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Confirmation (and commentary) on reporters escorted by McClung et al.

By Michael Fumento

According to Lt. Col. Bryan F. Salas, head of public affairs for Multi National Force -- West, "They [Maj. Megan McClung et al.] had dropped off FOX and were heading to another location with Newsweek." "FOX" means Lt. Col. Oliver North and his camera crew. I have yet to find any mention of the Dec. 6 IED explosion that killed their three escorts -- Maj. McClung, Capt. Travis Patriquin, and Spec. Vincent J. Pomante III -- in Newsweek (although I haven't seen today's print edition), by North in his broadcasts from Ramadi, or even by Fox News generally. This is an oversight that must be corrected. That said, according to this news story, Megan McClung's father "said he heard Oliver North may be planning some sort of memorial for Megan." Let us hope so.

I must say I'm rather upset about all of this and not just because I knew two of the deceased parties. In the blink of an eye, we lost the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy [See correction below] and an utterly outstanding PAO; a hero of Operation Anaconda and a designer of the program to bring the citizens of Ramadi into the anti-terrorist fight; and a 22-year-old kid who was just shy of leaving the service and was probably in that Humvee only because they needed a turret gunner. Why? I went into the city of Ramadi on three occasions without PAO escort. I'll bet The New Republic's Larry Kaplan, who went in at about the same time as Fox and Newsweek, didn't get an escort. I don't know who made the decisions in this case -- save that even Newsweek and Ollie North can't order the military around. I do know that in Ramadi nobody goes outside the wire that absolutely doesn't have to. I went out on every occasion I could because that was my job; that's the only valid reason. I would like both the media and the Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad to rethink the rules of PAO escorts in especially dangerous areas.

Correction: Maj. McClung was the highest-ranked female officer to die in Iraq. She was not the first female graduate of Annapolis. Not by a long shot. My bad for trusting what I read without verifying it, especially when there's an AP story that's been picked up all over the place that says I first met McClung in Baghdad. I clearly told the guy it was Fallujah and urged him to read my short tribute to her, which said the same.

December 18, 2006 12:31 PM  ·  Media