Archive for the 'Media' Category



Paul Krugman’s Shame

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 2 months ago

Paul Krugman bears his soul to us on the events of 9/11 and thereafter.  He sets the framework for his short post with his title: The Years of Shame.

Is it just me, or are the 9/11 commemorations oddly subdued?

Actually, I don’t think it’s me, and it’s not really that odd.

What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. Te (sic) atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?

The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.

I’m not going to allow comments on this post, for obvious reasons.

Good grief.  A columnist for the New York Times leaves a spelling error in his post, and the Times runs it anyway.  And Krugman doesn’t seem to care enough to correct it.  Is it me or do many bloggers care more about their prose than the New York Times, and isn’t this odd?  Actually, I don’t think it’s me, and it’s not really that odd.

But on to the main point.  Let’s do this thing about Iraq … one … more … time.  My own son did a combat tour of Iraq, so I have the right to say just about anything I want to concerning Operation Iraqi Freedom (though not as much right as those families who paid the ultimate sacrifice).  Knowing something about nuclear technology and thus knowing the kind of infrastructure it takes to accomplish enrichment, I was ambivalent about the invasion (we call this phase Operation Iraqi Freedom I).  With Michael Fumento and others, I know that chemical weapons are a poor substitute for military weapons (conventional ordnance is much more effective), and so that justification failed with me.

But whatever policy differences or questions I might have had with that phase of the campaign, there was no vacillation in my support for Operation Iraqi Freedom II (generally taken to be late 2003 – 2006) and III (2007 and on, i.e., surge and post-surge).  During the height of the conflict, eighty to one hundred foreign fighters per month crossed the Jordanian and [mainly] Syrian borders to fight the U.S. in Iraq.

Al Qaeda poured an immense amount of capital into the campaign in Iraq, including money, philosophical  underpinnings and personnel.  Their writers went to work trying to justify suicide as a legitimate form of jihad, they spent a large amount of the monies donated by wealthy Saudis on Iraq, and they lost thousands of fighters who would otherwise have been able to fight in Afghanistan or come to the shores of the U.S.  And I don’t buy the notion that Iraq was their raison d’être.  I believe that they would have fought us anyway, anywhere.

Iraq was a quagmire for al Qaeda.  It was a tremendous loss for them, regardless of the final disposition of the campaign for Iraq.  I am proud of the role played by the American Soldier in Iraq.  As a Marine father, I am proud of the role played by the U.S. Marines in the pacification of the Anbar Province.  The ridiculous notions of … flipping … a tribe, as if this is some sort of parlor game, is a poor excuse for explaining what happened there.  More than 1000 Marines perished in Iraq, and years of fighting set the preconditions for “flipping” those tribes.

I am proud of the first responders on 9/11.  I am proud of how our nation responded, and I am proud of the contribution our warriors have made and are making to Operation Enduring Freedom.  I am proud of the strengthening of our nation’s security apparatus since 9/11, and have noted that much more is needed.  I am particularly proud of God’s grace to this country in the days since 9/11.  Lastly, I am proud of the combat tour my son did in the U.S. Marines.

Isn’t it telling that Krugman is ashamed of the days since 9/11?  It demarcates world views, no?  Is it just me and is it odd that this seems more like Paul Krugman’s shame than America’s shame?  I don’t think it’s just me, and it really isn’t all that odd.

Unlike the coward Krugman, I’ll leave comments open on this post.

Enabling Catastrophe: the NYT Serves Up Denial

BY Glen Tschirgi
5 years, 3 months ago

At first glance, this article in The New York Times about the financial cliff facing the U.S. Postal Service seems to be just a sample of the news that has become all too familiar in 21st Century America:  another government institution struggling with huge budget deficits.

But if we step back just a bit, there are a few features of this story that help clarify the outlines of the larger crisis facing the U.S. now.

The general theme of the article is that the U.S. Postal Service (again, like so many other problems portrayed in the State Run media) faces intractable, no, insurmountable problems: in a world of internet communications and direct purchasing and exchange, the USPS has seen a rapid decline in mail volume while it has been tied in to rising costs due, mainly, to hefty union contracts that cannot be modified.

The United States Postal Service has long lived on the financial edge, but it has never been as close to the precipice as it is today: the agency is so low on cash that it will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment due this month and may have to shut down entirely this winter unless Congress takes emergency action to stabilize its finances.

***

The post office’s problems stem from one hard reality: it is being squeezed on both revenue and costs.

As any computer user knows, the Internet revolution has led to people and businesses sending far less conventional mail.

At the same time, decades of contractual promises made to unionized workers, including no-layoff clauses, are increasing the post office’s costs. Labor represents 80 percent of the agency’s expenses, compared with 53 percent at United Parcel Service and 32 percent at FedEx, its two biggest private competitors. Postal workers also receive more generous health benefits than most other federal employees.

So, at its most basic level, this story is reporting about yet another government agency that cannot live within its means and the unlikely prospect that the two parties in Congress can find any agreement to solve the problems.   But the more troubling aspects of this story are not necessarily as evident.

First, consider the reporting of the story itself.  For many Americans, The New York Times is still considered one of the premier news outlets in the country.  Personally, considering the repeated and politically motivated inaccuracies often found there, I cannot understand why anyone gives the NYT any credence, but many still do, unfortunately.  Yet this article– which is being put forward as a news report rather than opinion piece– fails to even note the most obvious and often-mentioned solution to the perpetual problems of the USPS:  privatization and the break up its remaining monopoly on so-called “letter mail” delivery to receptacles marked, “U.S. Mail.”

In fact, there are many, astounding facts and figures omitted from the article and possible solutions.  See the Cato Institutes site that fully discusses the problems and solutions of the USPS for comparison.  For a major piece in a supposedly leading, American newspaper, it is woefully deficient in its scope and facts.  Is the Times’ reporter simply ignorant of the wealth of information available on the subject or is he intentionally depriving readers in order to enhance the theme of hopelessness that pervades the piece?  In either case, this incomplete reporting inevitably leads to last-minute, panicked decision making by political leaders, without adequate, public debate.  And this myopic reporting happens all the time.

Second, this article points to a larger problem without really getting to the heart of it:  the role of public employee unions.  Whatever one may think of unions in private enterprise, the presence of unions in government agencies and other, publicly-funded work is always pernicious.  In the private sector, a company is relatively free to reach an agreement with the union that can be sustained by the profits actually earned by the business.  If labor costs reach an unsustainable level, the company can always resort to Chapter 11 to re-work labor agreements or, failing that, liquidate.  Such is the price of unwise management.

For public entities, however, the unions are in the unique position of mobilizing their organizational power to elect politicians who will favor the union with ever-higher wages and benefits, regardless of the sustainability.  In essence, public employee unions can install the “managers” who will decide compensation while passing along the burden of those decisions to taxpayers.  Even the NYT article cannot hide the fact that the USPS’ financial problems are overwhelmingly caused by public employee unions that have extracted far higher costs for labor than those paid by competitors FedEx and U.P.S.   Yet the article makes it clear that no politician, so far, is willing to take on the unions in order to get labor costs in line with the shrinking revenues.

Finally, the drift of the article is that the U.S. Government will be forced to bail out the USPS with emergency funding without finding any, effective solution to the underlying problems.   This is the sort of thing that is simply killing this country.  Everyone knows beyond a doubt that there is simply no money to bail out the Postal Service.   The federal deficit for 2011 is veering toward $1.3 trillion, the third largest deficit in U.S. history according to the Congressional Budget Office.  Nonetheless the NYT paints a picture of dire consequences if Congress does not bail out the USPS.   What is the justification?  Here is the perspective of one of the USPS labor union leaders:

Fredric V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, warned of disaster if partisanship keeps Congress from acting.

“This is about one of America’s oldest institutions,” he said. “It survived the telegraph, it survived the telephone, and we have to do everything we can to preserve it and adapt.”

In the face of national bankruptcy, the U.S. Postal Service simply must be preserved.   This attitude cannot continue.  Everything must be preserved.  Every program, every agency, every facility, every perk and benefit is sacred.   Nothing can be cut or eliminated.  The reality is simply not sinking in yet.  Everyone wants to pretend that the fiscal problems can be solved by cutting someone else’s agency or program.

The prospects are frightening.  If the 2012 elections do not produce a clear mandate for fundamental change in the nature and structure of the federal government– if the American electorate, in other words, opts for the status quo– then it is only a matter of time until a solution will be imposed.   Perhaps that is economic collapse, worse than the Great Depression.   Perhaps it is the rise of a Dictator who will use “emergency powers” to impose a decision.  Perhaps it is secession.  Perhaps it is a combination of them all.   But it is clear that the so-called American Elite– the opinion leaders in the media and politics– are in denial and we have foolishly entrusted our Republic to them.

St. Petersburg Times Propagates the American Weapons – Mexican Violence Myth

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 months ago

To the editorial board of the St. Petersburg Times, I noticed that you weighed in with a rather rambling and far-reaching editorial on gun control, stating the following:

America’s gun culture is taking its toll on the nation’s police departments. In its latest annual report, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence recorded a 24 percent jump in the number of police officers killed by gunfire between 2009 and 2010. And 2011 is on track to be even deadlier; already, at least 33 officers have been killed by gunfire this year — including three in St. Petersburg. Policing is a dangerous, difficult job. But it is made riskier by politicians who are cowed by the gun lobby from even discussing sensible gun controls.

The Brady report paints a grim picture of how routinely officers are facing deadly gunfire, and in today’s Perspective section bay area officers talk about the work they do to protect the rest of us. Often, officers are killed responding to everyday situations from road rage and traffic calls to drive-by shootings to reports of a prowler that St. Petersburg police officer David S. Crawford responded to when he was shot and killed in February. Multiple officers are being killed or injured by gunshots at the same incident, such as when St. Petersburg Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz were killed in a shootout in January. Law enforcement said 2010 was the deadliest year for police in two decades. Three officers have been killed in the cities of both Tampa and St. Petersburg within the past two years. This is a national and local problem that lawmakers up and down the line must address.

It is no mystery what it would take to start better protecting police and the public. Congress should reimpose the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and restricted the sale of military style assault weapons and the high-capacity magazines that enable shooters to peel off dozens of rounds of ammunition without stopping to reload. The only use for such firepower is to kill large numbers of people in a short period of time. Lawmakers also should close the so-called “gun show” loophole that allows unlicensed dealers to act as private sellers and avoid subjecting buyers to a criminal background check. And federal authorities need more resources to crack down on sellers who flout the weak gun laws and on straw buyers and traffickers who act as mules for felons, gangs and criminal organizations.

The nation’s police are seeing the effect in the rising use of assault weapons against law enforcement. Police officials call these weapons the criminals’ armament of choice, which is why the International Association of Chiefs of Police has made gun control a political priority this year. It is calling on Congress to renew the ban on assault weapons and large clips and for new tools to track and share data on firearms used in crimes.

America’s lax gun control laws have also escalated the security threat in communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Nine of 10 firearms confiscated by Mexican authorities in recent years came from the United States. The danger America has exported is now turning against the nation, presenting even more risks to local law enforcement. It is time Congress found the backbone to consider serious and sensible ways to better balance the right of gun ownership with the societal obligation to protect the police and the public.

One might expect the editorial board of a newspaper to at least feign fairness and objectivity, which is why you might have cited not only the International Association of Police Chiefs, but also the Fraternal Order of Police which is opposed to the kinds of gun control you discuss (see Chris Cox interview of President Chuck Canterbury in American Rifleman, June 2011, page 80).  But regardless of our expectations, if you cannot feign fairness we should demand honor and integrity.

You say that “Nine of 10 firearms confiscated by Mexican authorities in recent years came from the United States.”  This is simply incorrect.  It isn’t true.  STRATFOR has published an unmitigated takedown of this myth, a complete destruction of the lie.

Even if use of the lie was spurious rather than intentionally misleading, this points to sloppiness in analysis, and you have a chance to correct your error.  I call on the editorial board of the St. Petersburg Times to publish a retraction of this error and correct the record.  Absent this, we can only conclude that the board has the same analytical skills as Bono of U2 and less than exemplary morals.

Wikileaks and the Afghanistan War Diary

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

By now it isn’t news that Wikileaks has leaked tens of thousands of war records in what they call the Afghanistan War Diary.  It consists of a catalog of thousands of daily incident reports (each incident of an IED, contact with the enemy, casualties, etc., is summarized in an incident report).  The reports make for a choppy and stilted read, but for those who are willing to endure it, there is information here and there that compromises operational security.  Joshua Foust points out that the names of certain collaborators are in these reports, but that likely doesn’t matter to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.  All of the information is classified and it should not have been released.

But it has been, and having spent some time now examining these reports, there are a few things that can be gleaned from them concerning specific operations and engagements.  For example, C. J. Chivers adds to the context concerning the battle for Combat Outpost Keating in the Kamdesh District of the Nuristan province.  I went immediately to the incident report for the Battle of Wanat, and I will be making some observations concerning this engagement based on the incident report from Wikileaks.  Neither Chivers’ observations nor mine (forthcoming on Wanat) fundamentally changes what I know or think about the campaign.

There is more, however.  Why were these reports released?  I couldn’t help but yawn as I read through many hundreds of them.  For the person who has been even marginally aware of happenings in the campaign, not much comes as a surprise.  As I read through many of them, I recall thinking, “Yes, I remember this.  I discussed it (on the record) with Major Cliff Gilmore,” or “I learned absolutely nothing from this report,” or “I wrote about this eight months ago.”  The catalog is not the treasure trove of war crimes that it is made out to be.  Far from it.

Richard Norton-Taylor with The Guardian waxes breathless on what he wishes to be the case.

More than a decade ago, when the cold war was well and truly over, American and British strategists began to celebrate what they called a “revolution in military affairs”. Information technology and “precision weapons”, products of the microchip, would lead to a new, western, way of warfare. Public opinion, it was said, would no longer tolerate civilian or military casualties.

The logs we publish today, a detailed chronicle of a violent conflict that has lasted longer than the Vietnam war, longer than the two world wars, shatter the illusion that conflicts could be meticulously planned and executed, and the assumption that bloodshed would be acceptable only in very limited quantities.

They demonstrate, too, that despite the opportunities provided by new technology, media groups with a global reach still cannot offer their public more than sporadic accounts of the most visible and controversial incidents, and glimpses of the background.

That is what government officials and military commanders have been saying for years and what they continue to say. The reality, as the logs show, is very different. They provide unprecedented insight, through the wood and the trees, painting a picture, via a myriad micro-episodes, of brutality, cynicism, fear, panic, false alarms and the killing of a large number of civilians – many more than of foreign troops or insurgents – by all sides in the conflict. And, inevitably, “friendly fire”. It is a story of deep-seated corruption by senior members of the Afghan police, of black operations by coalition special forces engaged in assassinations of dubious legality, of spies, and of unmanned but armed drones controlled by “pilots”, including private contractors, sitting in front of computers thousands of miles away in air-conditioned rooms in the Nevada desert.

It creates an illusion of war games isolating the drones’ controllers, national military commanders and politicians in their offices in London or Washington from the real violence and confusion on the ground in Afghanistan.

[ … ]

The Taliban-led insurgents soon realised they were on a hiding to nothing when four years ago they first engaged British, US (though few of those were so exposed at the time) and other foreign troops in open gun battles. They adapted their tactics and their weaponry, resorting to increasingly powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs) which are now responsible for well over half of the deaths and serious injuries to foreign troops in Afghanistan. There are increasing signs, however, that insurgents, growing more confident, are reverting to rifles, putting more pressure on foreign soldiers by shooting at them from a distance.

According to the logs, special forces have killed “high value” targets without any attempt to capture them. The records say that British soldiers killed or wounded civilians on occasions by firing “warning shots”. They describe how US forces have killed British troops and Afghan forces by mistake, and how Afghan soldiers have killed their comrades by accident. They describe the difficulty in promoting “hearts and minds”, in dampening suspicions in a country where central government and its officials, let alone foreign forces, are distrusted, and where tribal loyalties and ethnic divisions cross internal administrative boundaries.

Military and government spokesmen may have covered up, misled, simply been ignorant of what was taking place. This is why the publication of the logs are so important.

Military commanders and officials no longer try to maintain the fiction which they were tempted to not so long ago. They came to admit that the war in Afghanistan is messy. The logs reveal just how messy it really is.

The ANP is corrupt.  Is this news?  So General McChrystal pressed SOF hits on high value targets.  Anyone who has followed the war knows this, and I have argued against this tactic as inefficient and ineffective, and favored alignment of SOF with infantry and in contact with the population.  This is a well worn debate, not something new and unique.  There is no news here.  So Pakistan’s ISI is complicit in assistance to the Taliban and even supportive of incidents within Afghanistan itself.  Who doesn’t already know this?  Again, there are unintended casualties in counterinsurgency campaigns.  Is this really a surprise to anyone?  War is messy.  Did the British think otherwise?

The Guardian knows better, as does Julian Assange who defends his work by noting the “real nature of this war” and the need to hold those in power accountable.  To anyone with a computer, some time and a little interest, none of this is news.  The folks at the Guardian are either stupid (believing that war is bloodless) or they are lying (having followed the body count just like I have).  Furthermore, they are either poor countrymen, holding that counterinsurgency is worth it as long as they sacrifice their own and no Afghans are killed, or ignorant, knowing nothing about the necessity to fight and kill the enemy.

The editors of the Guardian are not stupid or ignorant.  They are ideologically motivated, just like Julian Assange.  The embarrassing part for both of them is that, having admitted that “despite the opportunities provided by new technology, media groups with a global reach still cannot offer their public more than sporadic accounts of the most visible and controversial incidents, and glimpses of the background,” the literate among us know better.  The media is preening and polishing their moral credentials.  They shouldn’t be.  More than anything else, this is a story about letting ideology get in the way of reporting, and about the failure of that same media to do the basic job of compiling information and analyzing it.

General David Petraeus, Max Boot and Independent Analysis

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

Several months ago Max Boot did something I would never do, and offered what he called rare praise for Andrew Sullivan.  The subject of the article was mainly about Petraeus and his statements on Israel, but in the same article Max made some fairly strong observations or allegations about Diana West.

Andrew McCarthy writing for National Review Online penned a lengthy rebuttal to Max’s advocacy for Petraeus, while also analyzing the statements Petraeus had recently made concerning Israel.  Max’s position has seemed profoundly weak to me, and McCarthy’s rebuttal appears determinative in light of the alternatives.  Petraeus has said, for example:

… enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to advance our interest in the AOR (Area of Responsibility). Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile Al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizbollah and Hamas.

Now, one can even agree with the General that Israel and the Palestinian-Israel conflict is the fulcrum upon which everything tips in the Middle East.  It doesn’t offend or bother me in the least; I just believe that this view is naive and meant primarily as a narrative for simpletons.  Let’s be clear.  Palestine or Israel could cease to exist tomorrow, and Iran would still pursue regional hegemony.  There would still be hatred among some in the Middle East towards the U.S. (Wahhabists, etc.) regardless of who did or didn’t exist, or what other conflict was or wasn’t going on.

But whatever your view, McCarthy’s article was rather conclusive, that is, until Max Boot responded to McCarthy.  He has been a determined advocate for Petraeus and his Israel policy, indeed.  Joshua Foust explains why.

The recent revelation that Gen. Petraeus — now installed as the third commander of the flagging Afghan War in two years— collaborated with at least one pundit to get his story into the public isn’t exactly earth-shaking. But it might point to deeper problems with the commentary industry: namely, who’s driving the discussion?

An activist named Philip Weiss recently posted to his blog an e-mail chain that revealed Petraeus jovially chatting with Los Angeles Times columnist and Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Max Boot (Weiss makes a big deal out of Petraeus’ use of a smiley-face emoticon, though he’s probably overreacting about his supposed run for the presidency). At issue was a statement Petraeus gave the Senate Armed Services Committee that was critical of Israel. Wanting to combat the negative things pro-Israel pundits were saying about him, Petraeus reached out to Boot, who promptly repeated Petraeus’s statements, arguments, and talking points in his writing without directly disclosing their source.

None of this is terribly surprising, in the abstract: Petraeus has taken Boot on numerous DOD-funded trips around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in return Boot has written repeatedly about how the wars are worth fighting, etc. It’s kind of a standard quid pro quo and makes sense from the general’s perspective. What’s odd, and this is where Weiss is onto something, is that Boot would go so far as to take cues directly from Petraeus, no longer writing as a pro-war partisan but as Petraeus’s unofficial spokesman.

It is an unfortunately common relationship in the think tank and commentary universe: writers find government figures they respect and wish to support, and those figures make supporting them as easy as possible.

Joshua goes on to discuss the ethics of this approach to advocacy.  You can make up your own mind.  As for regular readers of The Captain’s Journal, you would find it implausible to the point of simply impossible that I publish anyone’s talking points.  I know that some Milblogs and commentators that.  That group has not and will never include this one.  If you must publish someone else’s talking points, it means that you don’t have any thoughts of your own.

Recommended Reading and Viewing: Getting Hit to Get the Shot

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

I recommend that you spend a few minutes taking in Michael Yon’s latest entry, and spend the time to read it through to the end.  There are some pictures you might want to see, and this montage is very compelling.

CNN Editor Sad Over Death of Hezbollah Spiritual Leader

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

Via Weekly Standard, CNN Editor Octavia Nasr posts on Twitter:

Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot..

Fadlallah was the spiritual leader of Hezbollah and is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 241 Marines and Navy Corpsmen in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing.  Not coincidentally, the leader of Hezbollah, Nassan Nasrallah, also states his approval for the cleric’s vision and promise to carry on.

“We promise his soul that we will remain faithful to his sacred goals for which he lived, worked and sacrificed day and night, as we will sacrifice everything to defend them,” Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said.

So CNN is squared up shoulder to shoulder with Hezbollah.  The real question is this: is anyone really surprised?

The Media, the New Media and U.S. Intelligence

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 9 months ago

The DoD policy on the new media has been released.  There are positive steps – computers are to be configured to access such sites within the constraints of operational security.  But the policy is subject to local application and enforcement.  Milblogging.com likes it, but I’ll wait to see the affects of the policy before weighing in on it.

My experience with blogging is that even as a parent of a member of the military, my words got significant attention to both me and my son, some of it unwanted and unwarranted.  There were daily site visits from PAOs, and usually within minutes of making posts.  If I mentioned water survival training while donning body armor, it got my son a visit to the First Sergeant’s office and a call from the Colonel, or better yet, a comment about how “we don’t do that sort of thing.”

Absurd.  Nothing false, nothing OPSEC about it, just a desire to control the narrative.  Concern over what mothers might think if they read the blog, or something of that nature.  I would have thought it wise and laudable that the Marines taught their guys to deal with HMMWV rollover incidents where the Marine ended up in a river with his body armor on.  After all, it had happened before.

The secrecy surrounding the 26th MEU was extraordinary.  We got more information from his deployment to Fallujah than we did from the Persian Gulf.  But any bystander at the Suez Canal who has a cell phone can inform his contacts when he sees a U.S. Amphibious Assault Dock floating by.  The concern that a Marine on board a ship  informing his family members about his proximity being more valuable information than someone in Egypt actually seeing a ship floating by is the fantasy of control freaks.  Enlisted men rarely are in possession of something that can seriously compromise OPSEC, and if they are, they are usually mature enough to handle the responsibility.

Stepping into the twenty first century is proving to be difficult for the military in more ways than accepting social networking.  In Systemic Defense Intelligence Failures, I lamented the fact that I had pointed out the Taliban strategy of targeting lines of logistics two years ago, while Army intelligence was busy denying that there would be any resurgence of the Taliban or even a spring offensive in 2008.  Military intelligence should have been reading my analysis rather than arguing their own merits.  Intelligence failures also played a part in the losses at COP Keating and Wanat.

The DoD may be adjusting.

On their first day of class in Afghanistan, the new U.S. intelligence analysts were given a homework assignment.

First read a six-page classified military intelligence report about the situation in Spin Boldak, a key border town and smuggling route in southern Afghanistan. Then read a 7,500-word article in Harper’s magazine, also about Spin Boldak and the exploits of its powerful Afghan border police commander.

The conclusion they were expected to draw: The important information would be found in the magazine story. The scores of spies and analysts producing reams of secret documents were not cutting it.

“They need help,” Capt. Matt Pottinger, a military intelligence officer, told the class. “And that’s what you’re going to be doing.”

The class that began Friday in plywood hut B-8 on a military base in Kabul marked a first step in what U.S. commanders envision as a major transformation in how intelligence is gathered and used in the war against the Taliban.

Not too many months ago Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn published a scathing critique of intelligence analysis in Afghanistan (I thought it was more than a little weird and a bit too political to publish this report with CNAS).  But I have read the entire report by Matthieu Aikins in Harpers.  It’s well worth the read by people interested in hard core data, names, information and analysis of the situation in Afghanistan.

Whether studying Aikins’ report, or Nicholas Schmidle on the Next-Gen Taliban, or David Rohde’s account of his captivity under the Taliban, some of the best information and analysis is right in front of our eyes if we can think outside the box.  This is why the media must be culled for good reports, and – to a lesser extent – it’s why I get military visits every day.  The new media merits its own attention, but it needs to be the right kind of attention.  We need for the military to pursue good analysis, not fulfill their own [sometimes] megalomaniacal ambitions to control every little detail of everyone’s life.

Who says blogs don’t matter?

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

From Google Analytics:

President_USA

See network domain number 139 that particular day from Washington, D.C.  Analytics shows this to be a previous (repeat) visitor who didn’t come to TCJ via other links.  Here at The Captain’s Journal we’re glad to have each and every one of our readers, from the executive office of the President U.S.A. to DoD, CENTCOM, Dyncorp, Cornell University, FEMA, the U.S. Senate, and John Deere.

Military Limits Publishing Images of U.S. Casualties

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

In our coverage of the pictures posted by the Associated Press of Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard I called the AP editors who chose to publish the photo liars.  To me the rule they broke was fairly clear.

” … as long as the service member’s identity and unit identification is protected from disclosure until OASD-PA [Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs] has officially released the name. Photography from a respectful distance or from angles at which a casualty cannot be identified is permissible.”

The last clause stands on its own.  Embedded reporters may not publish photos prior to notification of the family, and also may not publish them even after notification if the terms of the agreement are violated, i.e., if the casualty or the unit can be identified.

They chose to break the pre-embed agreement they signed, and thus did they lie.  Now the Washington Post is carrying a clarification of the position of the U.S. military and ISAF.

The U.S. military command in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday imposed a new ban on publication of photographs taken by embedded journalists that identify American war casualties.

The restriction is outlined in ground rules for reporters embedded with U.S. forces battling Taliban insurgents in eastern Afghanistan along the Pakistani border. The new rules say that “media will not be prohibited from viewing or filming casualties; however, casualty photographs showing recognizable face, nametag or other identifying feature or item will not be published.”

The new rules mark a change from a broader rule issued Sept. 30 that said, “Media will not be allowed to photograph or record video of U.S. personnel killed in action.”

The restriction on publishing was prompted by controversy over an Associated Press photograph of a mortally wounded Marine. An embedded AP photographer took a picture of Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard during a firefight with Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in August, and the AP published the photograph last month over the objections of Bernard’s family and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

“After that incident, we felt that for the sake of the soldier and the family members that was what we needed to do,” said Lt. Col. Clarence Counts, a spokesman for the U.S. military command in eastern Afghanistan. He said the earlier rules “left it too wide open with regard to protecting the soldier and his family members if we had a KIA,” he said, referring to a service member killed in action.

Before the incident, the command’s rules had stated that the news media would not be prohibited from covering casualties provided several conditions were met, including gaining written permission from the wounded before publishing any images that could identify them and waiting until after the notification of next of kin to publish photographs of those killed in action …

The revised ground rules ease the Sept. 30 restriction by allowing casualties to be photographed, but the publication prohibition remains. The new set of rules appears contradictory, though. Another provision permits release of images of wounded troops if they give permission, stating that “in respect to our family members, names, video, identifiable written/oral descriptions or identifiable photographs of wounded service members will not be released without the service member’s prior written consent.”

I had gone on record saying that if I was proven wrong concerning the rules at the time of publication of Joshua’s photo, I would retract my charge that the AP editors are liars.  It appears to me that the “clarification” issued by the military is just that, or in other words, additional wording that makes it unappealing for the media to lawyer their way out an agreement.

I’m still waiting for proof that the rules at the time of the embed didn’t spell it out in enough detail to be damning by itself.  If the AP wants to send me the agreement I will study it and issue a retraction if it can be proven that I was wrong.

Brian Palmer writing at the Huffington Post takes issue with my assessment of the situation surrounding the publication of the photos.  More correctly, he lets the reader make his own mind up concerning whether Joshua’s face is identifiable.  Brian correctly says I “hammered” the AP.  And so I did.  I will hammer anyone who steps on the parents of military men who are fighting our wars in contravention of their signed agreements.

As a final note, Brian says that contributors to The Captain’s Journal have been critical of his own reporting from Iraq.  Well, perhaps, but this isn’t the full story.  Brian’s reporting from Anbar was admirable and informative, but I took issue with his characterization of the rules of engagement (Recon by Fire, otherwise called the Drake Shoot) as potentially killing noncombatants without also acknowledging that the tactic of hiding in a field wouldn’t be used again by the insurgents after this incident.  There are both intended and unintended consequences to every event.

Prior:

Concerning Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard

Publishing the Marine Photo: Remember the Words of Christ


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