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Not Fade Away: Joe Galloway, War Reporter, Retires
A tribute to the famed war correspondent, as he retreats from daily journalism. His brave words on the current bungled war and mismanaged Pentagon have proved all too prescient.

By Greg Mitchell

(May 25, 2006) -- Thursday night, in Washington, D.C., more than 100 fellow war reporters, ex-soldiers, retired generals and other friends gathered at the National Press Club to toast Joseph L. Galloway on the eve of his retirement after more than four decades in journalism. Galloway, currently a columnist for Knight Ridder, will retreat to a home north of Corpus Christi, Texas, to write a few books, with the thanks of a grateful nation gusting him along, one would hope.

Galloway, as you may well know, has covered numerous conflicts right down to Iraq, as a civilian won a Bronze Star for heroism in Vietnam, co-authored the book "We Were Soldiers Once and Young," advised Colin Powell, and all the rest. You may have read about him just this week in an E&P article reprinting his recent combative exchange of e-mails with Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita.

I’ve never met Joe, but E&P has carried several articles by or about him since 2003, starting with a humorous guide he wrote for embeds on surviving in the desert. The change in the tone of this coverage – right down to his angry emails to DiRita – reflect his growing exasperation with the Bush team’s bungling of the Iraq mission and its general assault on the health of our military and the soldiers he loves.

So in my own tribute to Joe, here are excerpts from some of E&P’s Galloway-related material over the past few years. Message to Joe: Keep firing, Gridley.

March 17, 2003, Galloway’s desert survival tips for embeds:

"Unless you are in base camp, do not remove your boots, even to sleep. In the field, you will have to jump up and haul ass quickly, and that is hard to do if you are feeling around for your boots and getting them tied. Even in base camp, shake out your boots before putting your feet into them. Scorpions love the interiors. Do not lay down and go to sleep in proximity to any military vehicle. Otherwise, it will leave suddenly and run over you. Happens to soldiers all the time."

March 30, 2003, he pens a column for us a couple weeks into the war:

"It is not too early to declare victory for the embedding program. Everyone involved has won. The biggest and clearest victors are those who read and those who watch TV worldwide. They are seeing war as it really is at the cutting edge. They are learning that it is not bloodless or painless or free of mistakes large and small. They are learning about the fog of war."

Aug. 16, 2004, a news story:

"Knight Ridder's launch today of a powerful online multimedia package chronicling the recent deaths of 12 U.S. Marines appears seamless, but the project did not come easy for the newspaper chain's famed war correspondent Joseph L. Galloway. 'This was the hardest thing I've ever written or edited,' he admits. 'I sat in a busy newsroom with tears streaming down my face.'

"Galloway added, 'The Pentagon puts out, on its Web site, every day the names of casualties in Iraq but it's very one-dimensional. It seemed to me it was time to paint a real portrait of a real human being who's lost his life in this war.’ He told E&P he wants the country to know ‘who it is losing when the names are printed in a little box in the paper or flash across on a Web site.'"

Sept. 26, 2004, a news story reveals that Galloway now backs the beginning of a U.S. withdrawal:

"An American withdrawal short of victory," he says, "would leave the Iraqis to sort things out on their own, and that likely means a civil war between the Sunnis and Shiites while the semi-autonomous Kurds in the north try to stay out of it&hellip.It would be a bitter pill for the Bush administration to swallow and one they are unwilling to discuss until the November election is out of the way. But if they win another four years in office, swallow it they must or see the war and the American casualties drag on endlessly without resolution."

Jan. 15, 2005, a column relates that Galloway now wants the U.S. to "declare victory and begin leaving":

"If we stay the course in Iraq," he says, "we're likely doomed to an even bloodier and more costly defeat in a country divided along ethnic and religious fault lines and headed toward civil war. ...The problem is that there is no way we can win -- defeat the insurgents and install a stable, democratic, friendly government -- and bad things are going to happen anyway. There is no way Americans are willing to pay the price even of stalemate, never mind an unattainable victory. ...

"Why can't we win? Because we charged in with false premises and bogus assumptions. Because for every insurgent we kill, two or three more join the cause&hellip.If we learned nothing else from the bitter history of Vietnam it should be that there are places and people who won't accept change and won't quit fighting until even the most powerful nation and army in the world wearies of the killing and dying. ...As we approach the second anniversary of our invasion of Iraq we need to be discussing and debating what we are gaining, if anything, from this war and what we are losing."

And then, Nov. 3, 2005, from another column about Galloway:

"For at least two years, Knight Ridder military editor and columnist Joe Galloway has been one of the most persistent and harshest critics of Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld's handling of the Iraq war, and other military issues, from an informed position. About six weeks ago, perhaps recognizing Galloway's credibility and the growing chorus of criticism from others, Rumsfeld's office invited the correspondent to what it called 'a private lunch' at the Pentagon.

"They met in Rumsfeld's huge office around a conference table. Rumsfeld, Galloway related, was cordial and smiling throughout, but quickly demanded to know why he himself wasn't hearing all the negative stuff about the lack of progress in Iraq and the military grumblings that the writer was picking up on. Galloway reminded him that someone in Rumsfeld's position was not likely to get much bad news passed up the chain of command.

"Then Rumsfeld questioned his sources, suggesting they were perhaps all retired generals far from the scene. Galloway replied that about half were active duty and many of them 'not only active duty, but also work in the Pentagon.' Some might even be on Rumsfeld's staff.

"As the discussion went on, Galloway continued to raise issues about the state of our military, as the generals argued that 'the Army was not broken and things were not going so badly in Iraq.' The Knight Ridder columnist asked whether the U.S. could figure out a better way of fighting the war than sending our troops down the same road only to be blown up by IEDs. Rumsfeld claimed he agreed and had ordered that our emphasis shift even more to training Iraqis&hellip

"After more than an hour, the Pentagon spokesman told his boss, 'sir, we are way out of time.' In parting, Galloway informed Rumsfeld, 'I want you to know that I'm going to keep kicking your butt, to keep you focused.'"

Finally, March 16, 2006, Galloway announces his retirement:

"I consider myself the luckiest guy in the world to have survived against the odds, to have had the experiences, the stories, the people that this profession has given me. And I got paid to do it, admittedly not much."

Greg Mitchell (gmitchell@editorandpublisher.com) is the editor of E&P.

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