NOTE: IMPORTANT UPDATE appended at conclusion of story.
2007-09-03 — 9:28:23 am
Colonel Boylan has written to another blogger. It’s his second public pronouncement in a month, this unspeaking spokesman. And both to bloggers. Interesting.
It’s a little complicated, but when I hand you the final puzzle piece, you can have your own “Eureka!” moment. Maybe you can even make use of it.
Ask yourself: If the White House wants to put out the word to journalists in Iraq, through the “free” US-built Iraqi media, and to embedded journalists in theater, who would it call?
Remember: this is the most “message” oriented White House in history, and is obsessive with micromanaging and manipulating the news.
[Note 6:00AM PDT: as I write this, the ABC radio news is telling me that Bush has just landed in Iraq in a “surprise” visit to show that the “surge” is working. Synchronicity, that. Perhaps he will meet our mystery guest. Almost certainly he will.]
Ask yourself this in what follows: Could this have happened without the White House ordering it, or at the bare minimum of signing off on it?
I have spoken at length elsewhere* about Col. Steven Boylan, General Petraeus’ official spokesman, the fellow in charge of all embeds in Iraq, the officer directly responsible for making sure that the Pentagon’s take on Iraq (which is to say, the White House’s take) is precisely what is conveyed and then reported.
[* + Post 6346 + 2007-08-05 + T4:08:36 pm
Commander-In-Chief Slaps Combat Soldier?]
Just a couple of years ago, it was Lieutenant Colonel Boylan, so, assuming that meritocracy still exists at any level in the army, he’s done well by theater commander Petraeus, the Pentagon, and the White House.
The summary runs like this: William Kristol is the ‘publisher’ and head honcho at a little magazine that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. bankrolled, starting on September 17, 1995. William Kristol is a linch-pin here (or, perhaps more accurately, a ‘lynch-pin’). His father, Irving Kristol was “considered the founder of American neoconservatism” according to Wikipedia. Note that Fox News was founded at nearly the same time, on October 7, 1996, and that Kristol has been a regular on Fox from the very beginning. Along with Fred Barnes, who is the Weekly Standard‘s Executive Editor. Whether they’re on Fox News or at the magazine, Rupert Murdoch is signing their paychecks.
Kristol is ALSO a founding member and chairman (in “early 1997“) of something called the Project for a New American Century, which was the blueprint for our Iraq invasion, including the famous phrase that they “would need a Pearl Harbor- type event,” to put the PNAC blueprint into effect. So, perhaps it would not seem surprising that the magazine’s entire history has been deeply immersed in PRO-Iraq war rhetoric, propaganda, slanting, etc.
[Kristol was also Vice President Dan Quayle’s Chief of Staff during Bush I, which may explain some of the ham-handed aspects of this.]
On July 18, Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb calls for a “mission for milbloggers” to debunk, deconstruct and destroy a story* being run in The New Republic, a magazine of roughly equivalent circulation to The Weekly Standard. (To put this in perspective, with them in the 65,000 circulation periodical classification are two San Francisco Bay area Chinese language newspapers, the World Journal and the Sing Tao Daily.)
[* The entire battle is chronicled HERE.]
And the phony controversy over an anonymous soldier’s diary from Baghdad for The New Republic all created in an exclusively Right Wing media, finally emerged full-blown into the Main Stream Media on August 4. The blog feeding-frenzy had been a tag team of whipping up controversy on a daily basis in the rightie blogosphere from July 18 through early August.
And then, as I noted, Col. Steven Boylan sent the “confirming” email to a rightie blogger, “The Confederate Yankee” who had been working on the story as a Pajamas Media blogger, along with Michelle Malkin, The Corner at The National Review, The Bill O’Reilly Show, Hannity & Colmes, Fox News. The blog at The Weekly Standard, when not quoting bloggers quoting each other, and tenderly nurturing the conflagration of the “Private Beauchamp” story, was blogging such things as “The Surge Is Working.” Indeed, virtually the entire focus of the WS Blog is the War.
But, bloggers are NOT quoted by the Main Stream Media, and we were, instead, treated to the spectacle of the NYTimes and WashPo who were happy to quote Goldfarb and the Weekly Standard quoting Bob quoting Col. Boylan, but notquoting Bob quopting Boylan directly, even though the blogger may well have a far larger circulation than the Weekly Standard. Such is the prejudice of the dead tree press.
But Bob Owens received the (solicited, to be fair) email from Boylan which was then QUOTED by Michael Goldfarb, who was then quoted along with “The Weekly Standard” by the New York Times and the Washington Post. For confirmation, they had to settle for an email from Major Lamb, Col. Steven Boylan’s subordinate. AP had to settle for a sergeant that a Topeka AP reporter knew from Fort Riley, Kansas, who was in Iraq. Considering that the vast majority of American newspapers, TV stations and radio news get their news from the AP wire, it seems odd that American citizens rate a P.R. Sergeant, but blogger “The Confederate Yankee” rates an email direct from Boylan.
Odd, don’t you think?
So, I checked the infostream for actual quotes from Boylan and found only one prior citation swarm in 2007: An April quote about how Iraqi protests were not bad, but were, instead, a vindication of how mass demonstrations showed that democracy was working. Then nothing until August and the extraordinary step of the Chief Spokesman for the Iraq theater sending an email to a Right-Wing blogger.
Who was quoted by The Weekly Standard, which was quoted by the NY Times and WaPost. And then the AP, which got the same quote.
So, is it possible that the White House had not at least signed off on that extraordinary email?
And its equally extraordinary means of dissemination stateside?
Now, here’s the kicker:
Col. Steven Boylan has become active in the internets again. (sic)
Last week, Kevin Drum, a writer whose star has justly risen to great heights in the firmament of the blogosphere — and whose blog for the Washington Monthly has become an indispensable read — Kevin Drum, clever fellow, looked at the data points, and noticed that violence always slackens in Iraq during the 120 degree plus (Fahrenheit, I think that’s 320 degrees Centigrade) summers. Sensible. And Mr. Drum compared statistics from last year at the same time, and noticed that instead of WORKING, the “Surge” was actually failing by most measures — and blood measures they are. Dead. Wounded. Explosions. Shootings.
And Col. Boylan, seldom quoted, suddenly emerges from his job of coordinating the exact party line that is given to the visitors being junketed into Iraq to be “shown” how the “Surge” is working. * To fact-check a blog?
(* “Rep. Jan Schakowsky, [D, Ill.] found it disturbing that her delegation was presented with an elaborate luncheon with Gen. Petraeus, featuring lobster tortellini, asparagus, and a ridiculous gilded menu. “Most disturbing of all,” she said, though, were Petraeus’ comments about the war’s likely duration — 9 to 10 more years.” [MORE])
Do we all understand that to the Bush Administration — and a fluid percentage of the nation — the APPEARANCE of reality is exactly the same AS reality?
Show up on a floodlit “stage set” with emergency generators for Jackson Square in New Orleans, and the Katrina Aftermath is all better. Hug a bunch of cute black kids, and magically no child is “left behind.” Land on an aircraft carrier and the war is over.
Now, the stage designers have been tasked to prove that the “Surge” is working, so that the troops stay in Iraq until they become someone else’s problem.
Again, do we doubt that the White House, and General Petraeus, at an absolute MINIMUM signed off on Col. Steven Boylan’s letter to Kevin Drum?
September 2, 2007
PETRAEUS AND THE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS….Yesterday I received an email from Col. Steven Boylan, the Public Affairs Officer for Gen. David Petraeus, highlighting some disagreements with my Saturday post titled “General Petraeus’s PR Blitzkrieg.” His full email is below the fold …
I would agree that the open sources are a good check, however, many times those sources are not complete, out of context and fail to provide the proper or full characterization of the events they are describing.
I will clip the areas that are in error and provide you comment. (sic)
HERE if you want to read the whole quote. But odd that Information Czar of Iraq would take the time to write a blog at a local Washington D.C. magazine. Surely Kevin Drum had contacted Col. Steven Boylan with a courtesy copy, etc.?
According to Mr. Drum, “He contacted me out of the blue a few hours after I wrote the post. My email address is on the blog site, so I assume that’s where he got it.”
Which is, again, damned odd. And can any one of us doubt that Col. Steven Boylan’s communication with a blogger was AT LEAST signed off on by the White House and General Petraeus?
So, isn’t the whole psy-ops and disinformation process being turned directly on us, here at home? WHY is the top Information Officer in theater contacting two bloggers: one to refute the charge that General Petraeus is engaged in a massive disinformation/P.R. blitz, and previously, to “confirm” that Private Beauchamp had recanted his writings, and that, as Confederate Yankee, Bob Owens tells it:
It’s Official: Beauchamp’s Claims Debunked by Army Internal Investigation
Col. Steven Boylan, Public Affairs Officer for U.S. Army Commanding General in Iraq David Petraeus, just emailed me the following in response to my request to confirm an earlier report that the U.S. Army’s investigation into the claims made by PV-2 Scott Thomas Beauchamp made in The New Republic had been completed.
To your question: Were there any truth to what was being said by Thomas?Answer: An investigation of the allegations were (sic) conducted by the command and found to be false. In fact, members of Thomas’ platoon and company were all interviewed and no one could substantiate his claims.
As to what will happen to him?
Answer: As there is no evidence of criminal conduct, he is subject to Administrative punishment as determined by his chain of command. Under the various rules and regulations, administrative actions are not releasable (sic) to the public by the military on what does or does not happen.
(Given his evident unfamiliarity with the English language, it seems apparent why Col. Boylan lets his deputies make the statements. Frankly, the quality of the Colonel’s prose is shameful for a P.R. officer.)
Let me note that this is exactly the answer that Major Lamb gave the Washington Post and the New York Times, and that the Ft. Riley Sergeant gave the Associated Press.
But at least they did better than I. I wrote the official coalition press office nearly a month ago:
date Aug 5, 2007 12:08 PM
subject Investigation policy
Still no answer. Gee. You’d think with all that spare time, Col. Boyer, or perhaps even a corporal could get back to me. Odd.
[8:30 AM PDT: Bush’s “surprise” PR stunt continues to dominate the radio headlines, almost guaranteeing him of winning the Labor Day news cycle. Mission Accomplished. BUT: No PR blitz there. Nosirree.]
You might remember, long ago, at the beginning of this bloody quagmire, there was a fellow in golden shoulder epaulets who wore glassses and a beret. He would tell the press Saddam’s official (outrageous) talking points on the war.
He came to be known as “Baghdad Bob” — a sly reference to “Tokyo Rose,” and “Hanoi Hannah” — and we laughed when he said that U.S. troops were nowhere near the airport, at the airport, with tank and gunfire clearly audible. And now, we seem to have a Public Relations officer (or propaganda officer, information management, whatever you want to call it) tied in through a strange spectrum of media that bleed together from the White House to Fox News to bloggers to William Kristol and his PNAC friends and his magazine and his blogger and General Petraeus’ official spokesman.
Who writes Kevin Drum, out of the blue, to write a seemingly straightforward defense of General Petraeus’ actions and how he’s not engaged in any sort of media manipulation.
According to Mr. Drum:
In any case, I didn’t send anything to him. He wrote to me, I answered him, and then he sent the email that I published on the blog. [A refutation of Drum’s column, “GENERAL PETRAEUS’S PR BLITZKRIEG.”]
So, Boylan has to drop everything to fact-check a U.S. journalist’s blog column? (He did find one error.) General Petraeus must have a very thin skin.
Really? Does anyone out there actually believe that the White House, if not having ordered the refutation of a local Washington magazine, at least signed off on it? Really?
And suddenly, Baghdad’s got another Bob. I wonder how Col. Boylan looks in a beret?
(closing his email to Kevin Drum)
Hope this helps to clarify what is in error in your article and thereby may change the tone and characterization as well. (sic)
Best always and please feel free to contact me at any time to fact check the open sources as needed.
STEVEN A. BOYLAN
Colonel, US Army
Public Affairs Officer to the
And I hope his meeting with Bush today goes well.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum has kindly supplied me with the original communication received from Col. Boylan. Guess he WON’T be meeting with Bush today. He’ll have to wait until “The Decider” is back in town. My question was: “Quick follow up: Without betraying the contents of the letter, could you characterize the initial query?”
This is the response (with only email addresses and telephone numbers removed, for obvious reasons):
The guy’s a PAO for the Army, so I don’t think there’s anything private about the email. It’s below. I received it at 11:37 am, two hours after I published the “Blitzkreig” post. I responded by telling him that I usually relied on open sources, not conversations with spokespeople, and he then sent the reply that I published on the blog.
After I published the followup blog post, I emailed to let him know. He thanked me, and that was that. It was all pretty civil.
— —— Original Message ——–
Subject: Errors in your Article
Date: Sat, 1 Sep 2007 22:37:57 +0400
From: Boylan, Steven COL MNF-I CMD GRP CG PAO
To: Kevin Drum
Dear Mr. Drum,
I read with interest your latest article ref General Petraeus (General Petraeus’s PR Blitzkrieg) and couldn’t help but wonder why you chose to use false and inaccurate information without taking the time to do the further research and even contact us for the rest of the story.
I would be more than happy to discuss with you the errors noted in your article. I can be contacted at home since I am on leave prior to the Sept Assessment before Congress at xxx or my cell, xxx.
STEVEN A. BOYLAN
Colonel, US Army
Public Affairs Officer to the
As is said, those that have eyes will see; those that have ears will hear.