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September 13, 2008
WaPo links Palin's son to al QaedaBy Greyhawk
Other fine folks elsewhere have already noted other problems with this Washington Post piece by Anne E. Kornblut. It is marred by a sort of sneering, bitter undertone that few reporters can approach a Sarah Palin story without revealing - along with a bit of contempt for complete facts that inevitably seems to accompany their results.
But that's to be expected. This is a political campaign, and McCain and Palin are on the other side. Fair enough.
This, on the other hand, disturbs me greatly:
Pvt. 1st Class Palin is being sent to Iraq with the Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division. Palin, 19, will be deployed to northern Iraq and will be primarily tasked with protecting and helping transport the deputy commander of his unit, Lt. Col. Michael W. Smith. His position is one of dismounted infantryman.I suppose it's possible the Army released that bit of information. But unless the rules have changed, that represents an OPSEC violation far exceeding anything I've ever seen. Certainly no milblogger has ever published something that blatant.
Compare that to this excerpt from a New York Times story on Jimmy McCain:
To protect Lance Corporal McCain in case he is again deployed to a war zone, The New York Times is not publishing recent photographs of him and has withheld some details of his service.Some might excuse the difference in detailed reporting by accusing Palin of using Track (and Trig, for that matter) as a campaign prop. (For that argument to be truly effective one must ignore Beau Biden's speech at the Democratic Convention). But Track joined the Army after she was elected Governor and long before McCain picked her as his running mate. Since she is one of three of the candidates with a son in the service, the degree to which we know details about any of them is less a result of the candidates' efforts and more a reflection of reporters' willingness to dig for facts and tell their tales. As I wrote a couple weeks ago,
And I don't want to get into details of MOS/unit/mission here either, but I'm sure that's going to be on the TeeVee before the weekend is out. I'd hope not - likewise with Biden's son - but enterprising reporters is what they is and do what they do and people have a right to know, alluh akbar.
Citing security restrictions, the Army will not say where in Iraq Palin's or Biden's units are being sent. Both units are scheduled to be in Iraq for 12 months.The same story adds this speculation about Palin's deployment:
Palin's unit is believed to be headed to Diyala, among the most dangerous of Iraq's 18 provinces. It extends from the northeastern suburbs of Baghdad to the Iranian border. Diyala has proven to be difficult to control because it is heavily mixed with Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds.And offers only this about Biden's
"Republicans always seem to imply that Democrats are somehow unpatriotic or want to be easy on the terrorists," said James Pfiffner, a professor at George Mason University's School of Public Policy. "But I think that Biden's son demonstrates that you can disagree with a policy and still support doing your duty."This isn't about the difference in missions - those who deploy to Iraq do what they do, and all are needed. The difference is in the level of detail provided - and there's a huge difference between "Bill will be a cook in Iraq" and "Bill will be a cook in Iraq working the lunch shift in the DFAC on the northwest corner of FOB (insert name) about 200 meters west of the main gate". A determined reporter can find out a lot of information about a unit's deployment (thousands of troops + tens of thousands of relatives x an infinite number of friends = opportunity). Knowing the risk involved, how much they choose to publish is determined by their own sense of decency balanced against their perception of the public's need to know. If you somehow benefit from knowing exactly where Track Palin will be in Iraq, and exactly what he's doing, then the reporters can declare "mission accomplished". If you need to know exactly where Beau Biden will be they have failed.
Update: Mrs G requests I clarify the title to this entry. It's a twist of the WaPo title "Palin Links Iraq to Sept. 11 In Talk to Troops in Alaska". By "links" I mean to imply that the WaPo story tells the al Qaeda goons exactly where they'll be able to "link up" with the Governor's son. The WaPo, on the other hand, uses the same word to imply that his mother is a blithering idiot. Hope this clarifies.
Jonathan Adler, on the Post story:
Most egregiously, there is no indication on the web-version of the story that it was corrected, not even a note at the end of the piece. Whatever one thinks of the Post's reporting here, it should at least acknowledge that it changed the story's text to fix an error. If we bloggers are expected to disclose substantive revisions to our blog posts, shouldn't the MSM be held to the same standard?
Posted by Greyhawk / September 13, 2008 2:45 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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