Tuesday, July 6, 2004

Casualties of war
Dan Baum has a provocative article in the new issue of the New Yorker (7/15 update: now available online) discussing the impact of the Iraq war on American soldiers' minds. This is a subject that merits a great deal more attention than it's getting, especially in light of the study released last week showing that one in six soldiers suffered from some mental distress upon returning from combat in Iraq. I'll try to post some excerpts from Mr. Baum's article when I can. But for now, I'll try to summarize his main argument. The war in Iraq — particularly the brutal, close-quarters combat where it's hard to distinguish civilian from combatant — is having a tremendous psychological effect on U.S. soldiers. In particular, the act of killing human beings at close range is affecting many of their minds in ways we have seen before, but not for some time. These soldiers are experiencing a variety of problems upon coming home. Unfortunately, the Army does not have the resources or the institutional apparatus to deal with these problems entirely, nor does the Veterans Administration. The problem is compounded by a reticence within the military medical community to acknowledge (and write into doctrine) the psychological effects of killing — because doing so would "pathologize" the very act for which the U.S. military exists.

All in all, I thought Mr. Baum's article was an extremely compelling read, and I highly recommend picking up the new issue of the New Yorker for this article alone. For more on this subject, in the interim, I highly recommend reading Acts of War by Richard Holmes, On Killing by David Grossman, and A War of Nerves by Ben Shephard.
Learning to eat soup with a knife
Counterinsurgency has been described as one of the toughest missions that any army can engage in. Its principal challenge is the calibration of force to political objectives -- how much, or how little force, to use in a given situation so as not to alienate the civilian population. Sir Lawrence of Arabia first likened counter-insurgency warfare to "eating soup with a knife", and Army MAJ John Nagl wrote an impressive book on the subject (well read in military circles titled Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam: Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife. Today, the U.S. Army and Marines find themselves fighting a "classic guerrilla-type war" in Iraq and Afghanistan, requiring them both to eat soup with a knife and do nation-building at the same time.

Today's Los Angeles Times and Washington Post each have articles on this subject, and the effect of the Operation Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom wars on the American military. (I have an article coming out soon on this subject too, so my comments here will be a little brief.) Mark Mazzetti, who covered the Iraq war as an embed for US News, writes in the LA Times that the U.S. has failed in Iraq because it never quite learned how to do counter-insurgency well there:
WASHINGTON — Almost a year after acknowledging they were facing a well-armed guerrilla war in Iraq, the Pentagon and commanders in the Middle East are being criticized by some top Bush administration officials, military officers and defense experts who accuse the military of failing to develop a coherent, winning strategy against the insurgency.

Inadequate intelligence, poor assessments of enemy strength, testy relations with U.S. civilian authorities in Baghdad and an inconsistent application of force remain key problems many observers say the military must address before U.S. and Iraqi forces can quell the insurgents.

* * *
Now, after a year of violence and hundreds of U.S. combat deaths, some officials and experts are frustrated that a more effective counterinsurgency plan has not materialized and that the hand-over of power to an interim Iraqi government last week was unlikely to significantly improve the security situation.

* * *
... one of the biggest problems for U.S. military and intelligence officials remains the paucity of hard intelligence about the structure of the insurgency.

For example, when Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked recently during Senate testimony whether the Iraqi insurgency was being coordinated from a central hub, he responded: "The intelligence community, as far as I know, will not ... give you an answer, because they can't give me an answer."
Tom Ricks takes a different tack on this story in today's Washington Post, writing about some of the ways the war has effected change within the U.S. Army.
Fifteen months of combat in Iraq are leaving an imprint on the U.S. military. All the services are changing, but the Army especially is undergoing radical change as a result of the unexpectedly difficult occupation, in which it has suffered nearly 6,000 casualties.

The strain on Army troops, families and equipment has been extensively reported and is likely to intensify as some units head back to Iraq for a second tour. "The war in Iraq is wrecking the Army and the Marine Corps," retired Navy Capt. John Byron asserts in the July issue of Proceedings, the professional journal of Navy officers. "Troop rotations are in shambles and the all-volunteer force is starting to crumble as we extend combat tours and struggle to get enough boots on the ground."

The latest indication of the psychic toll was a recent study by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research that found that about 16 percent of soldiers who have served in Iraq are showing signs of combat trauma.

Overall, "this kind of stress causes change -- some of it good, some of it not so good," said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a former Army officer who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Indeed, other, less visible changes also are occurring -- and some of them are for the better. A generation of younger Army officers has been seasoned by a year of combat in a harsh and unpredictable environment, for example. And as the Army seeks to adjust to waging a counterinsurgency campaign 7,000 miles away, innovation in how it trains new recruits and structures forces for deployment is now rippling through the service.

"Iraq is accelerating the pace of change in the military -- the Army particularly," said retired Army Lt. Col. James Jay Carafano, a defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation. "It is forcing them to look at a lot of things they had pushed off because they were hard to do."
What's the net effect? It's hard to say. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the military in many ways, from personnel to equipment to the number of JDAM bombs in the Air Force inventory. But, I think there's also a very credible argument that these wars have made the military better. The impact of combat experience in the ranks is hard to understate; it really does sharpen the combat readiness of a unit to have so many combat veterans. It's also hard to underestimate the impact of these wars on Army doctrine, because of the awesome extent to which the Center for Army Lessons Learned has gathered after-action reports from the battlefield. The hard question is how long these effects last, and what the long-term effects will be. Ironically, I think that if we pull out of Iraq with something less than a complete victory, the U.S. military may learn and improve more in the long run, because of the historic tendencies of armies to evolve more in response to defeat than to victory. That's not an argument that we should actively seek defeat in order to make our military better. It's simply an analytic point, based on my reading of military history and past revolutions in military affairs. But we'll see -- the jury's still out on how this conflict will end up.
How to learn Arabic in 5 days
The New York Times' Science Page has an interesting article today on the "Tactical Language Project", being developed as a joint venture between DARPA, the University of Southern California, and the military's Special Operations Command. The USC researchers have built a virtual reality video game of sorts to train soldiers how to engage in conversation overseas; it's designed to provide initial or refresher language training to soldiers right before they deploy. Such a program would make up for a severe deficiency in Arabic language training (and foreign language training generally) which exists now in the ranks, especially if this program were expanded beyond the special operations community to all soldiers heading overseas.
The Tactical Language Project, as it is called, is being developed at U.S.C.'s Center for Research in Technology for Education, in cooperation with the Special Operations Command. From July 12 to 16, real Special Forces soldiers at Fort Bragg in Northern California will test the game and put Sergeant Smith through his paces.

The user plays Sergeant Smith, while the other characters are virtual constructs. Using a laptop, the user speaks for the sergeant, in Arabic, through a microphone headset and controls the character's actions by typing keyboard instructions.

The project is part of a major initiative, financed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, to explore new ways of training troops by making use of the large installed base of existing technology, especially laptops.

"I'd like to be able to send something like this to every soldier stationed in a foreign country," said Dr. Ralph Chatham, the Darpa project manager.

The philosophy is to deliver what Dr. Chatham calls "tactical language," linguistic skills sufficient to the task at hand.

Dr. Lewis Johnson, the director of the Center for Research in Technology for Education, or Carte, said, "The basic assumption is that there's certain situations you need to face - such as establishing a rapport with the people you meet and finding out where the headman lives - and how do you cope effectively with those situations."

No one is going to be able to read Omar Khayyam after this training, but the agency hopes it will enable soldiers to navigate more easily and safely through the Arab world. In its current version, the game teaches Lebanese Arabic. The U.S.C. team is also working on an Iraqi Arabic version. Darpa hopes to have at least some preliminary version to the military by the fall, Dr. Chatham said.
Comments: I actually saw this system on display at DARPA's convention in Anaheim last March; I even tried to talk with a tribal leader in Pashto, with the system coaching me on proper verbal responses and gestures. (You can read more about this project in this Slate dispatch from DARPATech, and also listen to an audio clip of this system in action on NPR.) I think this is a real winner, and it's the kind of system that ought to be purchased en masse by the Pentagon for the construction of language-training facilities at every major military deployment hub. Language skills are absolutely critical to the force, especially in stability and support operations (i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan) where success depends on winning hearts and minds, not defeating armies on the battlefield. As I see it, every major base ought to have classrooms full of these systems (which can be run on standard computers with an audio-visual suite), and units should cycle through this program en route to wherever they're going in order to acquire basic language proficiency. Granted, this system won't teach soldiers how to engage in witty discourse or sophisticated conversations, but it will teach them the basics they need before they hit the ground in some foreign country.

Saturday, July 3, 2004

Spending our reserves
Thom Shanker has an excellent article in Sunday's New York Times discussing the structural issues now facing America's military reserves. (Thanks to Dan Drezner for the heads up.) Since Sept. 11, nearly 400,000 American military reservists have been mobilized for duties ranging from homeland security to combat in Iraq. (That number double-counts many who have been called up twice — or more) Mr. Shanker's article relays how the reserves have strained under this load, and some of the proposals for change now on the table.
The system for training, equipping, mobilizing and deploying reservists was not ready for the historic increase in call-ups since the Sept. 11 attacks, officials acknowledged. The Guard and Reserves clocked nearly 63 million duty days last year, a fivefold increase from the 12 million duty days recorded annually in the late 1990's. As of Wednesday, 156,236 citizen-soldiers were on active duty, with the vast majority — 130,912 — from the Army National Guard and Reserves.

That responsibility is expected only to increase. Guard and Reserve members make up approximately 40 percent of the American forces committed in Iraq and Afghanistan today, and Pentagon war planners said this week that the burden assigned to these formerly part-time soldiers is expected to push toward 50 percent in future deployments.

"When you look at the current structure of the Guard and Reserve, I think it's becoming clearer and clearer that it's not sustainable," said Derek B. Stewart, director for military personnel issues at the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress.

"It's very clear that if you're going to sustain the global war on terror, you're going to need to beef up certain specialties," he added, citing in particular military police and intelligence. "And you're going to have to restructure, and definitely take another look at the mix and configuration of what is in the Reserve component and what is in the active component."

Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, which is responsible for more than half a million Army and Air National Guard personnel, was adamant in saying that the Reserves and Guard could sustain the pace and scope required by the current mission.

"We are stretched but we are not broken," General Blum said. "I will tell you that we can sustain this if we do two things: if we give soldiers predictability on when they are going to go and when they are going to come home, and some reasonable predictability on how frequently they will be recalled."
Analysis: I have a related piece in the publication process right now, so I'll withhold comment on some of the issues raised by Mr. Shanker's article. But I will reiterate a point that I made on a military list-serv I subscribe to. There are really two ways of looking at this problem. The first perspective sees the glass as half-empty — it focuses on the ways these strains indicate the system is broken. Partisans on both sides of the aisle have made military overstretch an issue because it tends to support their arguments for a larger military, a smaller foreign policy, or some combination of the two. The essence of this argument is that the Pentagon's emergency measures — such as stop loss orders, mass reserve mobilizations, and now Individual Ready Reserve callups — indicate that the force is stretched to its limit. And thus, we must either add large amounts of manpower to the force, or scale back the missions. Taken to its logical end, this argument sometimes concludes that we need to return to the draft.

On the other hand, there is an argument that the glass is half-full. I talked to several Pentagon policy officials and think-tankers last week about this argument, and I am starting to see its credibility. According to this line of thought, the emergency measures cited above are not so much signs of the force breaking, as they are signs of the force working exactly as intended. That is, we are a nation at war. Our military needs extra personnel now to fight this war, and probably for the next few years. Thus, it has called up reservists and used additional temporary measures to make ends meet. But when the crisis passes (assuming it does), the military reservists will be demobilized, and the military will contract. Yes, there is some hardship for the reservists who are called up. But, this argument continues, better to call up these reservists who accept the risk voluntarily, than to conscript mass numbers of citizens and compel them to kill or be killed in combat.

Moreover, Pentagon policymakers say (and I agree) that it would be tremendously inefficient and impractical to start a draft when the personnel needs are in the thousands or tens of thousands. A draft, which traces back to Napoleon's levee en masse, is used when you need to mobilize millions of young Americans for battle. If that cataclysmic day comes, then our Selective Service system stands ready (in mothballs) to swing into action. But until then, the Pentagon argument goes, it is far more efficient and effective to use reservists.

Where do I come out? Well, let's stipulate first that effectiveness matters a whole lot more in combat than efficiency. Efficiency matters, because taxpayer dollars are not an infinite resources, and because inefficient programs deprive other DoD programs of money. However, effectiveness matters a lot more, because being effective in combat means coming home alive. That said, the current reserve mobilization system is neither effective nor efficient — although it's a whole lot better than a conscription system would be. Our nation needs to get serious about resourcing its reserves if it's going to rely on them as heavily as it has lately. This is a point that I made late last year, while writing about the medical treatment of reservists in Georgia:
America's reserves have never achieved full equality with their active-duty counterparts. The reservists marooned at Fort Stewart — as well as their reserve brethren around the world — have long suffered from a lack of resources. America gives less to its reserve forces at every step — recruiting, training, deployment, equipment, manning, medical care, even veterans' benefits. In the Army Reserve and National Guard, the nation gets a bargain — trained soldiers with civilian experience who can be called at a moment's notice, but paid for only one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.

Even in Iraq, reservists had to make do with less than their active-duty counterparts. Reserve units typically stand last in line for new equipment, behind active-duty Army units and the Marines. National Guard and Army Reserve units deployed to Iraq with radios older than many of their soldiers — radios that could not talk securely with the active-duty units they worked with.

Many reserve units drove into Iraq with cargo trucks that were more than 30 years old. Reservists were also last in line to receive the military's new "Interceptor" body armor, specially designed to stop bullets from an AK-47.

* * *
Winston Churchill once said that reservists were "twice the citizen" because of their dual commitments to civil society and the military. We ask them to lead their lives in the knowledge that they could be called away from home and family on short notice to serve in harm's way. America's military depends on these men and women, and its combat units could not function without them.

Yet, America continues to undercut its reserve units, sending them into combat with equipment intended for other soldiers in other wars. If we expect our reservists to serve as modern-day minutemen, then we must train and equip them as such. We cannot expect them to shoulder as much of the burden as they have if we continue to treat them as second-class soldiers.
That's the bottom line. If we're going to deploy reservists as combat soldiers and expect the same things from them, then we must give them the same resources as their active duty brethren. That means giving them new weapons, new equipment, adequate training money, adequate training ammunition, and good leadership even before we call them up for duty. When we do call them, we must quickly push resources in their direction, especially training resources, to make up for the fact that they only get 39 days a year to train. And above all else, we must ensure that reserve sergeants and officers get the leadership training they need to be able to bring their soldiers home alive. To date, we have not done this, and the results have been deadly for too many of our reservists in Iraq. We have to do this better.

Comments from the Field: Two of my friends who read Intel Dump sent me critical notes this morning regarding this post. Both made extremely good points, and I decided to share one with the rest of my readership. It comes from an active-duty Army infantry officer now serving abroad:
"There is an old saying that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is today. We have been told we are in this war for a generation, etc. If so, you have to think beyond next month, next year, next election. That is what the grand strategists (POTUS, SECDEF, CJCS) are supposed to do. You have to anticipate the unknowable and build in your safety net. The current use of the RC is correct, but we have nothing left on the bench after the IRR and I have not detected anything to correct that. POTUS made a massive error in not pushing for a rolling active force structure build up. We are either at war or we are not. We could have met the numbers in enlistments quite easily at least up until last year and probably still today. We should have added 10-12,000 to the UMR of the Army every year starting in FY 2002. 2-3,000 for the USMC. It takes a lot of time today to put a good unit together. We would today have an additional four or five combat brigades available in the active force and another one to three ready next year."
I think that's right. The early decisions to fight this war on the cheap — and to not prepare or mobilize sufficient numbers of reservists in 2001 and 2002 — are a major source of our problems today. Whether you support this war or not, we are at war. It takes soldiers, materiel and money to win a war; this is not a time to downsize the military, skimp on mobilizations, or be handing out tax cuts. To win, I think we all must bear some cost, whether directly through service or indirectly through taxes and the burden of supporting a nation at war. We ought not minimize this burden, because doing so will only prolong the effort.

More to follow on this important issue...
America's leanest & fastest ambassador to Europe starts his diplomatic tour
The Tour De France kicked off today with a 3.8 mile prologue in Belgium. Five-time winner Lance Armstrong, riding for the U.S. Postal Service team, rode hard to finish 2nd in this pre-tour race. He beat main rivals Jan Ullrich and Tyler Hamilton, who have made it their mission to prevent Armstong from winning an all-time-record 6th consecutive Tour. Of course, the prologue is just that. This Tour -- like most Tours -- will likely be won in the mountainous Alps phases, especially the dreaded Alpe d'Huez. Nonetheless, today marked an impressive start for America's road warrior, and I look forward to seeing him ride into the record books on July 24.

If you're a cycling fan (or fanatic like me), you can follow the tour via MSNBC's Tour De France site, or via the official USPS team page. The USPS page includes written dispatches, as fellow as pics from renowned Tour photographer Graham Watson. Also, check out Lance's personal webpage, which includes information about his cancer foundation and other endeavors. And if you haven't done so already, I highly recommend reading "It's Not About the Bike", Lance's autobiographical account of his struggle with cancer and return to the top of the cycling world.

Go Lance!
Irony makes a court appearance
Rajiv Chandrasekaran had a great report in Friday's Washington Post on Saddam Hussein's initial appearance in court. In this appearance, Hussein was brought before an Iraqi judge (whom he himself had appointed many years before), and read the initial list of charges against him. As can be expected. Mr. Hussein disputed the authority of the court to hear the case. But, I thought the terms of his disputes quite ironic, given the circumstances:
Hussein questioned the judge's credentials. He insisted he deserved immunity because he had been acting in an official capacity. And he challenged the legitimacy of the special tribunal set up to judge him and his associates, saying that "everyone knows this is theater by [President] Bush, the criminal, in an attempt to win the election."

* * *
Despite differences in some reports from the courtroom, there was no mistaking the strident attitude of the former president, who asserted that he had been "elected by the people" and asked the judge at one point, "What law formed this court?"
Here, Saddam makes a jurisdictional challenge of sorts to the legitimacy of the court and its authority to the hear the case. A criminal defendant might do the same here if challenging the Constitutionality of the court's jurisdiction to hear a particular charge. We also have an implicit challenge to the legitimacy of the particular law which gave rise to Saddam's tribunal, again, something most U.S. lawyers would recognize as a legitimate way to challenge a prosecution.

Hussein made his most defiant comments after the judge read a list of seven atrocities the former president is alleged to have ordered: the use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988; the killing of members of a prominent Kurdish family, the Barzani clan, in 1983; the murder of political party leaders over a 30-year period; the murder of religious leaders; a campaign of brutal attacks against Kurds in the 1980s; the violent suppression of Kurds and Shiites after the 1991 Persian Gulf War; and the event that prompted that war, Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. When the judge mentioned Kuwait, Hussein became agitated.

"I'm surprised you're charging me with this as an Iraqi, when everyone knows Kuwait is part of Iraq," Hussein told the judge, repeating an argument that his government used to justify the invasion. Hussein asserted later in the hearing that he was protecting the Iraqi people from Kuwaiti "dogs." He charged that oil-rich Kuwait had been turning Iraqi women into "10-dinar prostitutes" and that he had sought to "defend Iraqi honor" and revive Iraq's "historical rights" to Kuwait.
Here, we get an inkling of Saddam Hussein's affirmative defenses. He will likely assert that he was justified to do certain acts as the sovereign of Iraq, and that he cannot be held criminally liable as a result. It's not likely that the court will buy these defenses, particularly for acts such as the 1988 Anfal campaign where Iraqi forces used chemical weapons against the Kurds. But this is a well-settled tactic in criminal defense efforts, and I wasn't surprised to see it employed during Saddam's arraignment.

Later, when he was told that he could have a court-appointed lawyer if he could not afford one, Hussein scoffed. "According to the Americans," he said, "I have millions of dollars in Geneva, so I should be able to afford one."

At the end of the proceeding, after the judge had informed him of his rights, including the right to be represented by a lawyer and the right to remain silent, Hussein refused to sign a brief document indicating that he had been read his rights.

"Please allow me not to sign until the lawyers are present," he said. "Anyhow, when you take a procedure to bring me here again, present me all these papers with the presence of lawyers. Why would you have me behave in a manner that we might call it hasty later on?"
Very impressive. Saddam asserts both his right to counsel, and his knowledge that he should have access to counsel before any critical stage of the pre-trial proceedings. He must've read a treatise on the U.S. 6th Amendment while in custody. Of course, Saddam is not being asked to sign these papers as a waiver of his rights — only an acknowledgement that he's read them. However, subsequent courts may view rights advisories with some suspicion if counsel was requested and not provided. It looks like Saddam does understand the scope of his rights, but it probably wouldn't hurt to give him counsel at this stage of the process.

In one finger-wagging exchange, Hussein told the judge: "It doesn't really matter whether you convict me or not. That's not what's important. But what is important is that you remember that you're a judge. Don't mention anything about the occupying forces. This is not good. Judge in the name of people. This is the Iraqi way."
This is a very interesting passage, where Saddam apparently counsels the judge how to avoid ex parte contacts with the Coalition authorities, and also that the judge should avoid the appearance of impropriety while on the bench. Was Saddam following the news coverage of the Scalia recusal decision in Cheney v. U.S. District Court? I'm not sure why Saddam said this during his initial appearance, however, it does undercut some of what he said with respect to the court's jurisdiction. Saddam seems to acknowledge the court might have jurisdiction to try him if it acts in the name of the Iraqi people. Thus, he seems to be advocating for some sort of popular supremacy, where the ultimate power of the government resides in the will of the people. That principle comes straight from the Enlightenment ideas of Western philosophers like Locke, and it's surprising to hear it from Saddam.

Also, fellow deck-of-cards member Tariq Aziz made an appearance before the special war crimes tribunal on Thursday in Baghdad. He too decided to make an interesting legal argument in response to his charges:
Aziz, who was accused of "deliberate killings" in 1979 and 1991, sought to draw a distinction between personal acts and command responsibility. "If I am a member of a government that made a mistake in killing someone, there can't be a direct personal accusation against me. If there is a crime, the moral responsibility rests with the leadership, but a member of the leadership cannot be held personally responsible. I never killed anybody by any direct act."
Interesting theory — but wrong. Mr. Aziz demonstrates some knowledge of the command responsibility doctrine here, which is a theory that allows superior officers and leaders to be prosecuted for the war crimes of their subordinates. However, he fails to get the standard right. The rule is that leaders may be held liable when they knew about their subordinates' actions or should have known about them. There is no requirement for direct participation in the act — mere orders to act, or knowledge of the orders, is enough to create criminal liability. (See Application of Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1.)

Why do I find this so ironic? These defendants once denied Western norms of criminal procedure (the right to counsel, due process of law, evidentiary standards, proper jurisdiction, etc.) to their people; now, they are seeking as much shelter as possible from those very protections when it's their hides on the line. Moreover, these individuals seem quite well-versed in the Western norms of due process, thus they knew exactly what they were denying to their own people. Yet, they apparently see no duplicity or hypocrisy in claiming these protections for themselves. If nothing else, I think this trial will go a long way towards establishing those norms in Iraq, and I think that will be a good thing. Whether Saddam's convicted on all counts, or whether he's executed, really isn't what will matter in the long run for Iraq. What will matter is that the average Iraqi thinks justice was done, and once the trials are over, that the average Iraqi has faith in his/her criminal justice system.

Friday, July 2, 2004

"Corrections" moved to top of DOD news briefing
I noticed this morning, while reading the Pentagon's widely acclaimed "Early Bird", that "Corrections/Letters" were moved to the top of the web digest of today's news articles — above the front-page news, instead of down by the op-eds where they used to be. This struck me as odd, because most people wouldn't ordinarily think of a corrections letter to USA Today from top Pentagon flak Lawrence Di Rita as more important than the front-page NYT story about Saddam Hussein's first appearance in court. (I'm distinguishing between the importance of the two stories, not making a slight against USA Today.)

So what's going on here? I think that a "snowflake" (as memoranda from the SecDef are called) was issued from the Secretary to the Early Bird staff, telling them that the Pentagon leadership really wanted to know about two things more than anything: 1) where the newspapers got it wrong, and 2) the letters sent by Pentagon officials to correct where the news might be wrong.

This doesn't really make sense to me, but I suppose it does to a decisionmaker who's concerned with spin. Personally, I'd be a lot more interested in the front-page news that mattered, than the corrections on page A2 that no one reads. Memo to Jack Shafer and Howard Kurtz — care to take this on?

July 6 - Update: The reporters who hold Pentagon press credentials (and have Early Bird access) were apparently paying attention to this too, as was Howard Kurtz at The Post. The July 6 Early Bird no longer lists "Corrections" at the top of its page -- it leads with "Top Stories".