US Army Blogging Against Obama with Your Tax Dollars [Update]

Whoops.  Glad this saw the mainstream light of day, thanks to The Huffington Post, but as it was on a national-security themed column in the Washington Post it may be worth a bit more exposure here, regarding the Army's public affairs office daily roundup of Army-related news called Stand To:


Tuesday's edition contained an entry under "WHAT'S BEING SAID IN BLOGS" that struck me as unusual -- both for its headline and its patent political bias:


Obama: World peace thru surrender (KDIHH)

[...]

Seriously? Have any of these people actually read the Obama defensepolicypapers or speeches -- or are they simply going on what they hear on Fox News and the Limbaugh network?

And more to the point, why is the Army's official in-house public affairs shop linking to this kind of stuff? Just a few weeks ago, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told all hands to stay out of politics: "As the nation prepares to elect a new president, we would all do well to remember the promises we made: to obey civilian authority, to support and defend the Constitution and to do our duty at all times.... Keeping our politics private is a good first step." He added: "The only things we should be wearing on our sleeves are our military insignia."

Unfortunately, the message didn't get to through to the Army.  

Let's be clear: It is okay for the services to have a message. Both the Early Bird and Stand To speak for the Pentagon and the Army as institutions, and that's okay. They generally support the troops, the military, the chain of command, and the current endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nothing wrong with that.

And I have no objections to what Mr. Hooah wrote, besides the fact that I think it's factually wrong. He has his opinion; I have mine.

But the Stand To page is different -- and Tuesday's edition crosses the line.  This isn't some citizen's blog or website. It's the in-house public affairs digest of the United States Army.  It should not be amplifying partisan political attacks, nor should it be airing them at all.  This appears like yet another example of the unusually cozy relationship which has developed over the last generation or so between the military and the right wing of American politics -- an unhealthy development, to say the least.

Philip Carter - Army Shows Its Colors WaPo 12 Jun 08

I'll say.  And one wonders what the best way to push back on this kind of thing might be.  E-mail your Congressperson?  Get Move On on the case?  Thoughts, folks?

[Update]: Brigadier General Anthony A. Cucolo III, Chief of Public Affairs, US Army is apparently reachable via anthony.cucolo@hqda.army.mil. The Army Public Affairs website doesn't seem to have a direct email address. Funny, that. Stand To has a feedback address as well, stand-to@smc.army.mil. Drop 'em a line and let them know how you feel, I reckon.

[Update]: As pointed out by Steve M the link to the anti-Obama blogsite no longer appears in the edition of Stand To in question. That was pretty quick.

Tags: Barack Obama, Election 2008, US Army (all tags)

Comments

38 Comments

Re: US Army Blogging Against Obama with Your Tax D

I guess we see why Armed Forces Radio carries Limbaugh and his band of idiots but no balance...

by JenKinFLA 2008-06-12 04:29PM | 0 recs
Re: US Army Blogging Against

I think this is an isolated incident from a PA office that lacks discipline. The contact info for the specific PA office that is in charge of that posting should be held accountable by SECDEF.

Gates is a pretty decent man that would not tolerate this, if we bring it to his attention. Most Army PA offices would know better than to let this slip by unanswered.

by Veteran75 2008-06-12 04:38PM | 0 recs
Re: US Army Blogging Against

I agree.  All the more reason to let them know it wasn't overlooked in the public square.  Any thoughts on a contact email for Army Public Affairs?  Browsing the http://www.army.mil/contactus/ page yielded no useful electronic contact information, at least that I could find.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-06-12 04:47PM | 0 recs
Re: US Army Blogging Against Obama with Your Tax D

I don't think it's a horrible mistake - more likely some random staffer. I don't like the spin the blogosphere is putting on this.

by Falsehood 2008-06-12 05:28PM | 0 recs
Re: US Army Blogging Against Obama with Your Tax D

Perhaps not a horrible mistake, and no doubt a low-level lapse of judgement, or something, but I'm betting a few hundred emails will quickly put a stop to it as well.  Why not pull them up on it sooner rather than later?  I sent the following:


Sir/Madam,

I am writing to express my concern with the link to a partisan blog entry deeply critical of the national candidacy of Senator Barack Obama in Tuesday's edition of Stand To.  This is obviously inappropriate and in contravention of the comments of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently admonishing all hands to stay out of politics: "As the nation prepares to elect a new president, we would all do well to remember the promises we made: to obey civilian authority, to support and defend the Constitution and to do our duty at all times.... Keeping our politics private is a good first step." He added: "The only things we should be wearing on our sleeves are our military insignia."

I am sure this is merely an oversight or accident but am hoping you will make an effort to avoid this kind of embarrassing, and basically illegal, activity in future.

Sincerely,

Shaun Appleby

What's wrong with that?

by Shaun Appleby 2008-06-12 05:32PM | 0 recs
Re: US Army Blogging

I imagine it is their policy to support McCain, and are being ordered to by the Bush Administration.  We know that the administration has cut out so many rights of people and institutions within the military and govt, this is probably something that comes directly from them.  Free speech shouldn't be expected when the CIC is Bush.

by Scotch 2008-06-12 05:28PM | 0 recs
Re: US Army Blogging

I imagine it is their policy to support McCain, and are being ordered to by the Bush Administration.

No offense but that notion is absurd. A direct order from Bush to military officials to use their PA department for partisanship would spark outrage. We are NOT robots.

In ONE section of Standto: "WHAT'S BEING SAID IN BLOGS" they link various blogs and opinions that rotate frequently. One happen to link a private, partisan blog.

It was either very opinionated staffer overstepping their bounds, or it was very dumb oversight. Either way I doubt it's a larger conspiracy.

http://www4.army.mil/news/standto.html

Above is the link to stand to. If I'm wrong I want to know it, so feel free to scroll through day by day (you can backdate at the top). If you see obvious hints of partisanship let us know.

by USArmyParatrooper 2008-06-12 08:43PM | 0 recs
Re: US Army Blogging

Your point is well taken but as for checking Stand To daily I can well imagine we might.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-06-12 09:03PM | 0 recs
i dont really understand the issue you take...

with this?  that someone's partisan opinion is in a military newsletter?

by canadian gal 2008-06-12 06:18PM | 0 recs
Re: i dont really understand the issue you take...

Yup.  The newsletter is an official organ of the Department of Defence, financed by you and I.  While I acknowledge the content didn't originate there it is just the kind of creeping, tacit support that we don't want to encourage or accept.  No big deal?  Not earth-shaking but better to put them on notice than condone it.  It's bad enough as it is.

You do recall the controversy in the NYT over military 'analysts' pushing the Bush administration line?  It's worth looking into, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-06-12 06:26PM | 0 recs
Old news really

but I guess the 'smear' squad is out looking for anything they can find.

Congratulations.

by Coldblue 2008-06-12 06:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Old news really

Army officers take their orders directly from the Commander-in-Chief but their Oath of Service is to 'support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.'  Where that distinction is lost or misunderstood is exactly where we get into muddy water.  There's no 'smear' about it.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-06-12 06:44PM | 0 recs
The smear

is in the intent of your subject line.

by Coldblue 2008-06-12 06:50PM | 0 recs
Re: The smear

You mean the diary title?  Do you have any other suggestions?  It seems to pretty much state the case unequivocally.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-06-12 06:55PM | 0 recs
Yes, the title

You are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.

by Coldblue 2008-06-12 07:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, the title

Look, it's not a huge deal, as I said 'Whoops.'  Nowhere have I made a polemic or inflammatory case, read the email I sent, for example.  This is just housekeeping, as far as I'm concerned but necessary nonetheless.  Another brick in the wall, and just the kind of civic purpose the blogosphere is meant to serve.  Sometimes when I am walking down the street or especially at the beach I pick up a bit of someone else's rubbish and throw it in the bin.

I reckon there have been a lot of inroads made into the political separation of the military and politics in recent years, it's got to stop somewhere.  Every little act of awareness works in our favour.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-06-12 07:06PM | 0 recs
Shaun

I'm not an Obama supporter. Perhaps I shouldn't have made a comment in your diary. My apologies.

by Coldblue 2008-06-12 07:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Shaun

Your comments are always welcome, no worries there.  And this issue seems to transcend candidate loyalties, at least to me.  I was happy to have the discussion, thanks.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-06-12 07:23PM | 0 recs
Wha?

Why should an official army release attack the nominee of our party, especially when the attack is simply a regurgitation of false talking points?

Staying silent and simply rolling our eyes is exactly what Kerry did to the Swiftboaters and look where that got him.

Nope stuff like this needs to made public, discussed and the crony who put that in the official newsletter hopefully finds him/herself peeling taters in North Dakota

by gil44 2008-06-12 07:15PM | 0 recs
So?

Given the abundance of distortions and outright lies being promoted against our candidate, I see nothing wrong in Shaun's swift yet polite response - which every taxpayer has a right to. Better one mountain than a steady proliferation of molehills, thank you.

by Sumo Vita 2008-06-12 07:22PM | 0 recs
Re: The smear

Please define the "smear" you are talking about

by gil44 2008-06-12 07:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Old news really

How is it old news? I just heard about it.

by politicsmatters 2008-06-12 06:45PM | 0 recs
You just heard

that some in the military want to keep the aggression going?

by Coldblue 2008-06-12 06:53PM | 0 recs
Re: You just heard

No, I just heard about this use of a venue that's supposed to be nonpartisan for partisan purposes.

by politicsmatters 2008-06-12 06:57PM | 0 recs
Re: You just heard

You just heard that? Seriously?

It has been blogged about previously.

by Coldblue 2008-06-12 07:05PM | 0 recs
the military is not aloud to take sides

i think your simplistic view of the military presupposes a lack of respect for them.  people in the military do not crave war.  they don't wish to fight all the time.  these people are put in leadership roles to best carry out the orders they get from the department of defense.  

politics should not play a role in their decision making.  

by ab03 2008-06-12 06:59PM | 0 recs
*allowed

never had that typo before

by ab03 2008-06-12 06:59PM | 0 recs
My view

is that some actually believe in the mission that they're given.

I don't see it as simplistic.

by Coldblue 2008-06-12 07:09PM | 0 recs
Re: You just heard

Frankly, on a lot of levels, I would have thought just the opposite was at least equally plausible.  Remember this?

by Shaun Appleby 2008-06-12 07:00PM | 0 recs
Re: US Army Blogging Against Obama with Your Tax D

I don't see that line when I click the link.  Has it been purged?

by Steve M 2008-06-12 07:06PM | 0 recs
Re: US Army Blogging Against Obama with Your Tax D

Well, fancy that!  Guess so.  Case closed for now, eh?

by Shaun Appleby 2008-06-12 07:10PM | 0 recs
Re: US Army Blogging Against Obama with Your Tax D

Justice is served.

I agree with those who speculated that it was probably just some random guy making a bad decision, but you gotta swat those flies whenever you can.

by Steve M 2008-06-12 08:30PM | 0 recs
Re: US Army Blogging Against Obama with Your Tax D

Agreed, thanks.  As I said it's just housekeeping, from my point of view.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-06-12 08:35PM | 0 recs
I agree that it is likely not *directed*

from the top, but also that it indicates a laxity of protocol and adherence to ethics that can only come from the top and deserves to be called out.

My uneducated take on this incident is that it is a much more independent-action-of-midlevel-person kinda thing than Abu-Graib, but both strike me as the kinds of things that happen when respect of military ethics is not strictly and honorably driven from the CIC level, so the root cause can only be found at 1600 Pennsylvannia Ave.

This topic was better stated a while back in a series of emails with a retired colonel when I was helping him publish some of his opinions:

I have written a couple of things, one I submitted to the local paper over a month ago and have heard nothing, so I think they are not going to do anything with it.  It accuses the top leadership of the army as having lost its honor - a one-pager developed from the army regulation which defines what "command" is and means.

Ch(COL) Chuck Kriete
US Army, Retired
Distinguished Fellow, US Army War College

In our emails Chuck spoke more about the necessity of honor being contiguous from the foot-solider to the CIC, the evident lack of that in the current administration and the tangible results it has throughout the services.  All of that would make a diary in itself, so I offer this snippet pertinent to this conversation.

-chris

by chrisblask 2008-06-12 09:02PM | 0 recs
Re: I agree that it is likely not *directed*

Worthy of a diary indeed.  Why dontcha'?

by Shaun Appleby 2008-06-12 09:05PM | 0 recs
Re: I agree that it is likely not *directed*

Yeah, that was occurring to me as I wrote that.  Just pinged the Colonel to see if he wants to write something specific on topic.  Very interesting guy and would no doubt add to the conversation here.

-chris

by chrisblask 2008-06-12 09:23PM | 0 recs
Re: I agree that it is likely not *directed*

I look forward to it.  But make sure you give your Colonel friend some cover and quote stuff of his already on the public record, just to be sure.  Posting stuff on blogs gets some uptight people quite antsy in the pantsy.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-06-12 09:29PM | 0 recs
Re: I agree that it is likely not *directed*

:-)

He's a tough Chaplin and willing to speak his mind, but I'll have his back, have no doubt.

-thanks!

-chirs

by chrisblask 2008-06-12 09:46PM | 0 recs

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