One of the things we've learned about high-tech weapons over the past few days is that some of them can't tell the difference between Americans and Iraqis.
It turns out that most of the American deaths in ground fighting here last week were the result of "friendly fire." Seven Marines were killed when their armored scout car was hit by a heat-seeking anti-tank missile launched by an American plane. Another Marine was killed and one wounded when an American plane dropped a cluster bomb on their convoy.You may or may not find this interesting, but it's something Americans should know about. I know that the half-million or so Americans here in Saudi Arabia want to know everything they can about it.
But military leaders get touchy when the subject of "friendly fire" comes up. It's not something they like to talk about publicly.
Rumors that last week's American combat deaths were caused by our own weapons started almost immediately after the ground fighting. The question started coming up at the press briefings in Riyadh.
If you watched those briefings on television, you remember that reporters hammered away on the subject, firing off one annoying question after another. You probably also remember that the generals conducting those briefings bobbed and weaved for days trying to avoid giving a straight answer even though just about everybody in the field knew the truth by then.
An important thing to keep in mind is that battlefield deaths by friendly fire aren't a subject covered by military censorship rules here. The generals simply were reluctant to talk about it.
It's safe to say that those annoying reporters with their irritating and repetitive questions are probably the reason you know today that American weapons caused most of the American deaths in the war's first big ground battle. This may not be comforting, but you have a right to know.
Annoying questions and the presence of CNN television reporters in Baghdad also are the reason we know that as deadly accurate as our sophisticated weapons can be, they're not perfect just because they're aimed at military targets in Iraq.
To the credit of the American generals, when the evidence became inescapable that friendly, not enemy fire, killed our Marines, they gave as many details about it as possible.
The bottom line is that while the American public may not be getting a full picture of what's happening in Iraq, it's getting enough to decide who's telling the truth.
When journalists finally follow U.S. troops into Kuwait, you'll no doubt be getting reports of widespread Iraqi atrocities against the civilian population. You'll also be able to decide what you think about that.
The point of media manipulation during wartime is simple - to make your side look good and the other side look bad. Whatever you call it, it's especially heavy-handed during a war, and this one's no exception.
The big difference between us and the Iraqis is that even during wartime we have a relatively free press that does its best to give you as complete and accurate a picture as possible of what's going on. Annoying questions are part of that process.