailed information if you are with them." Peter Baker of The Washington Post agrees, calling it "a good thing, something we had been advocating since Vietnam. …

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