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July 8, 2010
Sean Naylor, Army Times: Sources: Rolling Stone quotes made by jr. staff.
The impolitic comments that torpedoed Gen. Stan McChrystal's career were "almost all" made by his most junior staff -- men who "make tea, keep the principal on time and carry bags" -- who had no reason to believe their words would end up in print, according to a staff member who was on the trip to Europe during which the comments were made.
There's a good breakdown therein of who exactly is credited with what quotes in the Rolling Stone article - a mix of named and unnamed (or vaguely described) sources, something Hastings' work has in common with virtually any similar piece filed in the history of war.
But before pressing on with this discussion I'll revisit my comment from the day:
...General McChrystal apologized for the article (which he's rumored to have reviewed and approved - though that task may have actually fallen to another...) at the same speed he does for errant rocket attacks in Afghanistan. (How fast is that? Sometimes too fast... but that's another story...) Certainly that apology doesn't aid the General's defenders (or people who notice the actual truth in the matter) in their cause.For the record, here's that apology:
I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened. Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard. I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome.
So, if you like your stories simple - end of story.
But, if you're interested, the Army Times' piece sounds plausible on all points. Including an additional detail about that review
Boothby resigned as fast as McCrhystal apologized - but those questions and answers have since been published in the Washington Post. There are numerous valid issues raised by events of the day, but to imply or conclude from that bit of fact-checking that McChrystal and company had any foreknowledge of what was in the article is absurd beyond any point of debate. So, if there's any outrage on their part regarding Bates' claim that "We ran everything by them in our fact-checking process, as we always do, so I think they had a sense of what was coming" - it's justified.
And pointless. Once again, for emphasis: "I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened..."
And by way of explaining the "apologize first" approach:
[ISAF spokesman LtC] Sholtis said that "arguing about the merits of the article would have seemed like we were trying to protect or excuse ourselves rather than acknowledge our mistake. That may have not been the best PR strategy, but it was the approach consistent with the character of General McChrystal."
Which is admirable. And the General's apology was adequate for the content of the actual article.
But adding further fuel to the fire - the Rolling Stone story itself hadn't been released yet - and the public's perception of its contents was shaped by descriptions in other media accounts that blew it far out of proportion. In this case all that combined for a story that General McChrystal and his staff were a lot of drunken, insubordinate frat boys whose self righteous delusions of superiority and invulnerability led them to give a thumbs-up to a story that portrayed them as drunken, insubordinate frat boys with delusions of superiority and invulnerability. Then, once declared to be the leader of a group of drunken, insubordinate frat boys with delusions of superiority and invulnerability the General responded with the equivalent of "yeah - my bad."
All of which happened before the article was available to the public - of which 99% have not and will never read said article. For those in the other 1% (and I'm sure that includes anyone who's read this post), the Army Times piece represents a critical companion piece to the original. (Or postscript, as my title implies.)
Added (hat tip N.S. Webster): "Rolling Stone writer lands McChrystal book deal."
The book, untitled at this point, will be published by Little, Brown, and promises, according to Publishersmarketplace.com, "an unprecedented behind-the-scenes account of America's longest war," with an unfiltered look at the war, and the soldiers, diplomats and politicians who are waging it.
The marketing folks have probably already asked: can they get Lady GaGa on the cover?
Posted by Greyhawk / July 8, 2010 10:02 AM | 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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