I guess if Jeb Bush can announce that he's representing American Catholics at the Pope's celebratory Mass, Chuckie can claim to speak for American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan after spending a day or two there on a quickie visit to play for them at taxpayers' expense.
Chuckie's Report on Day [sic] 2 and 3 doesn't have any reports from the troops for us. He tells about flying from Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan with an unplanned stopover in Uzbekistan. But Chuckie has some deep thoughts on his journey, of course. In Uzbekistan, he tells us:
The food, or chow as the military refers to it, was voted the best in theater by the troops, and we found out why when we had a meal at their chow hall. It was scrumptious.
Chuckie was also impressed by Kuwait City:
Kuwait City is a modern metropolis of 14 million with multilane highways and tall buildings. It sets on the Persian Gulf and is a resort area, which is ruled by an emir, I guess that’s what they call a king in this part of the country.
No, Chuckie. The emir, or the Amīr as the Kuwaitis refer to him, is not a king. He's what they call an "emir." Also, Chuckie, I don't believe the emir rules only Kuwait City. I'm pretty darn sure he rules the whole country. I assume Kuwait City is the "part of the country" that Chuckie's referring to there. Or maybe somebody needs to explain to Chuckie that just because there are American troops all over the place there, it doesn't mean that Kuwait is, you know, part of this country.
But Chuckie, or "Chuckie" as we refer to him here, was also on FOX News' Hannity and Colmes program to speak for the troops. And they have a "partial transcript" available (Charlie Daniels Entertains the Troops appeared 04/20/05; transcript dated 04/22/05),advertised by the following blurb: "Music legend Charlie Daniels escapes enemy fire while entertaining our troops overseas." Wow, that Chuckie's having some adventures, ain't he?
Now, FOX News is a bad joke. (Doh!) But, they do claim to be a news organization. Even a "fair and balanced" one. So we do need to pay attention to the fact that they pretty much never act like a real news organization.
Alan Colmes, or "Alan Colmes" as we refer to him, is the "FOX liberal" on this show. His variation of the role is to make mild and polite defenses of something that more-or-less sounds like a liberal view, so that his partner Sean Hannity can present the "other side" in a hardline and forceful way. So Colmes was a good boy. He lobbed Chuckie softball questions and let him make various claims that he was never asked to back up.
Now, if they were doing a human interest story about Chuckie flying overseas to perform for the troops at taxpayers' expense, or "taxpayers' expense" as we refer to it this part of the country, softball questions would be fine. But right out of the gate, ole Chuckie told us he was gone be speakin' for the soldiers:
It was incredible, Alan. It was a great thing to experience. And we got some fine, fine troops over there. And I made a promise when I left that I was going to come back and tell their story.
And they're a little confused as to why all the bad things get reported and not the good things. And a lot of good things really are going on over there. There is headway being made in this war. And I sure want to see us give the guys and gals some credit for it.
Okay, Chuckie's not talkin' here about fiddle-playing, or about what it's like to be a has-been music star. He's claiming to speak for the troops - he says they were in five different countries - and to tell their story.
Now how the [Cheney] does Chuckie know what the troops are thinking after a few short gigs? This would have been a perfectly logical question to ask. But neither the "liberal" Colmes or his buddy Hannity asked. Okay, I know it's FOX. But like I said, they pretend to be real journalists. And Chuckie claimed to be speaking as a first-hand witness to how the war in Iraq is going, as well as what the troops were thinking. So, just for fun, let's look at the factual claims Chuckie made in his self-assumed role of Patriotically Correct military analyst and spokesman for American soldiers:
Morale is wonderful: [Chuckie:]Alan, the morale was great. We visited five countries. We hit a lot of bases. And I found the morale to be good in every place we went to. And a lot of the bases are very, very isolated. You can't go off the base. They are isolated on the base. There's no town to go to. There's nothing except - they watch you guys over there, by the way.
Chuckie had a helicopter adventure:
COLMES: How secure were you? And what kind of — I would guess lots of safety measures are taken. Did you ever feel any threats to your well- being while you were traveling and performing?
DANIELS: Well, yes. We were coming back into Baghdad one night, and they shot at our helicopter. We had some searchlights, some little searchlights come on, and pointed up in the air. And we were flying in a helicopter, and our pilot just jinked the helicopter off to the left.
And what they do, they shoot at you in such a populated part of the city that you can't shoot back. We had three gunners on the helicopter. One here, one here, and one in the tail. But they couldn't shoot back. So they just avoided the attack and shot off some flares, and we just kept on going.
(More on Chuckie's helicopter tales below.)
Iraqis love Americans: And I'll tell you, it's a life-changing thing. I wish everybody could go over. I wish that the people who wonder about the war could go over and see what's happened and see what's going on.
The guys tell me — these are the guys that fight the war — that the people of Iraq are glad that we're there. When you fly over in a helicopter, they wave at the helicopters. There's all kinds of good signs.
The Liberal Press! Liberal Press! Liberal Press! is evil: By this time Hannity had taken over the questioning, asking "fair and balanced" questions like:
HANNITY: Yes, but you mentioned that the guys feel that the real story is not being told by the mainstream media. And that is key.
DANIELS: Well, it's not been. Yes. It's not being told.
I mean, all the bad things are reported, but the good things are not reported. I mean, it's — the things have calmed way down. And you know the thing that [gits] me [watch the video, he says "gits"] - we were up in edge of Kurd country the other day in one of the bases. Anybody who says that Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction should go ask the Kurds, because they — I mean, they experienced it.
And we know that they were there. And I believe they're either still there or buried in the Syrian Desert or somewhere.
... And I have never been more convinced in my life that's what's going on in Afghanistan and what's going on in Iraq are one in the same thing. I honestly believe that.
Democrats are evil: In more fair-and-balanced questioning, Hannity asked:
HANNITY: No, I believe that, too, Charlie, and I wish — I hate the fact that we have had a president who basically have had every step of war he was undermined by a political party. And how do they respond to that?
But Chuckie missed his cue on this one and had to get him to repeat it. The rhythm was kind of broken up a little bit:
HANNITY: How do they respond to all the attacks against their commander-in-chief by the left?
DANIELS: Oh, they're not happy with Ted Kennedy at all, if that's what you are asking.
Okay, now let's pretend we're, say, taking Journalism 101 at a community college. What questions and follow-ups might we come up with to ask ole Chuckie? Assuming here we also had his report on days 2 and 3, or "day 2 and 3" as Chuckie refers to it:
Mr. Chuckie, you say that someone shot at your helicopter as you were coming into Baghdad? But what you described were searchlights from the ground and the helicopter taking evasive action. Why do you say your helicopter was fired upon? Was the chopper struck by bullets?
Mr. Chuckie, you say you promised the troops in the five countries you visited that you would "come back and tell their story." How much time did you spend talking to the troops? Follow-ups to that: How many US soldiers did you actually talk to? What kinds of questions did you ask them about the war? Did you speak to officers, attend military briefings on the progress of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did you go on patrol with any of the troops? Visit any Iraqi cities other than being on a military base?
Mr. Chuckie, after two years of occupation and extensive searches by the military and intelligence officials, after having access to government files and scientists and former Iraqi military officers, every official report on the "weapons of mass destruction" question has found that Iraq had none when the US invaded in 2003. What in you experience as a fiddle player leads you to conclude that they were all wrong and that WMDs are buried in the Syrian desert? Follow-ups: Did you go to Syria? Did you speak to any weapons inspectors? Who were the Kurds with whom you spoke? Oh, excuse, me you didn't actually say that you spoke to any Kurds. But if you did, did they tell you that Iraq had WMDs in 2003?
Mr. Chuckie, you say that you want to tell the story of the troops. But you have been very outspoken about your support of the Bush policies on the Iraq War. In your twice-weekly online column, you have sharply criticized prewar critics who didn't want to go to war in 2003. And you have expressed the views that you have repeated here today, that the war is going fine and that the media isn't reporting enough good news from Iraq. Isn't it possible that the soldiers who took the time to speak with you were self-selected to be mostly people who already agreed with your particular viewpoint? Follow-ups: In your column, you have also quoted anonymous soldiers' letters, all of whom seem to agree with your views on the Iraq War. What assurance do our viewers have that you are speaking for any American troops other than the ones who already agreed with your long-standing opinion and unquestioning support for the war policies of the Bush administration?
Mr. Chuckie, as you know, there has been quite a lot of controversy over issues like torture at Abu Ghuraib and Guantanamo. You just mentioned you had also played at Guantanamo. There have also been substantial questions about shooting incidents, for example the killing of a top Italian intelligence agent at what the Army claimed was a "checkpoint." In your column, you highly praised a soldier who was filmed shooting to death a wounded, unarmed Iraqi prisoner. As you may know, in most circumstances deliberately murdering prisoners of war, wounded or otherwise, is an illegal act, although in this case the military's investigation cleared that particular soldier of misconduct. You also published four columns in which you briefly said you disapproved of torture, but mostly seemed to be defending the practice. Do you think it's proper for the US taxpayers to be sending you to play for the troops in combat zones and talk to them about politics and war, when your columns seem to praise and encourage illegal acts by soldiers?
Mr. Chuckie, if you don't even know what an emir is, and don't even know how much of the country of Kuwait he rules, do you really know diddly-squat about the political situation in that region?
But, needless to say, Hannity and Colmes didn't even go through the motions of being journalists.
On one level, this is just silly. Here's blowhard warmonger Chuckie, who cheers murdering wounded prisoners and recently mused in his column about someone shooting the controversial Ward Chuchill, having established a years-long record as an outspoken jingo and hardline Christian Right Republican - complete with a book of rants published by Regnery Publishing - now he claims to be speaking for American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. And FOX puts him on TV, talking a bunch of smack that wouldn't stand up to even moderate questioning, and they happily provide him a forum to do it.
Oh, and about those helicopters, or "helicopters" as the military refers to them. Chuckie says they were unable to make a planned landing at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. He didn't say if it was a security problem at not that caused the delay. He claims that his helicopter was shot at over Baghdad. He mentions that soldiers at the bases he visited could not leave their bases except on duty. Yet none of this seems to hint at any lack of security for Chuckie.
But then he tells us, based on what he claims soldiers told him, that they know Iraqis like Americans because they wave at their helicopters. Stop to think about that for a minute. If Chuckie's helicopter almost got shot down (as he seems to want us to believe), and if the evidence that they love Americans is limited to waving at US helicopters flying overhead, then I might think: "Houston, we have a problem."
But even that story seems a little shaky to people who don't mistake FOX for a news service. One of the guerrillas' successes has been to shoot down lower-flying helicopters, which has greatly interfered with the Army's ability to move troops swiftly to hot spots. So just how much time do our soldiers in Iraq spend flying around low just over the heads of Iraqi civilians? No too much, I hope for our troops' sakes.
I guess I should also wonder whether Chuckie took an Arabic translator and went to talk to some Iraqi civilians himself. (Hey, I thought that was a pretty funny line!)