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Hotel Tango: Pew and PR Newser

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MilPundits

Apparently everyone is up in arms over the fact that Pentagon public affairs folks host regularly scheduled briefings for retired general officers (who happen to also be on-camera pundits for cable networks) about current military activities.

From Reuters:

Many U.S. military analysts used as commentators on Iraq by television networks have been groomed by the Pentagon, leaving some feeling they were manipulated to report favorably on the Bush administration, The New York Times said in Sunday editions.

A Times report examining ties between the Bush administration and former senior officers who acted as paid TV analysts said they got private briefings, trips and access to classified intelligence meant to influence their comments.

“Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks,” the newspaper said.

The Pentagon defended its work with the analysts, saying they were given only accurate information.

In other outrageous displays of the obvious news, Democrat and Republican spokespeople are given talking points and corporate CEOs are media trained. Details, tonight at 11.

Update: Jason hits the nail on the head. Check out what he has to say.

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D-Ring news room

From Reuters:

About 300,000 U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, but about half receive no care, an independent study said on Thursday.

The study by the RAND Corp. also estimated that another 320,000 troops have sustained a possible traumatic brain injury during deployment. But researchers could not say how many of those cases were serious or required treatment.

Billed as the first large-scale nongovernmental survey of its kind, the study found that stress disorder and depression afflict 18.5 percent of the more than 1.5 million U.S. forces who have deployed to the two war zones.

The numbers are roughly in line with previous studies. A February assessment by the U.S. Army that showed 17.9 percent of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from acute stress, depression or anxiety in 2007, down from 19.1 percent in 2006.

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From AP (via Breit Bart):

DENVER (AP) – Maj. Andrew Olmsted’s “Final Post” was published online—after the Rocky Mountain News blogger was killed in Iraq. Olmsted died Thursday with another soldier, Capt. Thomas J. Casey, 32, of Albuquerque, when rebels attacked with small arms near Sadiyah, the military said.

Olmsted, who began writing for the News on May 21 and described himself as a libertarian, had written what he called “Final Post” about his death. He asked a friend to post it on his Web site AndrewOlmsted.com if he died in Iraq.

In it, Olmsted, 37, warned against making his death an argument for or against the war.

“My life isn’t a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side,” he wrote. “I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I’m not around to expound on them I’d prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn’t support.”

He also quoted Plato as saying “only the dead have seen the end of war.”

“The news is devastating,” News Editor John Temple said. “The major was a brave man who obviously thrived on sharing his experiences and thoughts on his blog. He provided a perspective on Iraq that would have been impossible for a journalist. Our thoughts are with his wife, family and unit.”

The Department of Defense said Olmsted and Casey were assigned to the Military Transition Team, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan.

Olmsted leaves behind his wife of 10 years, Amanda Wilson, of Colorado Springs.

“Believe it or not, one of the things I will miss most is not being able to blog any longer,” Olmsted wrote. “The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous, even if most people who have read my writings haven’t agreed with them. If there is any hope for the long term success of democracy, it will be if people agree to listen to and try to understand their political opponents rather than simply seeking to crush them.”

Maj. Olmsted also blogged on the Rocky Mountain News Web site.

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Blog tag: Bhutto

I’m dying to hear what Matt has to say about the Bhutto assassination. Not really the topic of my blog, but I think he’ll have some interesting insights…

So Matt, I’m tagging you. Looking forward to what you have to say.

For everyone else, consider this an open thread to add your thoughts. About the news. About the news coverage. Whatever you feel like contributing.

Ready? Go.

Update: Matt posts with some interesting links, then passes the ball to Thomas Barnett. He hasn’t posted to his blog about Bhutto yet…

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Bob Burns, the esteemed Pentagon correspondent for the Associated Press, is reporting that the Pentagon is narrowing in on a strategy that will likely reduce the number of troops in Iraq.

He quotes “a senior military official.” Odds are 100-to-1 that that official is Dorrance Smith, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs

This appears to be a commonly used tactic in government media relations known as “softening the ground.” A senior spokesperson, generally the press secretary or communications director, will leak a story that has potential to be challenging or difficult for the administration on the condition that the person’s identity is kept secret. Why do this? So that the government can take the temperature of the public and see how they react to the news — and also to ease expectations.

The timing makes sense. September has been the month that the White House, the Pentagon and the media have identified as “zero hour” for the next steps in the Iraq experiment. It appears that they are bracing for, at worst, a negative report from General Petraeus or, at best, a report that is viewed skeptically by the Democratic congress.

Check out the article for yourself, and let the D-Ring know if you think this effort will be successful.

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If you aren’t a rabid news hound, you might have passed over yesterday’s op-ed in the New York Times penned by seven men — Buddhika Jayamaha, Wesley D. Smith, Jeremy Roebuck, Omar Mora, Edward Sandmeier, Yance T. Gray and Jeremy A. Murphy.

What isn’t stated in the byline (but is noted at the end of the article) is that these seven men are Soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C., and are on the tail end of a 15-month deployment to Iraq.

What is immediately obvious? These men are critical of the recent media reports that have suggested a rosier picture in Iraq, saying it runs counter to their experience.

These men are no Beauchamps — they are open about who they are, give their full names and are identified by rank (they are all enlisted, none ranked higher than E-6).

In the op-ed, they note that they are expressing their personal opinion and not acting in an official capacity as members of the Armed services. Still, they identify their ranks and their unit — this identification is what gives their claims about lack of progress in Iraq a certain level of authority.

The million dollar question, then, is whether or not it is right for Soldiers to be doing this. Does the right (and obligation) to share your beliefs trump your commitment to your chain of command and the mission? Do Soldiers really have an “out of uniform” public existence, or are you always in uniform when your name is splattered across the pages of the Times?

What are your thoughts? Sound off.

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