Somalia: Press steals the marines' thunder

WASHINGTON - George Bush may profess himself pleased, but the Pentagon's media watchdogs most definitely are not. Operation Restore Hope's goal of bringing succour to starving Somalia is impeccable. Alas, the stars of its debut were less the grease-painted marines who kicked it off, but the camera-wielding cohorts of the press there to greet them.

The elite of the US forces have made their amphibious landings before. Never though has one taken place live beneath the arc lights of global television. Anxious to extract the maximum public relations benefit from the unique humanitarian nature of the mission, officials had tipped off news organisations where and when the operation would take place.

The result was a farcical blend of the Normandy landings and opening night at La Scala. Astounded and - if scattered call-in reaction is any guide - often appalled, millions of US television viewers watched the crack reconnaissance and frogmen units hit Mogadishu beach, to be greeted not by enemy fire, but a foe they had not been trained to handle: the world media with bright TV lights which rendered the military's sophisticated night-vision equipment useless.

Nowhere though was outrage greater than at the Pentagon. 'My first reaction was of anger,' said the Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney. 'The fact of the matter is, they couldn't be certain it was going to be a peaceful arrival.' But he went on: 'I cooled down after a few minutes. There were no major problems, and no one was hurt.'

None the less, December 1992 in Somalia appears destined to become one more chapter in the brittle history of relations between the Pentagon and the press. Eighteen months ago during the Gulf war, the Defense Department was furiously assailed for its tight control on reporters. This time, it is argued, it has erred in the other direction - although to have kept a complete lid on proceedings would have been impossible.

By the time the first marines landed, two of the three networks were running their prime-time evening news shows from Mogadishu, complete with anchormen in designer safari jackets.

But the operation that really counts, of securing supply lines for an effective relief effort, seems to be moving ahead. Everything was going 'very well, very smoothly,' Mr Cheney said, and President Bush was described by his spokesman as 'very positive about progress so far. Although US troops are bound to be in the country when Mr Bush leaves office, the Pentagon says that withdrawals could be underway by Inauguration Day, with more permanent UN peace-keepers gradually taking charge.

If anything, however, the American role might actually grow under Bill Clinton, who this week has sounded more hawkish than the outgoing administration. 'An artificial timetable' could not be imposed on such an operation, he insisted.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone