Old craven chickenhawks don’t die, they just breed chickenshit progeny. And so it is with Douglas Feith, famously, and arguably correctly at the time, labeled “the dumbest fucking guy on the planet” by no less than real military man General Tommy Franks. A dilettante son of a “Revisionist Zionist”, Doug Feith went to Harvard and Georgetown Law instead of war when his country actually was at war. Now, granted, I didn’t fight in Vietnam either, thankfully; however, unlike Doug Feith, I did not carve out a career of belligerently advocating for wars of aggression for the sons and daughters of my generation to kill and die in. Feith’s record on hawking the Iraq war, and other neo-con aggressive military action, is legend, and it is exactly what earned him his enduring moniker from Gen. Tommy Franks.
Which brings us to the chickenhawk’s chickenshit progeny. That would be David Feith, the “assistant editorial features editor” at the Wall Street Journal. Feith the younger took today to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to shill for once and future hawkish US warmaking and the proposition that “victory” can be had in Afghanistan if we just keep on killing and dying. David Feith’s vehicle for this attempt is surgemeister Gen. H.R. McMaster:
The political and psychological dimensions of warfare have long fascinated the general, who first became famous in the Army when he led his vastly outnumbered tank regiment to victory at the Battle of 73 Easting in the first Gulf War. Six years later, he published “Dereliction of Duty,” based on his Ph.D. thesis indicting the Vietnam-era military leadership for failing to push back against a commander in chief, Lyndon Johnson, who was more interested in securing his Great Society domestic agenda than in doing what was necessary—militarily and politically—to prevail in Southeast Asia. For 15 years it’s been considered must-reading at the Pentagon.
But Gen. McMaster really earned his renown applying the tenets of counterinsurgency strategy, or COIN, during the war in Iraq. As a colonel in 2005, he took responsibility for a place called Tal Afar. In that city of 200,000 people, the insurgents’ “savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young,” wrote Tal Afar’s mayor in 2006. “This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered unto them the courageous soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment.”
What is most interesting about David Feith’s interview with the once and future hawk H.R. McMaster is that it seems to be Feith, not McMaster, that longs for the US to keep going for “the win” in Afghanistan and parlay into future war. McMaster talks in terms of the Afghanis curing their corrupt society, and of the US additions to the inherent problems in the Afghan culture:
“We did exacerbate the problem with lack of transparency and accountability built into the large influx of international assistance that came into a government that lacked mature institutions.”
McMaster also talks of the desires and powers growing in the Afghan nation to right their own ship. In fact, if you separate McMaster out from Feith, you actually get some semi-intelligent perspective.
But not from Feith. Oh no. Instead, Feith tries to lead McMaster by the bit right back to more US warmaking:
Near the end of our interview, we turn to the future of American warfare. U.S. troops are scheduled to end combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, perhaps sooner. Focus is turning from the Middle East to East Asia, and to the air and sea power required in the Pacific.
McMaster refuses to bite on Feith’s apple, in spite of Feith’s determination to hold it out. Neo-con apples fall not far from the tree, and David Feith dropped particularly close to “the dumbest fucking guy on the planet”.
On January 20, the New York Times carried what they at first thought was a scoop on a “classified” report (pdf) on Afghan military and police personnel killing NATO forces. After they were told that the Wall Street Journal had written on the report back in June, they admitted as much in a correction. They later added another correction after I pointed out that a version of the report clearly marked “unclassified” could be found easily even though the Times referred to the report as classified. It turns out that the report had indeed been published first as unclassified but then was retroactively classified while the Wall Street Journal article was being prepared.
Events over the last few days serve to demonstrate the folly of trying to hide damaging information rather than openly reviewing it and trying to learn lessons from it. The report in question went into great detail to document the cultural misunderstandings that exist between NATO forces and their “partner” Afghan forces, and how these misunderstandings escalate to the point that Afghan personnel end up killing NATO personnel. In the executive summary of the report, we learn that “ANSF members identified numerous social, cultural and operational grievances they have with U.S. soldiers.” Arrogance on the part of U.S. soldiers often was cited, as well.
This clash of social values is at the heart of the newest wave of anti-US and anti-NATO violence in Afghanistan which erupted after an Afghan employee found Korans among materials being burned last week at a NATO base. A part of the response to the Koran burning is that on Saturday, two NATO personnel were killed inside Afghanistan’s interior ministry building. BBC reports that an Afghan police officer is suspected in the shootings:
Afghanistan’s interior ministry has said one of its own employees is suspected of the killing of two senior US Nato officers inside the ministry.
Officials earlier named police intelligence officer Abdul Saboor from Parwan province as the main suspect behind Saturday’s attack.
The NATO response to the killing was swift:
Nato withdrew all its personnel from Afghan ministries after the shooting.
The importance of this move cannot be overstated. Continue reading
On Friday, I noted that the New York Times had dutifully repeated information from military sources who had provided them with a “classified” report (pdf) on how cultural differences between NATO troops and Afghan troops are resulting in increasingly frequent killings of coalition troops by coalition-trained Afghan troops. On Friday morning, the Times put up a correction, noting that the Wall Street Journal had published an article about the May 12, 2011 report on June 17, 2011.
I mentioned in my Friday post that the Wall Street Journal article included a link to what was said to be a copy of the report, but that the link was now dead. It is quite curious that the Journal article would have that link, as the opening sentence mentions that the report is classified. In comments on the post, Marcy Wheeler posed the question of whether the study “was intentionally buried after the WSJ story? Maybe that’s what NYT’s claim that it is classified is about?” So, in other words, was the study retroactively classified because of the Wall Street Journal article?
With only a little searching after reading both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal articles, I found what appeared to be a complete copy (pdf) of the same report (or at least a copy with the same title and number of pages), clearly stamped “UNCLASSIFIED” at the top and bottom of each page. Several hours after my post was published, the Times added a second correction to their story:
The article also referred incompletely to the military study’s secrecy. While it was classified, as the article reported, it was first distributed in early May 2011 as unclassified and was later changed to classified. (The Times learned after publication that a version of the study has remained accessible on the Internet.)
So it turns out that Marcy’s hunch was correct. The report initially was published as unclassified and then later classified, in a clear case of retroactive classification. There is perhaps just a hair of wiggle room in the Times’ statement that “a version of the study has remained accessible on the internet”, providing for the remote possibility that there are differences between the “classified” version provided to the times and the complete version on the internet, but that seems highly unlikely. The copy on the internet is almost certainly a copy from the time period when the study clearly was unclassified.
This sequence of events also is confirmed somewhat in the Wall Street Journal article itself: Continue reading
EFF has a report on the terms of service WSJ and AJ offer leakers using their WikiLeaks competitor sites. I had already heard that WSJ offered almost no technical security (which EFF describes), but it turns out neither offer much in the way of confidentiality guarantees.
Despite promising anonymity, security and confidentiality, [Al Jazeera Transparency Unit] can “share personally identifiable information in response to a law enforcement agency’s request, or where we believe it is necessary.” [WSJ’s] SafeHouse’s terms of service reserve the right “to disclose any information about you to law enforcement authorities” without notice, then goes even further, reserving the right to disclose information to any “requesting third party,” not only to comply with the law but also to “protect the property or rights of Dow Jones or any affiliated companies” or to “safeguard the interests of others.” As one commentator put it bluntly, this is “insanely broad.” Neither SafeHouse or AJTU bother telling users how they determine when they’ll disclose information, or who’s in charge of the decision.
By uploading to SafeHouse, you represent that your actions “will not violate any law, or the rights of any person.” By uploading to AJTU, you represent that you “have the full legal right, power and authority” to give them ownership of the material, and that the material doesn’t “infringe upon or violate the right of privacy or right of publicity of, or constitute a libel or slander against, or violate any common law or any other right of, any person or entity.”
SafeHouse offers users three upload options: standard, anonymous, and confidential. The “standard” SafeHouse upload “makes no representations regarding confidentiality.” Neither does the “anonymous” upload which, as Appelbaum pointed out, couldn’t technically provide it anyway. For “confidential” submissions, a user must first send the WSJ a confidentiality request. The request itself, unsurprisingly, is neither confidential nor anonymous. And until the individual user works out a specific agreement with the paper, nothing is confidential.
Similarly, AJTU makes clear that “AJTU has no obligation to maintain the confidentiality of any information, in whatever form, contained in any submission.” Worse, AJTU’s website by default plants a trackable cookie on your web browser which allows them “to provide restricted information to third parties.” So much for anonymity!
I’m fascinated by this not just because they obviously won’t provide a real alternative to WL, but because of what they say about the evolving gatekeeper relationship of news outlets.
Keep in mind that both these outlets make curious candidates for a WL competitor.
For its part, WSJ would be unable to sustain its unique market position if it routinely offered corporate whistleblowers–particularly from the finance industry–a way to leak confidentially. Its demand that leakers represent that they have not violated the rights of any person, its warning that it might share information on leakers with requesting third parties, and its intent to safeguard the interests of others all sounds like WSJ is more interested in its corporate advertisers and the security of their information than protecting whistleblowers. Indeed, you might even say this is more of an ambivalent information service WSJ offers, potentially luring (say) Bank of America leakers who might otherwise leak to WL, possibly for stories, but possibly also to share with BoA.
Then there’s al Jazeera. Particularly since it is not US-based, and given its tie with the Qatari government, one would assume that they such a site would be closely monitored. The US has a long history of persecution of AJ, including imprisoning and killing journalists. Perhaps it’s not surprising how few protections it offers.
And all that’s before you consider the fact that the US government is trying to prosecute WL for espionage. Murdoch is in the middle of a spying scandal in the UK; AJ journalists have been treated, unfairly, as terrorists. That makes both somewhat vulnerable. And the USG has declared an entity that publishes anonymous leakers to be spy organizations, not something either WSJ or AJ need.
Which is why I find it so interesting that these two outlets, while claiming to do the same thing as WL did, fall so far short of attempting to offer true anonymity to their sources. Here, the protection accorded leakers is actually less than a traditional journalist would offer. It’s as if they’re ceding the US government argument that anonymous leaks are so much worse than the leaks from the powerful so often featured in outlets like WSJ.
Or perhaps they’re just trying to reinforce their traditional gatekeeper role while attempting to undercut the competition?
Updated for syntax and to fix WSJ/Murdoch conflation.