Lefty Granny Sues Army Over Embed SNAFU

-By Warner Todd Huston

The Oakland Tribune reports the story of a hipster granny from Berkeley that has decided to sue the U.S. military over a reporter embed she arranged in Iraq that was abruptly canceled by the government. While the Oakland Trib and the hippie granny try their hardest to make the U.S. military the villain, it’s a bit hard to feel too sorry for her when the facts are considered. On top of that, the Trib absurdly calls her situation an “ordeal” which, when comparing her situation to what the soldiers have to go through, seems a bit over-the-top and silly, really.

Jane Stillwater of Berkeley, CA, had arranged an embed in Iraq and was told on January 19 that she was accepted. She immediately bought her plane ticket and arranged for the trip. Later that same day, however, she was contacted again and told her embed was canceled. Regardless of the cancellation, Stillwater flew to Kuwait anyway hoping the military would change its mind. They didn’t and now she is suing in small claims court for the plane ride and other expenses.

The Berkeley blogger had been to Iraq as an embeded reporter twice before this aborted attempt for which she is suing.

The Oakland Tribune obviously sides with the blogger and tries to make her situation seem worse than it really is. At one point in the story, the Trib sonorously tells us that “Stillwater’s ordeal began nearly a year ago.”

Ordeal? Let’s get something straight, shall we? She had her embed canceled the same day it was approved yet later she wasted her time and money and flew herself to Kuwait anyway, just on the off chance she could convince them to change their minds. THAT is no “ordeal.” No, Oakland Tribune, far from an ordeal it is closer to being stupid. She did it to herself. This does not qualify as an “ordeal.”

Still, the U.S. military does come off a bit too dismissive of blogger Stillwater. Their reasons for canceling her embed seem a bit thin, to be honest. The first reason offered from the military for canceling her embed was due to “changes on the battlefield” and “limited resources to support embeds.” After she complained, the military offered a new reason.

“The main reasoning behind the final decision is the low circulation of your work compared to military expense,” according to an e-mail from Spc. Embed Coordinator Savanah Alas-Ruiz.

Well, which is it?

Naturally the hippie granny thinks her embed was canceled because she is a “progressive” in her politics and on her blog has been a known Bush hater attacking the administration repeatedly. She has, though, written positively about the troops and her past embed experiences. This claim is also hard to believe as she had been approved and hosted as an embed two other times without a hitch. Why should we believe her “progressive” views didn’t hamper her two other times but did this time?

But, it’s really hard to side with Stillwater when it is discovered that she was aware that her embed was canceled, yet she still wasted her time and money flying to Kuwait anyway. And when Stillwater reveals she flew to Kuwait without any money or even a credit card, it makes it even harder to sympathize with her for her foolish lack of support and planning.

But she packed her bags — only to be lost in transition — and flew into the Kuwait International Airport. She was holding out hope that military officials would reconsider. They didn’t, so she spent two days and a night drinking mochas on a love seat in the airport Starbucks, a meeting spot for journalists, soldiers and contractors. She had little money, no credit card and needed to have wireless Internet access in case a military e-mail arrived.

“I was there on a total shoestring,” she said during an interview in her subsidized Berkeley apartment. Finally, tired, broke and hungry, she went to the U.S. Embassy, which arranged for an earlier flight back to the Bay Area.

Sounds to me like she put herself in this “ordeal.” Of course, it is easy to agree with Stillwater that her cancellation was a bit less than legitimate. But this whole silliness with the small claims court is laughable. Still the Oakland Tribune tries very hard to make us all feel sorry for Stillwater and that’s pretty silly, too.

(Photo credit: www.sfgate.com)

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