Friday, October 26, 2007

Your Military At Work: Beauchamp, Boylan, and McCarthy

Update: Somebody claiming to be General Petraeus’ chief flack in Baghdad, Col. Steven Boylan, waxed wroth at blogger Glenn Greenwald in an unsolicited e-mail for criticizing the leaking of the Beauchamp file, and taking umbrage at Greenwald’s assertions that the Occupation’s press relations have fallen under more direct White House control and become more politicized and conspiratorial as a result.

Much craziness ensues and the exchanges between Greenwald and real Boylan and the supposedly fake Boylan can be read here and here.

IP address boffins apparently find it likely that the original missive was sent from Col. Boylan’s e-mail address. If the real Col. Boylan wrote the e-mail, he sounds a little unglued. Sample quote:

I am curious as to when you think the media relations or operations changed here in Iraq. I in fact do know exactly the day and time thatit changed and want to see if you are even in the same ballpark as reality.

I think observers would be interested in Col. Boylan’s admission that Iraq media ops were indeed overhauled and would like to know more.

Instead we get the bizarre challenge meant to demonstrate that Gregg Greenwald is not privileged to share Colonel Boylan’s special reality, but instead hints that Colonel Boylan’s head is perhaps in a special but not necessarily happy place.

Only I Know the Day, the Date, the Hour, the Minute, and the Second And YOU DO NOT MR. GREENWALD Bwahahahaha!

As to changes in media outreach, my impression is that Col. Boylan decided, with or without the encouragement of the White House or RNC, that he should reach out to the blogosphere, particularly the right wing blogosphere with its more favorable environment and network of amplifying links, while also stroking some elements of the liberal blogosphere (like Kevin Drum).

Col. Boylan did an interview with an outfit called Newshoggers on October 9. 2007. The interview itself is not very interesting, but the comments are more revealing.

Col. Boylan was treated courteously but not particularly reverentially in the comments on various concrete points. He chose to join the comments thread and go meta with a somewhat tangential stemwinder on who he was talking to, as opposed to what he was talking about.

The guy obviously has a need to express himself, repeatedly, defensively, and somewhat impulsively. And ad nauseum .

He writes a propos of, as far as I can tell, nothing:

I have found the exchange interesting of the past few days and in a larger extent, since the overall dynamic and exchanges since February upon my return to Iraq for my second extended tour of duty.

As a public affairs officer I know that typically there are three audiences that I (we) tend to deal with. You can probably add a fourth, but they are small, those that do no care at all one way or the other.

Two of those audiences are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Those that disagree with my (our) position completely and no matter what is said, what evidence is offered to refute their thoughts, etc., they will not change their mind. That is okay. I don’t tend to focus too much on that group for the obvious reasons.

The other group is that one that supports you (us) again, no matter what. I don’t focus on that group too much either, again for the obvious reasons, but we do tend to ensure that they are informed as well.

The last group and probably the largest is the group that is either on the fence, does not know enough about the issues to make an informed decision for any number of reasons, or just has simply not made up their minds. As any communicator knows, this is the group that you tend to focus on. In my area, this is the group that more so than others needs to be informed so as to make an informed and educated decision. That is what my job and about.

It isn’t spin, or party lines, or whatever your favorite phrase is of the day, but it is to inform and educate so as to allow them to make informed and educated decisions.

In a warped way it does please me that there are those that can voice their views against what my views are or in fact against the facts that are presented and are accurate and actually are irrefutable. But they voice their views and opposition anyway and call it the party line and immediately attempt to discount what has been said by criticisms or in some cases, character assassinations or at least some attempt too.

Of late, I have found this to be more true about the issues concerning Iraq as time came closer to the September Assessment. It was amazing to watch the dividing lines, the pundits, the self-proclaimed experts who never stepped foot inside Iraq at any point in time since we have been here. It is okay to disagree….it is expected that there will be disagreements and debate. That is healthy, but at the same time, there are those that go over the deep end with it to the point of being what I might call fanatics and have lost all touch with reality. That is a shame.

I always enjoy a good debate and exchange of ideas. That is again healthy and has its benefits. However, I rarely take the time to respond to those that just voice uniformed views that you can tell right off that no matter what evidence is presented, no matter what facts are there, they will not change their views/opinions so I will not take the time away to attempt to do so and typically ignore the rude and uniformed comments they make.

Then he returned again and again and again to the comments thread to grind away at various points of disagreement. Clearly, this guy has trouble letting other people have the last word, and can’t keep his finger off the Send key.

And I can’t really take him at his word when he says he “typically ignore[s] the rude and uninformed comments”. The guy is obviously a flame war about to ignite.

So I have little difficulty in imagining Col. Boylan as somebody who would have some trouble keeping his cool with his critics—like Glenn Greenwald.

Original post below:

Talking Points Memo’s Greg Sargent posted on the recent travails of TNR battlefield auteur and wingnut punching bag Scott Thomas Beauchamp.

Somebody leaked to Drudge and Sargent writes :

In other words, an Army spokesman basically acknowledged here that while they're not willing to reveal the docs supporting their case to TNR, which is the actual target of its probe, someone internally is willing to give some stuff to Drudge, almost certainly with the intent to carry out payback against the mag. I'm not necessarily defending TNR here -- as Kevin Drum notes, this remains murky -- but the bottom line is that this Army conduct stinks really, really badly.


Really really?

I’ve always found the obeisance to the supposed truth-telling probity of our warriors rather bewildering. The military’s job is to destroy the enemy, protect its forces, expand its budget, and befuddle its critics—in that order. Telling the truth isn’t even on the list.

Although General Petraeus’s testimony demonstrated the central role of media operations and psyops in fighting a counterinsurgency’s most powerful enemy—skepticism and disgust in the homeland—clandestine military management of the media is an old, old story.

This was brought home to me while I was researching 1950s anti-Communism and Joseph McCarthy.

I don’t know how widely it’s known, especially by conservatives eager to elevate McCarthy into the right-wing pantheon, but his censure was brought about, not by crypto-Communists, Ed Murrow, or Judge Welch, but by President Eisenhower, working through the Army.

The simple and straightforward nature of the operation was brought home by a fascinating and charming narrative, Covering Senator Joe McCarthy by Alvin Spivak who, in 1954, was a young wire service reporter covering Washington for International News Service.

As Mr. Spivak tells it:

... the Army’s counsel, John G. Adams slipped to some senators and to the Baltimore Sun’s reporter Phil Potter a 34-page single-spaced “chronology” of efforts by Cohn, with McCarthy’s backing, to force the Army to give Roy’s recently-drafted buddy G. David Schine a direct promotion to lieutenant, assign him to serve his military term on the staff of the subcommittee, and enjoy sundry other favors. The bottom line was a charge that Cohn threatened to “wreck the Army” if his wishes were rejected.

Adams, a fellow South Dakotan and long-time friend of Potter’s, knew Potter would make use of the anti-Cohn, anti-McCarthy chronology, Potter, in turn, knew that the chronology was potential dynamite and his unsyndicated story would get nowhere unless other news outlets had it too.

The way Potter told it to me later, he therefore offered a copy of the Adams chronology to Arkansas Democratic Sen. John L. McClellan, ranking minority member of McCarthy’s subcommittee. McClellan was an arch-conservative and at first didn’t oppose McCarthy, but he grew to despise the Wisconsin Republican’s tactics. And so, with Potter’s guidance, McClellan invited a small group of reporters to his Fairfax Hotel apartment in Washington and leaked the chronology to them. I was one of those invited. Others included reporters for AP, UP, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

There was only one copy of the chronology available at McClellan’s suite, so the four other reporters and I laboriously hand-copied each of the 34 single-spaced pages of the document, passing each page to the other reporter until all were finished copying. We didn’t finish
until close to midnight. From the hotel, I phoned a “bulletin” and brief story to the INS news desk in Washington, to catch the wire at the end of what we called the “A.M. cycle” for morning papers.


At the time, and for years afterward, I thought Adams had prepared and leaked his chronology on his own, in retribution for his and his Army colleagues’ treatment by McCarthy and Cohn.

Thirty years later, the full story came out in Ewald’s deceptively titled “Who Killed Joe McCarthy” book. Ewald provided chapter and verse on how Adams was only one player in a broadly mounted but confidential assault on McCarthy and Cohn by the Eisenhower White House, Department of Defense, and Department of the Army. The President himself was described as publicly silent but vitally active in orchestrating the developments that spawned the Army- McCarthy hearings.

Today, newsies don’t sit around like schoolboys in detention copying out 34-page document dumps. But as far as the Army is concerned, little else has changed.

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