Archive for the 'Media' Category



Recommended Reading and Viewing: Getting Hit to Get the Shot

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 3 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
4 years, 3 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
4 years, 7 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
4 years, 11 months 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
5 years 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

About that Rescued New York Times Reporter

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 1 month ago

Jules Crittenden has a roundup of reactions to the British Special Boat Service troops’ rescue of the NYT reporter (also see The Washington Post).  Its’ impressive to me that the British took on this responsibility.  But it is the solemn duty of a country to mourn its lost, grieve its wounded, and bear the national burden of moral judgments during a time of war.  To be sure, there are limits as we have discussed in the release of the photo of young Joshua Bernard.  The concern there is not national exposure but protection of the family.

But as a country laments and engages in outrage, sometimes it’s simply appropriate to listen rather than critique.  My own feeling about this is that I support embedded reporting.  Ernie Pyle did it, and still maintained his independence from the story lines coming from the public relations efforts.  Ernie Pyle died too, but embedding is still the way to go.  But when embedding is done the reporter is obligated – morally and legally – to follow the rules set in place by those who are protecting him or her.

If a reporter wants to get the scoop or turn the story without the aid of or reference to our troops (Nir Rosen comes to mind), then my feeling is that when you play the dice you take your chances.  In a world that increasingly looks for cradle to grave security from the state, taking chances is seen as a way to strike it rich but a way to do so while relying on the government as a safety net.  It shouldn’t be that way.

But on a more personal level (as a Marine father), it needs to be remembered that every casualty is a son of America.  It’s easy to depersonalize casualties for those who are not close to someone who has lost a child to the war(s).  The country blocks out the information, but when it’s in front of you every day it’s a difficult task to accomplish.  As casualties mount, the country increasingly needs to see the moral imperative for the losses.

It’s just the way it is.  War is a costly and awful thing, and a country must be dedicated to the cause for what it sees as good and morally justified reasons in order to maintain commitment.  I cannot possibly see how the UK can justify the loss of one of its sons for a New York Times reporter.  Some discussions on this issue will foray into policy.  I’m not talking about policy.  I’m talking about value judgments.  In order to understand this from the perspective of a British parent who has lost his son to save a reporter, one needs to think viscerally and personally.  Policy just won’t do.  Sometimes it’s appropriate to ponder over the dark things that other people experience.  It helps to form values.

Concerning Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 1 month ago

In response to Publishing the Marine Photo: Remember the Words of Christ, John Bernard, 1stsgt USMC ret., speaks.

I am Lcpl Joshua Bernard’s Father. I deeply appreciate your intense concern over this immoral act and believe these folks are working without a functional conscience as described in Romans chapter 1. Having said that; I will make the same point here that I have now made repeatedly in interviews. We cannot let this ‘distraction’ change the important elements of the greater story and that is the implimentation of the new ROE. There aren’t 1000 Afghan lives that are worth a single Marine’s life. I say this because I am first an American and Marine – not a world citizen. We have a right and responsibility to export violence to defend these shores and our citizenry. Anything less and we will be judged ‘found wanting’ as the Bible describes those who fail to do what they know to be right. It is time for us to hold our elected officials accountable and renind them that they are Americans and for the attrocities against our Warriors that they are complicit in. Keep fighting the fight guys, here in your blog as I am with this small window of opportunity I have been given through the shed blood of my only son.

John Bernard
1stsgt USMC ret.

For more, see Proud to be a Marine.

Publishing the Marine Photo: Remember the Words of Christ

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 1 month ago

As you know, there is a current professional scuffle going on over the issue of the AP decision to publish a photo of a Marine after he had been mortally wounded by an RPG, but prior to his death. I refuse to re-publish the photo, but if you care to view it you can find it at the links I provide. I must provide links in order to critique the incident.

First off, Jules Crittenden critiques the incident with a complex professional analysis of the practice of taking photos and then making decisions later as to whether publication is warranted and / or even appropriate.  By Jules reaches the conclusion that:

In this case, if the Pentagon wants to maintain its rule of not allowing identifiable casualty photos, given not only the overt rules violation but the AP’s decision to ignore the Bernard family’s repeated objections, the Pentagon probably ought to bounce both the photog and the AP, if only from the operation in question. Either that or ditch the rule. The AP has no moral leg to stand on. In this business, you make a deal, you stick with it, until some extraordinary circumstances arise that call the deal into question.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates attempted to protect the feelings of the family, by literally begging the AP not to publish the photo.

I cannot imagine the pain and suffering Lance Corporal Bernard’s death has caused his family. Why your organization would purposefully defy the family’s wishes knowing full well that it will lead to yet more anguish is beyond me. Your lack of compassion and common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken child on the front page of multiple American newspapers is appalling. The issue here is not law, policy or constitutional right – but judgment and common decency.

Tom Ricks asks what the hell the AP was thinking?

Bob Goldich, a friend of mine whose son served as a Marine in Iraq, observes that, “the photo was not of LCpl Bernard after he had died-it was while he was dying.  I think this is crucial.  The dead feel no pain.  But the dying do, and publishing the photo transmitted LCpl Bernard’s pain to his family.”

The AP stated that despite the objections, it went ahead and ran the photo because it “conveys the grimness of war and the sacrifice of young men and women fighting it.” I confess that I haven’t looked at the photo, and don’t want to. But if that was the AP’s purpose, what was so urgent that it couldn’t wait a few weeks or months, until the family had had a chance to mourn? I mean, these wars aren’t going away.

Today I am embarrassed for American journalism. As a former military reporter, I also am angry with the AP. They’ve committed the sin, but all of us in the media will pay for it. This one will haunt us for years. The Marines especially don’t forget. What a long way to come from Iwo Jima–that iconic photo of the flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi was taken by another AP photographer, Joe Rosenthal.

I’ll end with a plea to the AP: It is never too late to do the right thing and apologize.

The AP will never apologize if their moralistic defense is any indication of their plans.

In the current case, Mr. Lyon of the A.P. said there was a “healthy discussion” within the organization about distributing Ms. Jacobson’s photo. “The decision we came to was that — as a journalistic imperative — the need to tell this story overrode some of the other considerations,” he said. “Of course, we appreciate the anguish of the family of this marine. Of course, we appreciate the sacrifice that he made for his country. At the same time, there’s a compelling reason to show the real effects of this war. Sanitizing does everyone a disservice, in my view. Limiting casualty counts to numbers and names and nothing else; that’s a very incomplete picture of what’s going on.”

Journalistic imperative.  That means that if we really, really, really, really, really want to violate our contracts, we can.  One or two or even three really’s just won’t do it.  It requires more unction than that.

Gates begged on behalf of the family, and Tom Ricks asks why the AP couldn’t have waited a few more months.  Jules advises sticking to deals with the exception of extraordinary circumstances.  Gates, Crittenden and Ricks are all justifiably outraged at publication of the photo, but none go far enough.

The agreement embedded reporters sign is that casualties not be specifically identifiable personally or with regards to a unit.  The agreement stipulates that coverage may be conducted:

… 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.  I’m not a lawyer, but (unfortunately) I spend some time in the code of federal regulations for certain obnoxious reasons, and this is simple and straight-forward.  This is not even moderatly difficult with respect to the legalities.

The rules are in place specifically to prevent the situation in which the family found themselves.  The DoD, thankfully, doesn’t leave it to journalists to judge the appropriateness of a photo.  This judgment is already made, and the rules follow the same pattern of priority as Gates’ plea.

Don’t get me wrong.  I support embedded reporters, and I support the idea that we should see scenes of war.  This is the national burden during times of war, but the burden is so far less than that borne by the families that the rules have been crafted to protect them rather than the journalists.

The AP took a responsibility upon itself that it doesn’t and cannot ever own under the terms of the agreement.  There is no extraordinary circumstance.  Period.  Waiting a few more months is not long enough.  Period.  There is outrage over the publication of the photo, and there should be.  The young Lance Corporal is obviously in shock, and his battle space pain is now his family’s pain thanks to a moralistic but immoral journalistic decision.  I would be remiss if I didn’t note that I had a copy of the Cubbison study on the battle of Wanat months ago (still hasn’t been released), and until his study had been “outed” I didn’t comment on the findings of this study.  Also, if I had taken this photo, I wouldn’t have published it.  I have even struggled in re-publishing certain already-published MSM photos on this blog.  In this instance, a blogger has more professional ethics than professional journalists.

The AP signed a contract in order to obtain the protection of the U.S. Marines.  They violated the terms of that contract, and thus they are liars – at least, the people who made the decision to release this photo.  It’s too late not to be liars, and it’s also too late not to have caused the emotional distress to the family that they did.  The damage has been done, and for it, not a single person knows a single iota of information about the campaign that they didn’t before the photo was published.  They blew their moral capital on a whim.  They threw away their soul.

In a country that has become accustomed to chuckling over what the meaning of ‘is’ is, it’s best to remember the words of Christ not only in life experiences, but preening, self-important, moralistic journalist round-tables as well: “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no,” Matthew 5:37.

UPDATE:

From Andrew Lubin,

Have you no shame?

By your cavalier actions in publishing the photos of LCPL Joshua Bernard as he lay dying, you have not only jeopardized the work of legitimate combat journalists, but you have lowered the reputation of journalistic integrity to that of those paparazzi begging for a picture of Brittany or Lindsays’ beaver.

While in theory you are protecting the public’s “right to know”, in practicality you took a young man “in extremis” and used these unauthorized photos for your own commercial interests. Worse, after calling his father for permission to use these photos – which you admit he denied you – you used them regardless of his wishes.

This is not responsible journalism; this a reality journalism not even worthy of the supermarket tabloids.

Read the whole article.

The Captain’s Journal Blocked in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

Joshua Foust and I were engaging in some friendly jousting over a few articles we had written (and found much more on which to agree than disagree), and some interesting information came to light.  You see, Joshua is currently in Afghanistan, and he responded to me that he couldn’t get to my web site as it was locally blocked by S6 (or otherwise CJ6 or J6, which is Army IT Staff).

I immediately copied the article into an e-mail and sent it on its way, but only later did the importance what Joshua said dawn on me.  Pressing him for more data and information, Josh responded with an article of his own.  The results of his little investigation are striking.

Blackfive is blocked, as is Abu Muqawama, Global Guerrillas, and our very own The Captain’s Journal.  This list is not comprehensive.  Allowed are Small Wars Journal, The Long War Journal, and rather interestingly, Bouhammer, whose URL has the word ‘blog’ in it.  I use WordPress to create articles, but I am not associated with WordPress and the Army would have no way of knowing what software I use.

The Captain’s Journal hasn’t been swept up in some doltish group block such as with Twitter.  No, we have been specially selected.  Says Joshua:

On a personal level, Registan.net is blocked. This is not an automatic block, as the category used in the reason line is “local blocks,” or it was manually added. Why an S6 would want to block this blog from being read on Army computers escapes me, but it is nevertheless the case. Many other blogs, including everything on blogspot, are also inaccessible … I see no noticeable rhyme or reason to this, aside from some local blocks, like Captain’s Journal, that are deeply puzzling. But it also speaks to a deeper problem in how the military in general is approaching IT issues in the field: it makes absolutely no sense. Many of the blocked blogs are sources for deep, intelligent, and even essential analysis, news, and discussions. In fact, I only know they are blocked because I read them and see value in them.

Someone in the Army in Afghanistan, after reading our content, has made the decision to initiate a local block of The Captain’s Journal.  Is it a field grade officer?  Is it a member of Army IT staff?  We don’t yet know.  But we do know that this is not accidental.

Now, we have been critical of the failure to look forward and plan for problems in logistics in Afghanistan, given that we pointed out the strategy now being employed by the Taliban one year ago in Taliban and al Qaeda Strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  We also shot straight with Major General David Rodriguez (and Army intelligence) for ignoring the signs and even arguing that there wouldn’t be a Taliban spring offensive in 2008.  And while we praised certain parts of the campaign such as the Marine Corps operation in Helmand, we were also critical of certain other parts such as the disaster at the Battle of Wanat, especially focusing on the lack of control over the terrain at Observation Post Top Side.

But there are bright aspects of our prose, such as our almost constantly reminding command that Afghanistan needs more troops along with Generals McNeill and McKiernan.  We don’t apologize for any of it.  We aren’t a cheerleader site.  We don’t try to beat other web sites with breaking news.  We don’t regurgitate talking points.  We are an analysis and advocacy web site.  Our track record is impeccable, from advocating troop increases in Iraq before the word “surge” had ever been heard, to predicting the interdiction of logistical routes through the Khyber pass.

The troubling aspect of The Captain’s Journal being blocked isn’t our own reputation.  We won’t change, and we will only do what we can do to influence policy, logistics, strategy and tactics.  We are still a relatively small blog, but we have been contacted by a number of military both in Afghanistan (before we were blocked) and after coming back stateside.  We have been told that we are one of the more “squared away” web sites on Afghanistan.

But even if it’s unlikely that The Captain’s Journal could make any substantive difference in the state of affairs – and we are not convinced that this is so – the troubling aspect of being blocked is what it says about the Army and its institutional intransigence.  I already have had such experiences with the Marine Corps, and my relationship with PAOs has probably been irrevocably harmed as a result.

But when the Army’s own Command General Staff College is now requiring its officers to blog, what does this say about their own ability to listen to constructive criticism when they apparently cannot bear the scrutiny of The Captain’s Journal?  This is not a good sign.

Others:

Joshua Foust, Registan, Dispatches from FOBistan

Wings Over Iraq, Regarding Proxy Servers and Blocked Websites

David Axe, War is Boring Blocked!

Prior:

The Captain’s Journal, Thoughts on the New Media and Military Blogging

Support Andrew Lubin’s Embed in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

Andrew Lubin, who blogs at The Military Observer, is headed back to Afghanistan.  Andrew has authored articles we’ve used and quoted here, along with other work in Leatherneck, Small Wars Journal, Proceedings (U.S. Naval Institute), and others. He’s one of those few free-lance correspondents who goes out in the field with the Marines and soldiers; he understands both the strategies and tactics over which he writes.  He has embedded and written from both Iraq and Afghanistan.

He’s asking for support for his trip back to Afghanistan, and asked us to mention that his book “Charlie Battery; A Marine Artillery Battery in Iraq”, is available for sale off his website. The book won the Military Writers Society of America’s 2007 Gold Medal for best military non-fiction, and selling it is how he funds his embeds. It’s a great book, and in this market, he needs all our support.  Without reader support, trips like this would not be possible.


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