Thursday, May 31, 2007


Senator Lieberman and the Troops

McClatchy Newspapers published a story yesterday, an utterly predictable hit piece

describing a small portion of Senator Joseph Lieberman’s surprise visit to troops in Iraq. More on McClatchy, after a review of the story, written by Leila Fadel.

Fadel sat down with a young soldier, SPC David Williams of the 82nd Airborne Division, as part of “the first of the five ‘surge’ brigades to arrive in Iraq.”  SPC Williams was invited to share lunch with Sen. Lieberman, and he apparently gathered questions from other soldiers the night before, which he transcribed onto two file cards. Those identified as submitting questions were all young men (20-22 years old, Specialist (E4) and below enlisted.

Clearly, SPC Williams shared the contents of his note cards, which Fadel described as a “laundry list,” but she specifically mentions just three questions, and a statement.

As reported by Fadel:

At the top of his note card was the question he got from nearly every one of his fellow soldiers: “When are we going to get out of here?”

Not an unusual question for soldiers assigned to a combat zone, all the more for soldiers assigned as part of the “surge” of US forces into Iraq.

If these soldiers meant this question as oblique criticism of US military strategy in Iraq, rather than a matter of grave personal interest to soldiers in harm’s way, is unclear from Fadel’s written text.

The two other questions quoted:

When would they have upgraded Humvees that could withstand the armor-penetrating weapons that U.S. officials claim are from Iran? When could they have body armor that was better in hot weather?

One can imagine most MSM reporters would pick up on questions like these three, they’re certainly of greater interest than anything else that might have appeared on SPC Williams’ list, such as “why do you caucus with the Democrats when they hate you,” or “why can’t the rest of Congress support our troops without insisting we withdraw?” Okay, so the soldiers may not have wanted to ask those questions, but I’d be curious what Fadel omitted from her report, given she picked the three questions most of interest to agenda-driven reporting.

Last but not at all least, Fadel reports on a statement found on the bottom of one of his cards:

It isn't clear whether Williams mentioned the last line on his note card, the one that had a star next to it. “We don't feel like we're making any progress,” it said.

Fadel doesn’t explain how SPC Williams was selected, who organized the soldiers from whom he gathered questions, or if he was among others at the lunch. As I review the story, there’s likewise little in the account of the lunch itself, or and no information about whether the questions the soldier had prepared were actually asked. Fadel herself took special note of the question on SPC Williams’ list marked with a “star,” but neither SPC Williams nor Fadel ever explained its significance, or confirmed what Williams intended by marking the question.

Three other soldiers are specifically mentioned in the report, and each one is credited with a negative assessment of the war and our progress, or complaints about armor:

“We're waiting to get blown up.”

“We're not making any progress.”

“It just seems like we drive around and wait to get shot at.”

“It's just more troops, more targets.”

“It's like everything else in this war…[referring to Baghdad]…It hasn't changed.”

Soldiers do bitching better than almost anyone else, and younger, junior troops have oftentimes the most limited perspective on war, given their proximity to danger and distance from decision. All given.

But it is hard for me to imagine a more cherry-picked selection of quotes, even from junior soldiers, without one positive word or hint of motivation for their mission.

I know what I think of press pieces like this. If you don’t, or somehow think this should stand as journalism, rather than propaganda, ask yourself this.

If this was written by our enemies, intended to wear down public support for the war, or portray our efforts as deeply unsupported by our own military, how would it be written any differently than it was?

I did a little research on McClatchy Newspapers, to see if they showed any (other) obvious signs of taking a partisan or political slant on the war.

McClatchy, a chain of small, regional newspapers of which I have taken little or no notice previously, may not be well known outside their markets, but a cursory review of their homepage, their Iraq news coverage, and their “blog” Inside Iraq should allow any objective reader to get fair measure of their political persuasion.

McClatchy and their “Iraqi and US journalists,” not unlike their more mainstream media (MSM) brethren, can’t seem to find any good news from Iraq, and resolutely identify all possible negative consequences from any news that could otherwise be perceived as positive.

Humorously, McClatchie has a Good News link on their website, but it currently contains only two stories, both about “good news” for big government progressives, and naturally, no such entries for Iraq.

McClatchy also allows a couple of stringers in Iraq daily compile an unedited (and unverified) “Roundup of Violence” in Iraq (for example, The Roundup of Violence in Iraq, Thursday May 31, 2007).

McClatchy editors at least have the honesty to post a disclaimer, although they can’t resist editorializing even here (emphasis mine):

The daily Iraq violence report is compiled by McClatchy Newspapers in Baghdad from police, military and medical reports. This is not a comprehensive list of all violence in Iraq, much of which goes unreported. It’s posted without editing as transmitted to McClatchy’s Washington Bureau.

One can imagine that Al Qaeda and Iranian backed militias have the Washington Bureau (or at least the McClatchy stringers) on speeddial.

For a sense of how articles like the McClatchy piece play in the left side of the blogosphere, Nico of Think Progress presents a real eye-opener. No, not in his reaction to Sen. Lieberman’s visit with the troops, but with the hateful and deranged readers at “Think Progress” who respond in comments. Within two hours, comments are full of BDS and anti-Semitism.

Here’s a small but representative sample:

3. Well the troops should know that they’re getting killed and maimed for Joe Lieberman whose name ironically tells the story…Lie-berman.
But none of this will change anything until the troops and the folks back home are pushed to the breaking point. In a fascist regime, when the propaganda is perfected they is no changing course. Only death and destruction for the commoners, and more wealth and privilege for the Ruling Class, the Z I O N I S T S.

Comment by Shirley — May 30, 2007 @ 10:43 pm

8. The troops are being maimed and killed for people like Joe Lieberman, to ensure their wealth and privilige.
There is a name for people like Joe Lieberman.

Comment by Shirley — May 30, 2007 @ 10:45 pm

9. What a f*ckin’ joke. This guy shoud be run out of town already.

Comment by Denise — May 30, 2007 @ 10:46 pm

12. Oh come on, Joe’s doing a good thing here. He’s over there to see how his pet war is going. That a boy Joey, you f__cking pathetic moron.

Comment by Later... — May 30, 2007 @ 10:49 pm

14. I cannot summon the words to express my contempt for this putrid waste of human life.

Comment by VerbalKint — May 30, 2007 @ 10:56 pm

18. Gee, no one seems to mention that lieberman is a jew and the real reason we are there is because US troops are protecting Israel. Don’t you remember, back before the Iraq war Israel said that Iraq is their biggest threat. Now they are saying the same thing about Iran. Let’s stop being puppets of Israel.

Comment by Wes Denton — May 30, 2007 @ 11:14 pm

24. Shoulda just fragged the jerk. Seems like then he’d get the idea…

Comment by Dr. Crow — May 30, 2007 @ 11:21 pm

25. Somebody should have painted Joe’s helmet RED, because he is a warmongering whore for the Bush Regime.

Comment by Jay Randal — May 30, 2007 @ 11:24 pm

26. Like I said, frag the fool. Only way this thing’s gonna end is to frag more idiots who think its a cool idea. Worked in Nam, b’lieve me!

Comment by Dr. Crow — May 30, 2007 @ 11:25 pm

30. Dr Crow, right on.
Joe Lieberman (I-Israel) is only interested in promoting the AIPAC agenda.
Damn Connecticut (did I spell that right?) anyhoo.

Comment by RUCerious — May 30, 2007 @ 11:38 pm

32. israel was a bad idea when it was created and gets more expensive to maintain everyday.

Comment by wes — May 30, 2007 @ 11:40 pm

41. Wayne ~ I have no doubt that fragging has already started and we’re not hearing about it.

Comment by RUCerious — May 30, 2007 @ 11:49 pm

55. lieberman is biased.
he has personal interest in keeping US troops in the area.
he is jewish and wants to protect israel from all the countries that surround it.
i have no problem with jews, but we have no reason for protecting israel.

Comment by Rafael — May 31, 2007 @ 12:14 am

57. Joe Lieb has his nose so far up chimpy’s ass, he has to be Pinocchio.

Comment by Uncle Ho — May 31, 2007 @ 12:18 am

70. In response to their questions about leaving Iraq, Lieberman said it would be a “victory for al-Qaida and a victory for Iran.”

Answer the f*cking question, Yahweh boy.

Comment by Juan C — May 31, 2007 @ 12:42 am

(Courtesy of Memeorandum)

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Lipstick on the Pig

By now, everybody’s got an opinion over a new Pew Research Center poll of various attitudes and opinions of American Muslims. Some express outrage at the results, others criticize the outrage as misplaced, overblown, or hysterical. Clearly, the majority of major media outlets are spinning more positive interpretations of the results.

Victor Davis Hanson writing at The Corner makes the best argument, in my view. However much critics of the outrage want to make all kind of claims about people saying anything in polls, or comparing these results to other polls, or Muslims in other countries, none of those complaints stand upo against the simple logic of Hanson’s alarm:

Despite explanations from academics and religious figures—youth sound off, war is increasingly acceptable to Americans, Black Muslims may be a different subset of the polled, etc—one could interpret this as very bad news: the US just recently welcomed in tens of thousands of Muslims from the failed states of the Middle East, offering them an opportunity for a vastly different life, which apparently they embraced with open arms. And the views of some of that community to the most devastating attack on American shores in its history apparently include that 25% of its youth approve of suicide tactics, and only 40% on the entire community accept that Arabs carried out the mass murder.
Polls are unreliable. But one cannot praise them on the one hand for showing real signs of Muslim success, and then not be more candid that well over 1 million Muslims here don't believe Arabs were involved in destroying the World Trade Center, and several hundred thousand apparently approve in theory of the generic tactic of suicide bombing.

The Ace of Spades catalogs a dizzying amount of spin employed by major media in reporting the poll results.

ACE quotes directly from the Pew press release:

The Pew polling organization itself: Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream

"Mostly." Except for the 1-in-4 males of military age who support terrorism.

How far down does Pew bury its own lede? Well, in "Key Findings," we have to wade through five bullet-points, including ones about such scary-important factoids as "a large majority of Muslim Americans believe that hard work pays off in this society" and "Roughly two-thirds (65%) of adult Muslims in the U.S. were born elsewhere" -- before coming to this:

“Muslim Americans reject Islamic extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in Western European countries. However, there is somewhat more acceptance of Islamic extremism in some segments of the U.S. Muslim public than others. Fewer native-born African American Muslims than others completely condemn al Qaeda. In addition, younger Muslims in the U.S. are much more likely than older Muslim Americans to say that suicide bombing in the defense of Islam can be at least sometimes justified. Nonetheless, absolute levels of support for Islamic extremism among Muslim Americans are quite low, especially when compared with Muslims around the world.”

Note Pew does not report the actual percentage of young male Muslims who support terrorism -- only noting the percentage is higher than among older Muslims. It then immediately reassures us that the number is quite low, "especially compared with Muslims around the world," but refrains from telling us what this number actually is, so that we can decide if it's "quite low" or not.

26%. "Quite low"? I'd say it's rather high, but then that's me. I have this weird touchiness about being killed by religious maniacs.

I'd say that Pew worked pretty hard to slap some lipstick on this pig, but that might be considered Islamophobic.

Pew betrays an obvious partisan slant in much of what it does, aside from whatever amount of pig lip-sticking they do here.

Via, which also links to lots of other commentary:

Glenn Greenwald / Salon:   Large number of Americans favor violent attacks against civilians

Margaret Besheer / Voice of America:   Poll: US Muslims Feel Post-9/11 Backlash Despite Moderate Outlook

Brian Knowlton / International Herald Tribune:   Muslims assimilate better in U.S. than Europe, poll finds

National Review:   The New U.S. Muslim Poll

Ed Morrissey / Captain's Quarters:   American Muslim Youth And Suicide Bombing

Lawyers, Guns and Money:   Polls that actually matter

Mark Steyn / National Review:   "Potentially disenfranchised youth"

Jeff Goldstein / protein wisdom:   BREAKING: AP unable to unearth party affiliation of "Minn. Lawmaker …

USA Today:   Poll: American Muslims reject extremes

Karoun Demirjian / Chicago Tribune:   U.S. Muslims more content, assimilated than those abroad

Ewen MacAskill / Guardian:   US Muslims more assimilated than British

Thoreau / Unqualified Offerings:   Pew Polls Muslims

Robert / Jihad Watch:   WaPo: "Survey: U.S. Muslims Assimilated, Opposed to Extremism"

Douglas Farah / Counterterrorism Blog:   A Look at the Polls, Some Good News, Some Scary

Salon:   BREAKING!  Loud noise heard in parking lot at Topeka Wal-Mart!



Edwards, for Big Government, and Patronizing too

Senator John Edwards, a fan of Big Government, and patronizing too. Or would that be redundant?

Andrew Stuttaford posting at The Corner, links to a fawning Washington Post article on Edwards:

Ask Not What You Can Do...but do what your country tells you to do. Quoted in the Washington Post, John Edwards reminds us (as if we needed reminding) that he's a big government man:

“One of the things we ought to be thinking about is some level of mandatory service to our country, so that everybody in America _ not just the poor kids who get sent to war _ are serving this country...”

What an a$$. Another uniformed and ignorant elitist who thinks only the “poor” volunteer to join the military, and that we’re all kids.

Just to set the record straight, Senator. I was 45 years old when my National Guard unit was activated for deployment to Iraq. I celebrated my 46th birthday in Tikrit as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) III. The average age for soldiers in my unit was about 38 years old, and three of our soldiers were two time Combat Vets with a tour of duty in Vietnam.

At a time when National Guard and Reservists, most with prior Active Duty, are called upon to deploy to combat zones as part of our efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, I think Edwards proves himself a fool by viewing us as “kids.” But then, he’s done that already, in abundance.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Must Reads

Two terrific must-read commentaries, both courtesy of Glenn Reynolds (linked here and here):

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON, National Review Online:

[Reacting to a Drama Review in the Economist, about the play “Fallujah” now in London, in which Fallujah was described as “a shameful chapter in a disastrous war.”]

“Shameful” and “disastrous”? This cheap sermonizing of Western elites reflects two unspoken truths: privately, no well-heeled British subject would prefer the world of beheading, gender apartheid, and Sharia law that flourished in lawless Fallujah to the legal system and audit that governs the American military. And yet most understand that their own professional advancement, psychological well-being, and political acceptance come from praising the former and damning the latter. Thus the war to establish democracy to replace Saddam Hussein's genocidal rule must be reduced to "swaggering Americans" threatening female "Iraqi aid workers."

Former Senator Bob Kerrey, Opinion Journal Online:

American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq's middle class has fled the country in fear.

With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.

The key question for Congress is whether or not Iraq has become the primary battleground against the same radical Islamists who declared war on the U.S. in the 1990s and who have carried out a series of terrorist operations including 9/11. The answer is emphatically "yes."

This does not mean that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11; he was not. Nor does it mean that the war to overthrow him was justified--though I believe it was. It only means that a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would hand Osama bin Laden a substantial psychological victory.

Bob Krumm responds to Kerrey’s Op-Ed:

“If Democrats had nominated the other Senator Kerrey in 2004, they might already control the White House.”

Hmmm. Senator Kerry, a gift to the GOP greater than many realize.

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Why Media Matters

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit links to an exceptional piece of reporting by Michael Yon. Yon, as any reader of MILBLOGS knows well, is among the very few independent journalists self-embedding themselves within active combat zones. Arguably, the quality on Yon’s reporting surpasses anything else you can read. But often, his prose achieves the lyricism and beauty of free form verse.

That such writing also conveys a serious and critical message as well makes it all the more valuable. And I think, timeless; I’d nominate Yon’s work as essential content for any first draft of history of our efforts in Iraq.

In his latest report, Yon tells a vivid story of how British forces recently transferred authority for Maysan Province to the Iraqi government, the 4th of 18 provinces to be turned over.

With truly great reporting, a journalist tells the story by careful presentation of images and facts without the (unnecessary) intrusion of the author. The reporter serves as window, without edit, without embellishment, and without any verbal or emotional amplification. The story tells itself.

Yon does so here, at least through the majority of his piece. After a short background piece on recent violence and trouble in Maysan, Yon quickly reduces his report to a string of photos and captions, tied together with a very spare narrative.

As Yon tells his story, he explains that he’s reading General David Petraeus’ Ph.D. dissertation, “THE AMERICAN MILITARY AND THE LESSONS OF VIETNAM:
A Study of Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era.” GEN Petraeus evidently wrote this dissertation for his PhD from Princeton.

Yon quotes Petraeus:

Perceptions of reality, more so than objective reality, are crucial to the decisions of statesmen. What policy-makers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters—more than what actually occurred. . . .

Our enemies know this far better than we do. Not least, because so few practitioners of what can accurately be called journalism actually take the time to consider their effect on public perception, media manipulation, and propaganda – unless it suits their private, personal interests to do so.

Reading Yon, we can’t help but ask the question. Why hasn’t the story of Maysan, and the bigger story of the Iraqi struggle to preserve their democracy, been told in mainstream media (MSM)?

At the conclusion of the transfer of Maysan to the Iraqis, Yon reports:

And that was it: no big drama. The journalists all disappeared. The important political people went back to Baghdad or wherever, and few people seemed to notice that another Iraqi province was turned over. A sampling of the resulting coverage of the ceremony might explain why the handover of authority to Iraqis in a fourth province did not resound as loudly as one would think, given the phalanx of reporters and camera crews.

The transfer of authority did not even make the cut for news for most US publications and networks. Of those which included the story in their news reports, most mentioned it only as part of an overall report about the day’s activities in Iraq. Many of those included it in reports which were headlined or sandwiched with bad news about the violence in other parts of Iraq.

The Washington Post’s “Bombers Defy Security Push, Killing at least 158 in Baghdad” briefly mentions the transfer in a sentence in the seventeenth paragraph. Likewise, The New York Times’ “Bombings Kill at Least 171 Iraqis in Baghdad” mentions the transfer of the province somewhere in the sixth paragraph.
This general theme carried over in the UK media coverage as well. The Guardian offered “‘We’ll be in control by end of 2007’ say Maliki. [sic] In Baghdad, carnage continues.” The Independent headline blared “Hundreds killed on Baghdad’s day of bombs and blood.” Not to be outdone in the dramatic headline competition, The Mirror gave the world “BLOODIEST DAY: 191 dead and hundreds maimed as 5 bombs rock Baghdad.”
The BBC article titled “Iraq troops to take over security” reported on statements made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki in the speech prepared for the Maysan ceremony, (delivered by Iraq’s National Security Minister) about the schedule for turning over additional provinces to the control of Iraqi security forces. But before describing the ceremony and without ever providing any details about the province or the Iraqi security forces who now control it, the article inventoried recent attacks and included a mention of the withdrawal of Sadr loyalists from the Iraqi parliament.

On the day after the ceremony, the BBC mentioned it in the sixth paragraph of an article titled “Two UK soldiers killed in Iraq.” The next day it was mentioned again in a BBC article titled “UK soldiers killed in Iraq named,” although this time it was relegated to a mention in the nineteenth paragraph. No details about the ceremony were given in either article, both of which also referenced recent US and UK military casualties, civilian casualties and sectarian violence.

Along with Alex Zavis’ “British Hand Over Province to Iraqi Control” in The Los Angeles Times, two other reporters wrote stories headlined with the transfer ceremony. The Telegraph’s Thomas Harding filed his “200 killed as province returns to Iraqi control” from Camp Sparrowhawk, although he didn’t get around to anything about the transfer ceremony until the 20th paragraph. James Hider’s piece in The Times, “British put the ‘Wild West’ back under control of Iraqis,” was the only other news story about the transfer that was actually about the transfer.

Yon offers no further comment on his fellow practitioners. He headed out on his next mission, one that would bring Yon and his British hosts into a blistering and deadly attack.

To read more about that, we’ll have to check back with Yon’s next report.

But do consider how much misinformation and distortion is caused by media that filters actual news events so selectively. Context must never be provided, unless its political context that underscores the “deeply unpopular war.” Good news can only be included if juxtaposed and overwhelmed by the blasts and bombs of the day. Victory can never be spoken, out of deference to a faux neutrality, or a inapt illogic that insists that success can only be a subjective determination, at all times avoided.

Yon, and his work clearly underscores why so many dismiss the traditional MSM as hopelessly biased, ineffective, and unworthy of representing any kind of social estate. Unless someone can suggest one all of their own, without consequence to the rest of humanity.

Come to think of it, that’s exactly what malpractitioners have created for themselves. Thank goodness we no longer need them, with reporters like Yon.

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Another Whittle Essay

Just incredible.

Bill Whittle wrote the most brilliant analysis I have ever read.

No, I’m not exaggerating. I consider myself very logical, and like to think I can write well.

Every time I read one of Bill’s essays, he raises the bar ever higher. If I didn’t think there was room for all of us to share our thoughts online, I’d give up. He came across some Game Theory, a logical construct called the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and used that construct to explain, well, a lot of things.

Go read it for yourself. Carefully. Thoroughly, don’t skim.

I can’t vouch for where he goes in Part Two, it’s a little too much Virtual Community for me. I live in multiple worlds already (home, work, church, military, blog), and know whence comes both inspiration and salvation. But that doesn’t detract in any way from the power of Bill’s analysis in Part One.


Monday, May 21, 2007


News and Views on Iraq

John Ward Anderson, writing in The Washington Post this past Friday, trotted out some standard “Iraq is a violent mess” boilerplate, and for good measure threw in a gratuitous reference to a liberal British think tank assessment: that Iraq teeters on the brink as a “failed state.”

BAGHDAD, May 17 -- More than 60 people were killed and dozens wounded in mortar strikes, drive-by shootings, roadside explosions, suicide bombings and other violent attacks in Iraq on Thursday, as a new study warned that the country was close to becoming a "failed state."

Those of us who watch mainstream media (MSM) reporting on Iraq are so familiar with the template, and the boilerplate it contains, I believe most of us could dash off these reports in a matter of minutes. Just add the day’s horrors, find any supporting sound bites from oppositional sources, and file. But this report made me curious, as Anderson used an excerpt from this “new study” as the virtual cornerstone of his report.

Anderson didn’t do a very good job of identifying or clarifying the organization behind the report, nor did he make it particularly easy to find the organization or the report itself. As grist to the mill, the millstone cares not who tended the grain, I suppose.

After the lead paragraph, Anderson added a highly subjective characterization from the report:

A report released Thursday by Chatham House, a foreign policy research center in Britain, challenged the notion that violence in Iraq has subsided since the buildup of U.S. troops, saying, for instance, that car bombings had not diminished and arguing that radical groups were simply lying low.

"It can be argued that Iraq is on the verge of being a failed state which faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation," the report said.

I assume since the Editors of the Post chose to run this in Section A that they consider this a “news” report. Surely Anderson has fulfilled some criteria for news, adding lots of detail of killings and attacks ‘round about Iraq. But note that he gratuitously adds think tank commentary as if the commentary itself was newsworthy, and offsets these inclusions with official military responses. Including official reaction to news reports is standard fare in news reporting. But what Anderson does here is set up their think tank commentary as roughly equivalent to the official reaction.

This equates, in my opinion official response to the level of the subjective commentary, rather than as a primary source for news. I find this insidious, and revealing of a journalistic laziness. Amazing that such laziness is permitted in news reporting only when it deals with Iraq or other areas of useful partisan propaganda. I seriously doubt that the Post covers very many of its news beats with this level of subjective additives. They do here, without any contrast of opinion or analysis contrary to their obviously preferred outlook, precisely to suggest that the factual statements of military representatives are nothing more than opinion. Again, this treatment appears in what purports to be a news story, although in fairness (better) foreign correspondents are expected to provide analysis and commentary sufficient to allow readers to properly interpret the significance of foreign news. To the extent that a correspondent “outsources” this obligation to third parties (not the reporter and not the primary news source), I think it’s fair to ask for some kind of balance. At the least, I think Anderson owed it to his readers a little more insight into the study and the institute that produced it.

The study was produced by the Royal Institute of International Affairs, also known as Chatham House. Chatham House released the report on 17 May 07 entitled Accepting Realities in Iraq.

Here’s a summary of its conclusions:

* Iraq has fractured into regional power bases. Political, security and economic power has devolved to local sectarian, ethnic or tribal political groupings. The Iraqi government is only one of several 'state-like' actors. The regionalization of Iraqi political life needs to be recognized as a defining feature of Iraq's political structure.

* There is not 'a' civil war in Iraq, but many civil wars and insurgencies involving a number of communities and organizations struggling for power. The surge is not curbing the high level of violence, and improvements in security cannot happen in a matter of months.

*          The conflicts have become internalized between Iraqis as the polarization of sectarian and ethnic identities reaches ever deeper into Iraqi society and causes the breakdown of social cohesion.

*          Critical destabilizing issues will come to the fore in 2007-8. Federalism, the control of oil and control of disputed territories need to be resolved.

*          Each of Iraq's three major neighboring states, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, has different reasons for seeing the instability there continue, and each uses different methods to influence developments. 

*          These current harsh realities need to be accepted if new strategies are to have any chance of preventing the failure and collapse of Iraq. A political solution will require engagement with organizations possessing popular legitimacy and needs to be an Iraqi accommodation, rather than a regional or US-imposed approach.

Chatham House is an old school British Think Tank, whose political stripe can be deduced or identified with a cursory review of board members. Those whose political leanings can be identified are all Liberal (although in traditional UK political that can sometimes mean more Conservative that US audiences might think).

They do have a few overtly political snippets in the report that give away their orientation, like quoting Anthony Cordesman: “It is possible that a failed President and a failed administration will preside over a failed war for the second time since Vietnam.” They do so in the context of making a statement that (alternative) US choices would require the Bush Administration to “accept” this assessment. I’m quite sure the current US Administration can take any action, even one recommended by this study’s author, without accepting that Bush is a “failure” and Iraq is a “failed war.”

Aside from that, this is a political white paper for Liberal/Labor/Democrat war opponents to put a Foreign Policy wonkish veneer on retreat and surrender. Interestingly, sections that talk about the "many civil wars" going on in Iraq completely fail to mention Iranian influence or agitation or proxy war fighting, or even Al Qaeda attempts to incite sectarian civil strife. These omissions are clearly by design. Likewise, comments about Regional players describes Iran in at least neutral if not positive tones, and neglects Syria altogether. As with other leftist oriented Foreign Policy analysis, it tacks towards Iran (they deserve to have primary influence in region).

The paper also makes the breathtaking assertion that 20th century history “is increasingly irrelevant when discussing Iraq’s future, owing to the profoundly transformative effects of violence since 2003.” You would think a British think tank would be more reflective on the nagging residue of British colonial nation state building, as they criticize US nation state building. The paper ignores the fascist aspects of our enemies (in the 20th century or today), or those same aspects reflected in Saddam Hussein and his criminal elites. That’s by design as well, to make the following argument.

Without substantive evidence, the paper builds a case that our intervention in Iraq has created a worse situation that what was before, and clearly attempts to craft a foreign policy stance that makes the Iraq war a wrong, unjustified, and counter-productive. There is no acknowledgment here that we are at all in a state of war with radical Islam, or very real state and non-state actors.

Chatham crafted an excellent narrative, but their product here remains propaganda. Call it positioning for a post November 2008 world. (And what its proponents hope is a post-Republican world as well.)

By way of contrast, I highly recommend this truly excellent and thoughtful offering by Tigerhawk, detailing some modest truth propositions. He calls them minimalist assertions, and perhaps they are, but of value nonetheless.

Here’s his introduction (note his victory condition post as well):

Anyone who is not trying to gain partisan advantage should think seriously about the best Iraq policy for the United States in the coming months and years. The purpose of this post is to propose a framework for considering both the Bush administration's policy and alternative policies offered by both the right and left. Toward that end, I offer a series of minimalist assertions, delightfully free of evidence and supporting linkage. Each assertion or question is numbered; please comment below with reference to the corresponding number. (Background note: Newer readers may want to look at the most recent edition of my "victory conditions" post, published about a year ago at The Belmont Club. It includes my basic thinking about the intersection of al Qaeda and rogue states.)

Tigerhawk makes 33 assertions in two broad categories: our geopolitical interests in Iraq, and the military, political and geopolitical circumstances of Iraq, including the interests of others. I think he’s right on target, but do read the whole thing.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007


Unwitting Propagandists?

Jonathan Foreman presents a convincing indictment of the media, writing at National Review Online. Foreman faults a “selective skepticism,” in which western journalists accept every enemy propaganda claim at face value, while at the same time, discounting any statement from US or other Coalition spokesperson as necessarily biased.
Make no mistake, the Taliban and their allies, like the Sunni insurgents in Iraq, know perfectly well that they don’t have to defeat the Coalition militarily; all they have to do is undermine the political will of the Western electorates.

You might expect journalists to take some note of these practices and of the propaganda element of the war, and accordingly to exercise a little caution, if not skepticism, before they unquestioningly parrot an allegation of mass civilian deaths. (Surely they must be aware that reports of an atrocity can have enormous real world effects? Surely they have some sense that various Afghan players might lie in order to advance their cause?) Generally, however, they do not. For the most part, Taliban claims are assumed to be true. Statements by Coalition spokesmen, on the other hand, are a different matter. Such officials are said to make “claims,” and they are essentially assumed to be propagandists, if not flat out liars, by many correspondents (who won’t say as much in print, of course, but ask them about it over a drink). It is one of the ironies of our time that members of the media are so hypersensitive to being used or manipulated by any official person from their own society — military officials, government spokesmen, etc. — but can be as naïve as children when it comes to voices from other cultures. This would almost be laughable, if it weren’t so pathetic — and so poisonous. For instance, the BBC loves to quote Iraqi doctors about Coalition-inflicted casualties, apparently oblivious of the fact that the Iraqi medical profession was open almost exclusively to Baathists, is predominantly Sunni, and did extremely well under Saddam.
He’s right of course, but MILBLOGS and other conservative media have been blasting away at the MSM for years. They pretend a kind of “neutrality” or objectivity, but that’s just a guise for an adversarial stance towards anything military, or American, and especially, American Military.

I find it harder and harder to accept, as years go by, that the media workers complicit in propaganda are unwitting participants. How much naiveté, ignorance, or outright stupidity would be required on their part, not to realize how they advance the causes of our enemies?

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DoD Ban

John Donovan, regularly of Castle Argghhh!, but posting at MILBLOGS, reports that he has first hand experience in the decision-making behind the recent Department of Defense (DoD) ban on accessing You Tube, MySpace, and other designated Internet sites via DoD computers and networks. Beyond making a statement to that effect, Donovan withholds further comment other than to say he agrees with the decision.

The official announcement yesterday that explained the ban identified concerns over network bandwidth utilization as the primary reason for the ban. Earlier reporting had indicated that Operations Security (OPSEC) concerns had been a secondary rationale for banning these high-bandwidth sites and applications.

Mainstream media (MSM) outlets such as Associated Press (AP), NPR, MSNBC, among others have reported in the You Tube ban, and at least one US Senator has criticized the ban publicly. I was contacted by the local Fox affiliate to comment on the ban. Previously I’ve made several appearances for them, to provide background on military and MILBLOG related stories.

I am among those MILBLOGGERS sharing concerns that the latest OPSEC update may provoke tighter control and even prohibitions against MILBLOGS and other soldier use of media in combat zones. However, I am very familiar with typical corporate PC and network usage policies, and I conclude that the military’s blocking of such sites from official PCs and networks to be completely consistent with very common business practice.

For those soldiers with regular access to Internet Cafes, or who can contract with private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in areas with commercial Internet availability, the DoD ban poses no impediment to their private access of such sites and media outlets. Of course, those soldiers who have regular access to the Internet for work purposes, they will be prevented from accessing YouTube, MySpace, or a host of related sites. That just brings them in line with 90% of their counterparts in the civilian business world.

Employees accessing the Internet, particularly streaming video and other high bandwidth sites, pose an increasingly heavy traffic burden on networks.

Corporations routinely impose restrictions on Internet usage at work, restrict or reserve the right to review employee email, and install blocking software such as Websense. This not only makes sense for businesses, but reflects their right to dictate how their computing and network resources are to be used by their employees. That the military intends to assert the same authority for their employees should not be surprising, at all. In fact, I am quite sure that ubiquitous critics of the military would find a way to find fault, if they did not.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007


On Air Appearance

The local Fox Affiliate reached out yesterday for reaction to a reported military ban on soldiers accessing You Tube and MySpace via government computers on government networks.

Some comments from an interview ran last night dealined as "Soldiers Blocked from Websites."

This morning's interview is already posted online as well.

Both Greyhawk and Blackfive have weighed in on this, with some difference of opinion.

My take-away is that, just as any employer, Department of Defense (DoD) and military leaders have every right and even an obligation to restrict network and Internet access. At both my Guard and civilian places of employment, I can't usually access streaming video and some other selected websites. Blocking and firewall software (such as Websense) frequently prevent access to some blogs, video, MySpace, and other sites for a variety of reasons.

Soldiers with access to Internet Cafes, phone centers, and even the increasingly available private Internet Service providers (yes, even in combat zones) can still access all of these sites, just not on their work computers or over DoD supported networks.

As many MILBLOGGERS have commented, if you follow the rules already -- not using work computers or networks to blog, post video, etc. -- then this "ruling" doesn't really change anything.

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Friday, May 11, 2007


Greyhawk's Lament

Greyhawk posting at MILBLOGS laments a certain irony of our extended discussion over MILBLOGGING and OPSEC:
Joke of the Week

You know the funny thing about the whole "Pentagon Silencing MilBlogs" thing? Nobody actually reads blogs from deployed troops. Check the site meters for any of them and you'll see what I mean. Even funnier, when all the brou-hah-ha was raging, no one, and by that I mean no one, linked or quoted any of them on the issue. (This is because no one actually reads them, including those who were the most outraged about them being "shut down".) The Mrs had a nice collection on the Dawn Patrol the other day, for the 4 or 5 folks who might actually give a damn.

I suppose part of that lack of readers could be due to the folks at ripping off the deployed guys via their rss feeds, but no one reads either.
Now I don’t know if Greyhawk’s in the same kind of “Table in Damascus” funk as CDR Salamander, nor am I privy to traffic stats, but he certainly got me thinking.

I don’t take the time often enough to read MILBLOGS, let alone those who are “in the sandbox.” That’s not right.

So based on Greyhawk’s lament (that should be a euphemism or something, here’s a quick sample from today’s Via Dawn Patrol, pulled together by Mrs. G…
Heavy hands…
American Soldier says,
The wounds revealed and the stories that go along with it. The many reasons behind our flag are vast. For most the comprehension of what is given in order to preserve freedom is unimaginable. The loss of life. The failed marriages. The absolute horror to see your friend choke on his own blood. The sound that never leaves when he begs to just not die. You sit there and hold his hand and help him die slowly, you are helpless. Those final moments that will never escape you. The war and its many stories will never ever be told. The new regulations may and will prevent that. I will not allow that to ever happen to me. I will lose every bit of rank that I ever earn to ensure that we never forget ‘why’ we fight and what struggles we have within this fight. It is a good fight! Regulation or not, the stories about my fallen brothers will be told.
Forgive us of our trespasses and grant us the strength to live through the lone road that is called life. Some were not given that privilege. They gave their life for what they believed in. I have seen honor in its rawest form.
Support your soldier, not by bringing them home but allowing them to finish what we have started. If we leave in vane or for a political belief, then all that has been sacrificed will be shamed.

Desert Flier
Déjà vu, Monsieur

Blood arrives. Eric and I both grab one along with blood tubing. "Just keep the blood coming, and we are activating the blood bank as of now. Make it happen". The Army moves lightening fast, the Big Voice is calling out basewide for donors, and we have life saving whole blood in what seems to be minutes. The whole blood is a huge score for the patient: we are now giving him warm oxygen-carrying hemoglobin along with replacing the clotting factors he is losing to his injuries. Martin resects the patient's left lung: the round went right through it. Arterial line placed and Martin finishes damage control and is satisfied he stopped all of the thorasic bleeding. He starts closing the chest back up and places two new chest tubes to drain any residual blood. Blood chemistry and hematocrit counts are almost perfect despite the significant losses of the patient's own volume. Another save.
(snip)Sensory deprived moments: Strapped into my jump seat sandwiched between the crew chief and flight medic as the turning rotors rock me into a rhythmic trance after hours of trauma, surgery, and flying. The cabin feels like a miniature furnace late into the night. Smelling the requisite aroma of hot engine exhaust, hydraulic fluid, and a dozen other lubricants, propellants, etc. But this is a dedicated patient evacuation helicopter, so take the normal industrial smells and add a mixture of flight suits soaked in sweat, the patient, and the faint metallic smell of blood, old and fresh. A smell I will not soon forget........
I did make use of the listings at to see if there were any new deployed milbloggers I hadn’t heard about. There were some, though not many, and I note that a lot of milbloggers now stateside are shown as deployed, and vice versa, and several show dead links. Not sure if some have been pulled offline just recently, or if they have just fallen into disuse. I’ll have to ask JP about updates…


Thursday, May 10, 2007


Dix 6 Jihadi Plots

Bill Roggio passes along a link to the dopey reaction of the new owners of “Wonkette” to the arrests of the Dix 6 Jihadi plotters.

Why is it that liberals and other democrats think any Jihadi we catch BEFORE they implement their plans are pretenders, incompetents, terror wannabees, or innocents swept up in rhetorical excesses? In contrast to what many of these same have said about 9/11 terrorists, describing them as “daring,” “courageous,” “determined,” and “disciplined.”

There must be some mechanism when a boob with a bomb manages to detonate, despite his own inept-ness, that magically transforms him from pathetic loser into master terrorist. So one would conclude from simpletons (or partisan dissemblers) like the rubes at Wonkette.
Never in my career, on any CONUS post and most OCONUS outside of Iraq, have I ever seen soldiers issued ammunition. Heck, they don’t even have access to their assigned weapons. Those are locked up in arms rooms. At upwards of $3,000 a rifle, neither regular Army, Reserves nor Guard let their soldiers carry such equipment around, unless going to the range, checking them out for regular weapons cleaning, assigned to a specific force protection mission, or going into a war zone.

Call it one more aspect of the Modern Army. Other than Physical Training, we hardly move anywhere on two feet anymore, let alone march, and we keep our weapons safely secured until needed. That makes responding to a hostage, mass murder, or terror attack situation more difficult to respond to with any immediacy. Like the Democrat-preferred method for counter-terrorism operations, it’s a matter for appropriate law enforcement officials, after the fact (or at least, after the shooting starts).

Most posts don’t have significant amounts of local force protection via the Provost Marshall, Military Police (MP) and the like, but for regular law enforcement type roles. Just as with the University campus attack in VA, many of our installations (like Dix) could be hit with lots of casualties before any effective (armed) response would be forthcoming. The trick is getting on base, unless you decide to hit the rush hour line up coming on or off post at the gate. Threat Assessments have been done with more regularity since 9/11, and some open posts went closed, but the plot at Dix should have serious implications for Installation Force Protection.

I remember active duty in Germany, mid ‘80s. Bader-Meinhoff, Red Army Faction were active in Europe. We had a Turkish (!) guard at a top secret facility shoot himself and fall on the pistol. It occurred at night, at a perimeter gate manned by one foreign national and one US MP.

The frequently practiced but never utilized quick reaction force deployed (Intel types in the facility). We were issued weapons by the MP station – we had none assigned – and out we went into the night. The LT in charge told us to deploy towards the perimeter, if we got into any action, he would send ammo out to us. (I guess he thought he would toss it or run it out.) He kept the ammo on his person inside the facility. This was to make sure we didn’t hurt ourselves or anyone else. We were out about 30 minutes or so before the MPs determined it wasn’t an attack on our facility or a sniper, etc.

Afterward, there was hell to pay, complaints to US Army Europe, big furor, soldiers were irate about what they perceived as hyper-caution that could get us hurt. In the end the multiple star General decided that local commanders reacted “appropriately.”

Unfortunately, I think that’s still the premise behind CONUS garrison force protection. Perhaps the incident at Dix will shake the complacency behind those attitudes.

Potential terrorists and mass murderers, those inspired by radical Islam theology and its adherents (Al Qaeda, Iranian mullahs, and others), the fully converted, or even those explicitly controlled, have a great potential to score a major public relations (PR) coupe by attacking any of our more vulnerable targets.

One can compile a very long list of soft targets available: Planes and trains, tour boats and cruise ships, passenger terminals for all of the above, universities, schools, and hospitals and military installations, too. While these last might be the harder and more secure from this list of targets, the “profit” for terrorists in terms of PR might make them much more attractive, to demonstrate the “weakness” of our military.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007


2007 MILBLOG Conference


This past weekend, MILBLOGGERS and friends gathered for the 2nd Annual 2007 MilBlog Conference.

Andi of Andi’s World pulled the event together, with sponsors including, USAA, Soldiers’ Angels, , and Excalibur Research and Development. MILBLOGS provided a live video feed of the Conference, and Mudville Gazette’s own Mrs. Greyhawk moderated on-line chat for virtual conference attendees.

I tried my hand at live-blogging the Conference, unofficially. That’s not the best way to enjoy an event in which you have any personal interest. I hope to get a chance this week to clean-up my posts, and maybe pare them down to an Intro post and maybe one for each of the 4 panels. (I think I have over 20 of them sitting out there now, scroll down for the play-by-play.)

For a round-up of other post-conference feedback, see Andi’s post up on the Conference website.

I think the high point for me was having the President of the United States send us a video greeting, recognizing MILBLOGS for how much they contribute to the effort, in encouraging our military, informing the public, and combating propaganda and other oppositional mainstream media (MSM).

Okay, he didn’t say that last part, but I’m pretty sure he was thinking it.

Other highlights included the live feed from Rear Admiral Fox in Iraq, Matt Burden (Blackfive) passing along the letters written by Senators on behalf of MILBLOGS over the OPSEC controversy, and all the well-deserved visibility given to Soldiers Angels.

One of the Senatorial communications Blackfive came across was a letter from – choke on liquid hazard warning – Sen. Ted Kennedy. (More on the OPSEC story in a later post.)

It was great to see my friends from last year’s conference, really great to see all the media attention, and a pleasure to meet in person Greyhawk, Mrs. Greyhawk, Hook, Armed Liberal Marc Danziger from Winds of Change, Eagle1 of Eaglespeak, and so many of the good people from SA.

Summary of Live Blogging:
Conference Keynote Addresses
From the Front
All in the Family
Rapid Fire Roundtable
Support -- More than Just a Bumper Sticker


Tuesday, May 08, 2007


More OPSEC Update

I linked at the end of my last post to this commentary, here’s more.

OPSEC, the OOBs and the Myopic Mis-Focus of Security Personnel

By DJ Elliott, IS1(SW), USN(Ret)

Just below a photo of soldiers boarding a helicopter, DJ Elliott opens his report with the question, “what’s wrong with this caption?”

U.S. Army Soldiers move to the UH-60 Black Hawk after searching the area for items of interest during an aerial response force mission, Iraq, March 31. Soldiers are assigned to the 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway. [Link]

Msgt Dunaway may not be the author of the captions on his photos, but whoever is, needs to learn the art of “sanitizing” intelligence information. Public disclosure of this sort information is precisely what the increased vigilance of new OPSEC Update was designed to prevent.

Now, if that were a MILBLOGGER revealing that much information, we as fellow MILBLOGGERS would want to quickly come alongside and urge our colleague to avoid these kinds of violations.

There’s just one problem. The people who are releasing this kind of information, and lots more besides, are higher level Multinational Force headquarters and Public Affairs Offices (PAO), not MILBLOGGERS.

DJ Elliott along with a coworker has been compiling Orders of Battle (OOB) for posting on Bill Roggio's site. According to DJ, here’s what motivated the exercise:

My principle motivations for my involvement in publishing these OOBs are somewhat contradictory. First, I wanted to get the principle operational security [OPSEC] violators to tighten their OPSEC. Second, I want to further an understanding of the development of the Iraqi Security Forces and the Baghdad Security Plan. As a retired intelligence analyst, I could not believe that the Public Affairs Officers [PAOs] and Commanders were releasing this much operational data in a time of war.

For those who criticize their effort as a blatant violation of OPSEC, DJ makes the following argument:

The Order of Battles are not OPSEC violations, they are reports of OPSEC violations. All of the data contained within the OOBs is available with a simple word search on the Internet and any intelligence operation worthy of its name already has the data in far greater detail than what we publish in these OOBs. Most of the information used to compile the OOB comes from the PAOs and senior officer briefs. By far, these are the source of the greatest OPSEC violations in this war.

DJ reports a significant reduction in OPSEC violations since publishing the OOBs. Based on his research, and the sources for the information he compiles, DJ reports that military leadership itself can be identified as the worst of OPSEC violators, starting at the very top:

The worst OPSEC violator in the senior staffs is the Pentagon. I get more advance notice from a Pentagon Press Brief of US movements from Kuwait into Iraq than I get from all other sources combined. The Pentagon acts as if it is not at war, and the leaks emanating from Arlington are enormous.

After the Department of Defense (DoD) itself, DJ indicts all the major Multinational Division (MND) and Multinational force (MNF) commands as sources for intelligence exploitation, in clear violation of the letter and spirit of OPSEC. Beyond the violations of high level commands, DJ notes that various team assigned to training Iraqi Army units too frequently over-identify the forces they work with and their readiness status.

And who does DJ compliment as the top three maintainers of good OPSEC?

3. Military Bloggers: Despite the worries by the hierarchy, I have seen only five valid OPSEC violations in two years from Military Bloggers concerning ISF/Coalition forces (only 1 in the last year). MilBloggers tend to lose unit IDs and details in their writings in a way that PAOs should study and learn from.
2. Special Operations Forces: We have SOF? All joking aside their security is good and the Iraqi Security Forces is following their lead, except they do acknowledge that I SOF conducts operations now.
1. Multinational Division-North East/Zaytun Division (Republic of Korea Army): The best in-theater OPSEC. Period. The only thing I see from their AOR is what new project or jobs training is ongoing. Unit identification of coalition/Iraqi Security Forces below Division does not get released by the Koreans. I get my data on Iraqi Security Forces in that area from US PAO releases and briefs.

DJ goes on to explain that the major sources for public disclosure of intelligence and sensitive information (and therefore, those responsible for OPSEC violations) are photo captions, PAO press releases, Commander’s and Pentagon Briefs, and unclassified reports to Congress.

This makes intuitive sense for those of us in Military Intelligence. At each level of Command, on up to our civilian leadership, there is often one set of rules for the handlers of intelligence, for those who analyze and pull pieces together, and another altogether for consumers. Clearly, this gets more extreme the higher one goes, and some relates to executive authority to declassify information, or at lower levels, command prerogatives.

Yet, this is a new avenue of discussion, given the controversy involving OPSEC and MILBLOGS. Even more ironic (some might say perverse) is the level of animosity and distrust between some PAOs and MILBLOGS within their Area of Operations (AO). Note I say some; clearly the PAOs who attended the 2007 MILBLOG Conference (and the one in 2006) seem like big fans of MILBLOGS.

But for the PAOs who fight MILBLOGGERS within their AOs, one has to wonder. Do they really view them as potential OPSEC violators, or as competition? We politically minded types speak often about message control. Stay on message. Maintain message control.

Is that the motivation behind those who would shut MILBLOGS down, or at least see their prevalence controlled by local commanders?

I only pose these last as questions, I can’t say I know the answers.

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