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‘Preemption’ Strategy: Where are the hard questions?

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During the runup to the Iraq War, The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus was one of the few national security journalists challenging the weapons of mass destruction assumptions being made by the Bush administration.  Unfortunately, the administration’s bogus claims were usually given A1 treatment, while Pincus’s stories often made their way onto A21.

At the time, I was one of the editors working on the newsdesk of The Post’s website and we would often try and get the “other side” from Pincus featured prominently on the homepage.  Still, you have to wonder what would have happened if his reporting was featured more prominently in the newspaper.

Pincus is still around, now authoring a column entitled “Fine Print.” He recently wrote a column which asked: “Has Obama taken Bush’s ‘preemption’ strategy to another level?” Pincus quotes a revised “strategic guidance” document which is startling in its bluntness:

“For the foreseeable future, the United States will continue to take an active approach to countering these threats by monitoring the activities of non-state threats worldwide, working with allies and partners to establish control over ungoverned territories, and directly striking the most dangerous groups and individuals when necessary” — emphasis added (by Pincus.)

I expected this column to get a lot of traction — for reporters and editorial boards around the country to pick up and run with this story.  But, the follow-ups have been relatively few. Where are the questions?  Where are the editorials? Isn’t this an issue worth probing?

To answer Arthur Brisbane’s recent question, yes, now would be the time to be a “truth vigilante.”

 

Reporting from Afghanistan: UMass Journalism’s Ben Brody

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Ben Brody filed this interesting image from Afghanistan recently for GlobalPost. (Courtesy of Ben Brody.)

I met UMass journalism student Ben Brody last year when we chatted about what courses he should be taking.  When we talk about “learning by doing,” Ben truly takes it to heart.  I told Ben I wanted to keep up with his travels this summer, and I recently had a Q&A with him over e-mail.  If you have any questions for Ben, leave them in the comments section and I will try and do an updated version in a couple of weeks:


July 12:  Things are crazy in Kandahar City with AWK’s assassination this
morning.  Since I’m tied to the computer anyway, here are some
answers.

1.  What are you doing this summer? I’m working for GlobalPost in Afghanistan covering the aftermath of last year’s troop surge, which I spent four months covering as well.  At this point I’m still planning to return to UMass in the fall.

2. How did you end up in Afghanistan?  What is your background? I am a former Army combat photographer and am deeply interested in America’s military commitments overseas.  I spent more than two years in Iraq when that was the main story.  Afghanistan is the main friction point right now, so of course that’s where I am.

3. How did you end up at UMass?  When I left the Army I knew I wanted to live in the Pioneer Valley and attend school.  Some of my friends went to UMass after high school
and did very well for themselves.  So I applied, got in, and have two semesters left.

4. Tell us about the conditions in Afghanistan this summer.  Southern Afghanistan is hot, dry and violent in the summer.  Some areas are better than last year so far, and some are about the same.  I wouldn’t say there’s anywhere in the south that’s more violent than last year.  Land mines, both manufactured and improvised, are a major
threat down here.  The casualty figures don’t reflect the scores of soldiers who are being maimed every week here.  The typical result of stepping on a mine is the loss of both legs, and often one arm.

5.  Do you feel like you’re making a difference?  Was I supposed to be making a difference?  America has been fighting in Afghanistan for ten years.  What is different about Afghanistan now?

Here is some of Ben’s work:

A report on the insane Catch-22 that is killing and maiming U.S. troops every day.

Soldiers being stalked by caracal cats!

Soldiers show their love for chest waxing and hot pants!

Much of Ben’s journalism can be found on GlobalPost’s AfPak blog.

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