Media and the military

Regular readers will know that Murdoc’s biggest pet peeve is clueless coverage of the military by Legacy Media. In many cases this cluelessness manifests itself as simple misidentification of equipment or units, and (while a bit irritating) this cluelessness is basically harmless.

But some times the cluelessness is the basis for misreporting things in a way that actually matters. This crosses the line from “pet peeve” into far more serious territory.

The latest example of this is CNN’s coverage (available at Exposing the Left) of the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi blooper reel, in which the (former?) leader of Al Qeada in Iraq has trouble with his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon:

“This weapon is an American weapon. It’s called a SAW, or Squad Automatic Weapon, a very heavy machine gun which has a very heavy trigger; it’s not easy to fire, and in fact it might be quite understandable that anyone–even somebody with weapon’s experience, wasn’t familiar with this particular weapon might have trouble firing off more than a single shot at a time…

My guess is that at least two-thirds of MO readers realize what a load of utter B.S. this claim is, so I won’t bother fisking it here. Confederate Yankee and CounterColumn have a lot of great info. Cluelessness at its zenith.

But worse than that, it’s troubling that members US media would be trying to offer excuses for Zarqawi’s ineptitude. Maybe not surprising. But troubling.

I want to be very clear about this. I don’t care if all those clueless claims about the M249 were accurate. What is the motivation behind apologizing for Zarqawi? I’m going to use a word here that I often use in this sort of situation. That word is “unpatriotic”.

So there’s no misunderstanding: Offering up excuses for the leadership of America’s enemy during a time of war is UNPATRIOTIC.

Even if the M249 was a “very heavy machine gun” that’s “not easy to fire”, reporting this in this manner is an attempt to undermine a tactical effort by the US military to counter a terrorist’s propaganda campaign. That is unpatriotic.

But the claims about the weapon are patently untrue, and that means that CNN went out of its way to undermine a tactical effort by the US military. The truth wouldn’t help undermine the US effort, so they misrepresented the facts in order to do so.

Getting a piece of technical military information wrong is one thing. Using that ignorance (intentional or accidental) to make a point is something else entirely.

For instance, a recent picture of a Stryker I posted here on MO was captioned by the DoD as belonging to a unit that doesn’t exist. Oops. Pretty dumb. But it didn’t change the meaning of the picture in the way that, (hypothetically speaking) calling an artillery shell a piece of “remains of a missile” might.

Political “sides” aside, Legacy Media would probably benefit greatly from increased use of embedded reporters. Not only would the viewers at home be much more likely to see a well-informed piece of journalism once in a while, but a better understanding of the military would probably filter into the organization. However, journalists who embed with military units are generally considered to be “tainted“.

Joe Katzman at Winds of Change writes:

So, how did CNN and the New York Times react? Two ways:

  1. Offer your viewers a ton of misinformation about one of the US military’s most common weapons; and
  2. Spin for Zarqawi to explain away his lapse.

I wish both of those statements were untrue, but they are not. CNN’s complete misinformation cock-up, from the person who is supposed to be its Senior Pentagon Correspondent, is both a nice mirror of Zarqawi’s own fumblings, and a classic example of why the media does such a horrible job covering the military. CNN and the NY Times’ excuses for Zarqawi’s pathetic performance, however, belong in another category entirely.

With friends like CNN, who needs enemas?


  1. Well, it is tough to fire more just one round at a time from a SAW…because it’s a machinegun, full-auto only, with a relatively heavy pull, so that when you pull the trigger back, you generally rip off at least five rounds or more, maybe 3 at the least. And yeah, it weighs in at over 25 lbs loaded, which probably is ‘very heavy’ to folks whose idea of heavy lifting is toting their laptop and a venti latte at the same time. It’s not just that they’re clueless. It’s that they see the US military as a malevolent entity, and they have a reflexive contempt and dislike for it.

  2. This is Sgt. Gehlen from the U.S. Central Command public affairs office. For more information about what’s happening in Iraq and other countries in the CENTCOM area of operations, visit our website at And a SAW is not difficult to use, either.

  3. Some pretty good stuff, kinda heavy on the human interest/humanitarian stories though.

  4. The SAW is about the lightest and easiest to use machine you will find. Is he demonstrating how U.S. troops mow down terrorists? The talking head is an ignorant jackass (that may have been redundant). He and his CNN writers and bosses are also traitors of course – again, a redundant statement. I really like the part where Zarqawi turns around and points a potentially still loaded machine gun at the heads of his helpers. An accidental discharge would have been hilarious.

  5. The M-249 is not a hard weapon to operate. I’ve done it as frequently as my unit allows, and it is not that difficult. I’ve seen much harder weapons to deal with. The only issue that is hard to master (as said above) is trying to get one round off all by itself. I personally preferred the M-60, but it’s a thing of the past for us. You could actually (with a little practice) get to the point that you could fire a whole 50 rd belt one at a time.

  6. Ok – My first thought was to see if this guy had a blog. To see what angle he is playing. But then I had a thought – if George Bush was on the video trying to fire the machine gun, would there be lines about how hard it is to shoot a SAW? In any event, McIntyre is an idiot. The man reported that no plane hit the pentagon. ‘JAMIE MCINTYRE: From my close-up inspection, there’s no evidence of a plane having crashed anywhere near the Pentagon. ‘The only site, is the actual side of the building that’s crashed in. And as I said, the only pieces left that you can see are small enough that you pick up in your hand. There are no large tail sections, wing sections, fuselage, nothing like that anywhere around which would indicate that the entire plane crashed into the side of the Pentagon and then caused the side to collapse.

  7. This weapon is an American weapon.’ Well, it’s American made, but Belgian designed. It’s basically a Fabrique Nationale Minimi standardized for US/NATO usage. To call it an ‘American weapon’ seems a little off to me, although he may be able to get away with being ‘technically correct’. That part alone casts upon the level of his knowledge to me.

  8. A ‘very heavy machine gun’? As much as they probably enjoy it, somebody needs to stop pulling ‘facts’ out of their ass… The SAW fires the same 5.56x45mm round as the M16–a tiny little round (about the size of a pen cap) which is notorious for its lack of stopping power. For this reason, the M249 is aptly classified as a ‘light machine gun’. Perhaps the article was referring to the actual weight of the gun itself, as Heartless Libertarian mentioned. Usually, however, this directly corresponds to the caliber of the weapon in question, as heavier calibers require heavier barrels and the ammunition itself weighs more. Even still, 22-25 pounds (for the SAW) is quite manageable as far as machine guns are concerned. The 7.62x51mm M240 and M60 both weigh in around 30 pounds ( depending on the model) and these are considered ‘medium machine guns’. Heavy machine guns are typically .50 caliber/12.7mm, and they weigh too much to be carried. So I suppose a ‘very heavy machine gun’ would be anything bigger than 20mm. Such weapons are usually only mounted on fighter jets, attack helicopters, and the Almighty Ass-Stomping A-10 Warthog. How about a compromise? When Zarqawi pulls the 25mm Bushmaster chain-gun off of a Bradly Fighting Vehicle, summons the strength to carry it, and can only manage to fire one round at a time, *then* CNN can run this story. Deal?

  9. Technically the weapons above 15mm are called ‘cannons’ That includes the M61 20mm on all US fighters, CIWS, and M113/AA, the 25mm Bushmaster on the Bradley and the GAU-8 30mm canon on the A10.

  10. The really sad part is the guy they are rushing to support is not Harold Pinter, Noam Chomsky or some French anti-American. It is a man who hacks of innocent people’s heads with a knife. Of course if you confronted them with this they would not accept they are supporting him but rather ‘dissenting’.

  11. In mid March of this year I went to Cuba. I went legally on a religious visa. While in Cuba I was watching CNN in the lobby of a hotel and a Cuban national who was with me was watching too. I whispered to him in a hushed tone that some people refer to CNN as the Communist News Network. And without missing a beat he said, ‘Oh yes, CNN is very anti American in both their Spanish language and English international versions. No wonder CNN is treated so well in Havana. Bill out.

  12. I’ve read in a Belgian paper al-Zarqawi’s machine gun jammed. ‘Go help the boss’ a commander shouted. Someone ran to him and burned his fingers grabbing the hot barrel of the Minimi. Why aren’t they all that stupid!

  13. To point out the stupidity of some of these people, I had a video… No idea where I got a video from, but I think it may have been one of those video sites like (some bad stuff on that site – you have been warned) It was of a militant of some sort firing an machine gun and then he loses control and the ricochets go everywhere and he ends up shooting himself! my computer just died recently where I had that video, so sorry I cant send it. But… sadly the irony is that some of ‘our people’ are just as stupid, ie. the instructor who shot himself.

  14. DJ, You’re right about the ‘autocannon’ nomenclature. I was simply trying to wrap my head around the what a ‘very heavy machine gun’ might actually entail, at least according to CNN’s oh-so-thorough Encyclopedia of Guns. I would love to see an insurgent video in the spirit of ‘The Jackal’, where Bruce Willis blows off Jack Black’s arm with a 20mm cannon–a ‘very heavy machine gun’ for all you Legacy Media types.

  15. Just have the id10t fire a M2 .50 cal offhand. That would be amusing enough and would fit the enemy propaganda mill’s (US PRESS) discription of HMG.