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An Investigative Journalism Link Drop

Partly because of technology, partly because of a tradition of a free media, and partly because of the general progress of liberal values, the American military adventures of the 21st century are the most well covered wars of all time. (Eric C mentioned this in his final review of Restrepo a few months back.)

The first draft of history is being written right now. Tom Ricks made this argument last fall on Talk of the Nation: we don’t need to wait for the history books. (We disagree slightly with that last point. If Wikileaks taught us anything, it’s that “war on terror” has a lot of secrets.)

I fully agree. From bloggers to tweeters to embedded reporters to public affairs officers, no Army in history has had this much scrutiny. Can you imagine the Roman Legion having to explain itself to MSNBC or CNN?

I didn’t think so. But I believe one part stands out for its value to the soldier: investigative journalism. Today I will highlight some--but not nearly all--of my favorite pieces from the last decade of war, emphasizing the articles that meant the most for the soldier on the ground, improving his lot in life:

Anne Hull and Dana Priest’s piece in The Washington Post on Walter Reed--”Soldier’s Face Neglect, Frustration at Army’s Top Medical Facility”--probably caused the most actual change in the Army by revealing the extent that Walter Reed was suffering from mismanagement and lack of funding.

Following up on that excellent piece was this amazing article by Carl Prine from earlier this year. In it, he and the staff of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review analyze the effectiveness of the widely implemented “Warrior Transition Units” that have sprouted up at the major Army bases across America. I love this particular piece because it shows that even mid-major papers can--and need to--do hard hitting investigative journalism.

Another mid-major that got in on the act was the Seattle Times with “Weight of War: Gear that protects troops also injures them.” As a former infantrymen, I have heard this topic discussed for years, with no change. But this article definitely made the rounds. Hopefully the Army and Marine Corps will someday make the changes needed to protect our troops’ knees.

Another topic has been the rise of prescription drug use by our nation’s soldiers and marines in combat zones. These two articles, one by friend of the blog Mark Thompson, and one by New York Magazine, explore the extent of America’s medicated Army. 

Finally, I couldn’t do an investigative journalism link drop without mentioning the king daddy of televised investigative journalism, FRONTLINE. Their show “Wounded Platoon” details the toll multiple deployments to intense combat zones exacts on our troops.

(An aside. I realize I’ve excluded some great hard hitting pieces, from organizations like 60 Minutes and Stars and Stripes. As I cautioned, this isn’t an exhaustive list.)

three comments

interesting: AMA’s (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit by (ex-)soldiers for unfiltered, on the ground views.

@ Bigger in Japan: any links?

Yes, links please.