A Plan for Handling the Milblogs

12 09 2004

Since CBFTW’s highly regarded (by me as well as others) blog MY WAR–Fear and Loathing in Iraq was shut down–by himself, it now appears–questions have been raised about how the military is handling milblogs. Are they being too heavy-handed? If OPSEC (Operational Security) is the issue, shouldn’t they just shut all the blogs down rather than take the risk of someone saying something that endangers troops or strategic goals? Eric Magnell, an Army lawyer stationed in Iraq, gives a pretty clear explanation of the difficulties at his blog, Dagger JAG.

[T]he information environment has changed so much and is so different than in any previous war or conflict. Here in Iraq we have access to so much new communications capabilities it really is mind-boggling when you think about it. When my father was in Vietnam he wrote letters and mailed home cassettes or reel to reel tapes to keep in touch with my mom and his family. Even thirteen years ago, during Desert Storm, the soldiers still wrote letters and had very, very few opportunities to call their families in the States. With these new capabilities come some very real concerns over operational security. Back in WWII they popularized the saying “loose lips sink ships” and they censored servicemembers letters back to the states. Now we have those same posters hanging in our internet cafes and above our phones. We know that our enemies are computer “savvy” and may have the ability to intercept emails or other communications over the internet. Every soldier has to be aware and concerned about saying or writing anything that could potentially give our enemies information. Even potentially innocent statements which, by themselves, mean nothing can provide intelligence for our opponents when matched with other innocuous open source information.

But OPSEC isn’t the only consideration. Yes, soldiers do lose some freedoms to say and do what they please when they enter the Army, but not all of them. And there is an irony for them in fighting a war to free the expression of a foreign people while at the same time having their own curtailed for sometimes mysterious reasons. ‘Combat Doc’ at Candle in the Dark sums it up this way:

The higher-ups have found that the unedited embedded reporter known as Joe is the best and the worst thing that has happened to this war. The best because if you’re like me you are all for this fight, others see things differently and voice it. The problem with speaking out is that you will be heard.

Some of the recent events have made me doubt their actions. When you silence a soldier who has done nothing out of reg’s you lend yourself to suspicion. Why are they silencing the voice of the people who can sell this war better than anybody. Again, as long as the soldier has violated no regulation, you’re golden. Has something been done that needs to be silenced, I doubt it. I think the highers feel the political preassure of Abu Gharib and Najaf bearing down so they fear any media coverage. It seems though as they don’t trust their own regulations to cover them.

The silencing of any humans voice, even when I can’t agree, will lead to the silencing of all dissenting opinions. Americans must show their openness to their own flaws and triumphs or else the lesson we are trying to teach and the peoples we are trying to free will, rightfully, tell us ALL to shut up and buy a black car.

(Thanks to CB for both those links.)

Finally, there is the issue I’ve already written about at length–the military’s need to control its image in the outside world.

Read the rest of this entry »





My War–Update 2

10 09 2004

CBFTW has another new post up, plus he has put back some of his archives–he calls it a Best Of–so we can re-read some of the old stuff we thought was lost (it wasn’t, thank god; just locked up). In the new post, ‘My War Continues…’, he says he won’t be writing his personal experiences any more and comes as close to telling us what happened as he can.

I am officially no longer writing about any of my personal experiences here in Iraq on this website.

For two reasons:

1.) For fear of any future punishment that could be handed down to me in regards to anything that I may write on this website that would prevent me from being with the members of my Platoon and doing the job that I love, which is being a Machine Gunner in the Infantry.

2.) Many Americans have fought and died for our Freedom of Speech, and I, personally, would prefer death over censorship of any form.

“The people keeping CB from posting are the same people that kept him from skating the Ralphs parking lot back in the day…

that is all you have to know about liberty and freedom, the politics of skateboarding”

-DL

Comment written by a reader

There’s also a rundown of links and media articles that mention either CB or his blog, and a couple of letters that readers sent him. Check it out.

In a day or so, I’m going to be posting a piece on how the military might conceivably handle the milblog issue based on suggestions that were sent to me by Chris Missick of A Line in the Sand. Chris is a milblogger who happens to specialize in communication, and I think his suggestions have merit–they could work.

See you then.





My War Update: New Post, Hurry Hurry Hurry!

6 09 2004

CBFTW has just published his first post since his blog, MY WAR–Fear and Loathing in Iraq, was shut down, whether by himself or his military superiors is unknown at this point. Yesterday, the LA Times mentioned his blog in an article about milblogs without quoting from it. Today, CB corrects that oversight in a new post that adds what the LAT should have included. But you have to hurry–he says the post will only be up for 24 hours and then it’s back to ‘Over and Out’. (Look for ‘Combat Jack’ at the bottom of the post.)