Pentagon moves to contain criticism from troops in Iraq

WASHINGTON – After several troops made some highly publicized negative comments to the media about the war effort in Iraq, the Pentagon has taken steps to keep the frustrations of both soldiers and their families out of reports.

According to a story in the July 25 edition of Stars and Stripes, the military appears to be curtailing its much-touted embedded-journalist program, which has allowed reporters almost unfettered access to military units throughout the war and occupation.

The 3rd Infantry Division, from where many complaints have arisen, has expelled many of its embedded reporters, and its troops are no longer allowed to talk to the media outside of pre-approved news features.

Lt. Col. Michael Birmingham, 3rd ID spokesman in Baghdad, told the military paper that the division is "no longer embedding for short stays." According to the report, exceptions to the policy have been made for three journalists who were embedded during the war and have returned to Iraq.

Soldiers' families are also being advised not to complain to the media, according to news reports.

After being told that 3rd ID soldiers would be staying in Iraq longer than expected, families received an e-mail message from a rear-detachment commander warning against contacting the press "in a negative manner regarding the military and this deployment."

The sharpest and most widely reported criticism by troops came on July 16, when a handful of tired and seemingly disillusioned troops from the 3rd ID offered scathing remarks about top Pentagon brass to an ABC News reporter. One called on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign, and another said, "I've got my own most-wanted list," which included Rumsfeld and President Bush.

Back in the US, there have been several accounts of frustrated military families who are upset about their loved ones' long deployments in Iraq.

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