General silences soldiers to help Bush
The pictures were just what the White House wanted: A teary-eyed President Bush presenting the Medal of Honor posthumously to a slain war hero in the East Room, then flying here to join the chow line with camouflage-clad soldiers as some of them prepare to return to Iraq.I have been doing quite a bit of research on Bush's political use of the U.S. military for an upcoming book and I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. Today wasn't simply another example of a common theme in his history, the use of service members as props. Sure, in 2004, the Republican National Committee bragged about the fact that a number of active duty soldiers would be attending the Republican convention, despite the fact their doing so is strictly prohibited by regulation. And I spent 2004 in Afghanistan watching military broadcasting which promoted the Bush administration's take on Iraq and other issues, while ignoring John Kerry's campaign speeches about those issues, another violation of regs. But to have a general denying military members the right to speak to the media, while admitting he did so to allow the president's spin to sink in is disgusting.
Assuring there would be no discordant notes here, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, the base commander, banned the 300 soldiers who had lunch with the president from talking with reporters. If any of them harbored doubts about heading back to Iraq, many for the third time, they were kept silent.
White House officials had promised reporters they could talk with soldiers. But that was not good enough for Wojdakowski. "The commanding general said he does not want media talking to soldiers today," spokeswoman Tracy Bailey said. "He wants the focus to be on the president's speech." Only hours later, after reporters complained, did the base offer to make selected soldiers available, but the White House plane was nearing departure.
As a public affairs guy, I know the regulation regarding dealing with the media, people, and that regulation, AR 360-1 (PDF link), says:
5–12. Official discussions with the mediaSoldiers have the right to speak to the press, goddamit. There are limits--an officer can't speak "contemptuously" of his or her leaders, for example--but a Bush-supporting general's desire to provide cover is a poor reason to deny them that right.
To broaden public awareness of the Army, Army personnel are encouraged to speak with the media factually, candidly, and fully about unclassified matters on which they have personal knowledge and expertise. Senior commanders and staff officers are expected to discuss military matters within their purview with news media representatives.
5–13. Unofficial discussions
Anyone subject to this regulation may agree to a media request for an interview in an unofficial capacity. Army personnel may express personal opinions unless limited by law or regulation. They should discuss candidly matters about which they have personal knowledge if the information is not classified or otherwise non-releasable. When questioned on a classified matter, they will state frankly that the information cannot be discussed.
Update: The administration better get to censoring National Guardsmen and Reservists, too. Because they just got fucked.
The day after President Bush announced his plan for a deeper U.S. military commitment in Iraq, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters the change in reserve policy would have been made anyway because active-duty troops already were getting too little time between their combat tours.
The Pentagon also announced it is proposing to Congress that the size of the Army be increased by 65,000, to 547,000 and that the Marine Corps, the smallest of the services, grow by 27,000, to 202,000, over the next five years. No cost estimate was provided, but officials said it would be at least several billion dollars.
Until now, the Pentagon's policy on the Guard or Reserve was that members' cumulative time on active duty for the Iraq or Afghan wars could not exceed 24 months. That cumulative limit is now lifted; the remaining limit is on the length of any single mobilization, which may not exceed 24 consecutive months, Pace said.