Saturday, May 06, 2006

It's just point and click, right?

One of Glenn Reynolds' periodic Instasighs is that war reporters don't know enough about weapons. For example, when in January the New York Times mislabelled a photograph of Pakistani villagers standing next to an unexploded bomb, he linked to a blog post pointing this out and added:

OOPS: Another reason why newspapers need affirmative action for people with military experience.

It was pure coincidence of course that the broader context was the failed missile strike on Ayman al-Zawahiri that had killed civilians -- and therefore risked making George W. Bush look bad. But anyway, Reynolds was Instalinking again the other day:

A ZARQAWI BLOOPER REEL: This'll wow 'em at the fan conventions.

This being to the US military video showing a well-fed Zarqawi unable to get a US machine gun to work. Now the video should have prompted several obvious questions -- if Zarqawi is such a bumbler, why hasn't he been caught; how did he get the gun -- but you'd at least think a gun enthusiast and promoter of expertise thereof, like Glenn Reynolds, would have been on top of the technical aspects? No:

The weapon in question is complicated to master, and American soldiers and marines undergo many days of training to achieve the most basic competence with it. Moreover, the weapon in Mr. Zarqawi's hands was an older variant, which makes its malfunctioning unsurprising. The veterans said Mr. Zarqawi, who had spent his years as a terrorist surrounded by simpler weapons of Soviet design, could hardly have been expected to know how to handle it.

"They are making a big deal out of nothing," said Mario Costagliola, who retired as an Army colonel last month after serving as the operations officer for the 42nd Infantry Division in Tikrit, Iraq.

An active-duty Special Forces colonel who served in Iraq also said that what the video showed actually had little relationship to Mr. Zarqawi's level of terrorist skill. "Looking at the video, I enjoy it; I like that he looks kind of goofy," said the Special Forces officer, who was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on military matters. "But as a military guy, I shrug my shoulders and say: 'Of course he doesn't know how to use it. It's our gun.' He doesn't look as stupid as they said he looks."

Perhaps the best way to explain it to the 101st Fighting Keyboarders would be to note that there's a learning period in switching from Playstation to XBox 360.

UPDATE: Powerline's "Hindrocket" responds to the NYT article by accusing "The Times" of saying various things in defence of Zarqawi, when all the relevant quotes are from military experts. Reynolds, ignoring the question of the gun, takes the same view:

VARIOUS PEOPLE ARE WONDERING why the New York Times felt compelled to stick up for Zarqawi.

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