Wednesday, January 25


• Jack Shafer in Slate on Ombudsmangate:
The mass mau-mauing of Howell may seem like something that could only happen on the Web, but conventional instigators have been known to boost displeasure for media outlets into the stratosphere. Back in 1986, a local radio broadcaster organized a protest against the Washington Post because she thought the debut issue of its relaunched Sunday magazine treated African Americans unfairly. She directed her irate listeners to trek to the Post 's offices once a week to dump stacks of the magazine on its doorstep in protest.

In 1992, politicians and activists convinced about 200 people to picket the Reader, a Chicago alternative weekly, following its publication of what they thought was a racist cartoon of an alderman. In 1990, ACT UP vilified New York Times reporter Gina Kolata by plastering Manhattan with stickers denouncing her as "the worst AIDS reporter in America" and continuing their protest through the U.S. mail by sending her 200 angry Christmas cards. During the great Detroit newspaper strike of the mid-'90s, which was marked by violence and property damage, union organizers attached signs urging shoppers not to buy the struck papers to 30 mice and loosed them in a department store. See also any one of the letter-writing campaigns sponsored over the decades by Accuracy in Media or the perennial Christian protests against the godless TV networks.

Thanks for managing, after you finished with the coloreds and the queers and the unions, to squeeze the Right in there, Jack. They've been at it for only thirty-five years, and one direct result is the very sort of faux-balance that Howell employed in the first place. It shouldn't require any sort of reaction to make reporters tell the truth, but until they stop hiding behind this "both sides attack us" bullshit and actually address the problem, by, say, calling a lie a lie instead of an alternative opinion, then I'm glad people get out of hand about it. Same with Matthews, same with Russert. You guys in the mass media don't seem to want to face up to just how much you have to answer for over the past fifteen years or more. I don't personally think personal attacks are a great idea, but as it is piles of angry, obscenity-laden emails is the least that Wapo, et. al., should expect to endure when they continue to refuse to do their jobs.

Take Newsweek's Richard Wolffe on Countdown Monday night. Keith tosses him a bit about Rove's speech, asking who the Democrats are that Rove implies don't want us to wiretap al-Qaeda:
"Of course those Democrats don't exist...but whether it's truthful or not is another question."

Juan Cole: "Top Ten Mistakes of the Bush Administration in Reacting to Al-Qaeda"
On September 11, 2001, the question was whether we had underestimated al-Qaeda. It appeared to be a Muslim version of the radical seventies groups like the Baader Meinhoff gang or the Japanese Red Army. It was small, only a few hundred really committed members who had sworn fealty to Bin Laden and would actually kill themselves in suicide attacks. There were a few thousand close sympathizers, who had passed through the Afghanistan training camps or otherwise been inducted into the world view. But could a small terrorist group commit mayhem on that scale? Might there be something more to it? Was this the beginning of a new political force in the Middle East that could hope to roll in and take over, the way the Taliban had taken over Afghanistan in the 1990s? People asked such questions.

Over four years later, there is no doubt. Al-Qaeda is a small terrorist network that has spawned a few copy-cats and wannabes. Its breakthrough was to recruit some high-powered engineers in Hamburg, which it immediately used up. Most al-Qaeda recruits are marginal people, people like Zacarias Moussawi and Richard Reid, who would be mere cranks if they hadn't been manipulated into trying something dangerous. Muhammad al-Amir (a.k.a Atta) and Ziad Jarrah were highly competent scientists, who could figure the kinetic energy of a jet plane loaded with fuel. There don't seem to be significant numbers of such people in the organization. They are left mostly with cranks, petty thieves, drug smugglers, bored bank tellers, shopkeepers, and so forth, persons who could pull off a bombing of trains in Madrid or London, but who could not for the life of them do a really big operation.

Study: Army Stretched to Breaking Point

By ROBERT BURNS AP Military Writer

January 24,2006 | WASHINGTON -- Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.

Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon's decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.

As evidence, Krepinevich points to the Army's 2005 recruiting slump -- missing its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 -- and its decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives.

"You really begin to wonder just how much stress and strain there is on the Army, how much longer it can continue," he said in an interview. He added that the Army is still a highly effective fighting force and is implementing a plan that will expand the number of combat brigades available for rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 136-page report represents a more sobering picture of the Army's condition than military officials offer in public. While not released publicly, a copy of the report was provided in response to an Associated Press inquiry.

Illustrating his level of concern about strain on the Army, Krepinevich titled one of his report's chapters, "The Thin Green Line."

He wrote that the Army is "in a race against time" to adjust to the demands of war "or risk `breaking' the force in the form of a catastrophic decline" in recruitment and re-enlistment.

Take the two items above. They are 1) the central question of the supposed WoT, and 2) the central question about our continued presence in Iraq, and the most serious, from a purely national security perspective, condemnation of what we've done there to this point. So how many times have you seen or heard either discussed in the news? Neither is a new point. Yet when Jack Murtha told the nation that we were about to break the Army, what was the timbre of the reporting? "Calls for immediate withdrawl." "Bush stays the course." Sometimes the only reason I don't send obscene emails to mass-market media types is that there's no obscenity strong enough.

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