If you studied history, you might remember the famed war correspondent and journalist Ernie Pyle who covered World War II. He lost his life during the Battle of Okinawa. President Harry Truman said about him, “No man in this war has so well told the story of the American fighting man as American fighting men wanted it told. He deserves the gratitude of all his countrymen.”
There was a time of honor among journalists who realized that their job was not to promote an ideological agenda but to tell the story of the American fighter, the Warrior. I remember our deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom and being assigned a media embed reporter. I met with the young fella and told him one simple thing — if he ever betrayed the trust of my men to portray them in a negative light he would answer to me.
All too often journalists speak soothing honey into the ears causing our troops to relax under the guise of “off the record,” only to be ambushed, not by the enemy who carries guns, but by an enemy that carries a different weapon — a pen. Let us never forget the Rolling Stone article that shamed the staff of General Stanley McChrystal and led to his dismissal.
Well, now it seems the U.S. military is bracing for another intrusion. And don’t get me wrong — the military serves the people and has civilian oversight, but the last thing we need is journalists trying to get that “gotcha” story to gain them fame. It’s funny, Ernie Pyle gained his fame by simply telling the story of the “man in the arena.”
In any event, as reported by The Hill, “The military’s U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is bracing for a new book about its most secretive units, sending out warning letters to special-forces operators ahead of the book’s Tuesday release, according to its author.
The letters are being sent to everyone whose names appeared in the book, titled “Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command,” its author Sean Naylor told a small group of journalists on Monday in advance of the book’s release. The letters warn special operators that they may come under public scrutiny or be contacted by media, and are offered resources on how to deal with the response, said Naylor, a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine. They are also “reminded not to talk about the content of the book in any way, shape or form,” he added. Naylor said he’s been told that Fort Bragg, where the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Forces is headquartered, “is going ape [email protected] over your book.”
In response to a query about whether the letters exist, the Special Operations Command told The Hill, “In general, USSOCOM reminded its personnel that they must follow the same protocols that govern sensitive material regardless of whether or not the information has been publicly released, and they are still bound by any nondisclosure agreements they signed.”
I suppose it’s a badge of honor for Sean Naylor to have the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command in a tizzy over his book. Is it possible that anything Naylor wrote could potentially place our elite Warriors in a very compromised position — and not just them, but possibly their families as well?
Anyone remember Extortion 17? You can get a refresher here. It was the mission where an elite U.S. Navy special operations unit suffered a massive loss — three months after the same unit conducted the raid operation to kill Osama bin Laden. That unit was “outed” by the vice president of the United States.
Perhaps this could all be a bunch of hype for Naylor’s book release and it could end up being much ado about nothing. But what if that’s not the case? What if Naylor’s book reveals insider information that he gained by garnering the trust of our esteemed warrior elite? You see, I find it interesting how the liberal progressive left all embraced the elite Warrior when it came to doing Hollywood movies and such — perhaps their usefulness has run its course.
The Hill states, “Naylor, who previously covered special operations forces for Army Times, said he was not passed any classified documents for the book, or to his knowledge, given any classified information. Nonetheless, the book has garnered the attention of top Pentagon leadership, which has struggled to keep a lid on information of special operations forces at a time when more operators have written books or spoken out about their experiences.
Many blame administration officials for first selectively condoning some movies or allowing defense officials to speak off the record or on background about high-profile operations.”
It’s far better to remain the “silent professionals” than to open yourself up to those who are in the end just after the story — journalistic fame. We should never allow our special operations tactics, techniques, and procedures to become things of movie lore. Of course, we must tell their story, the story of heroic actions, but we must be guarded in what is disclosed. Maybe the liberal left has had its fill of the Warrior hero and it’s time to take them down a notch?
“Naylor’s book credits “SEAL Team 6 sources” for providing information about the 2011 Osama bin Laden raid, and also details other special operations missions. Naylor said he spoke to a “wide spectrum” of sources across the special operations community — and not any one rank or level in particular. He said their attitudes ranged from “very nervous” to “not nervous at all.” He also said he took measures to obscure sources’ identities, and would never intentionally put them at risk. Naylor said sources talked to him for the book not because they wanted to disclose secrets, but out of a sense that “my guys or my buddies deserve recognition.”
I just pray the recognition is a positive. Perhaps Naylor will take the approach of Ernie Pyle — if he does he, is to be commended. It would be an honorable act to let the world know how brave and dedicated our modern day Spartans are.
However, if these words from Naylor reflect his motive, I’m not so sure: “Naylor said USSOCOM’s stance on not releasing any information on JSOC “is no longer realistic.” More information about the secretive unit is necessary for oversight, he said, due to the sheer amount that JSOC has grown over the last couple of decades and the increasing importance of the unit as the counterterrorism mission has expanded during that time. Those who believe in “keeping everything under wraps” and “stiff arming people who ask about JSOC” are “fighting a losing battle,” Naylor insisted.”
When the book is released, we shall find out if Canadian-born Sean Naylor is in keeping with the esteemed traditions of Ernie Pyle…or if he’s just another betrayer of our Warriors. I and others will be watching, so stand by.