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(This dispatch is intended for investigative journalists who may be interested in military propaganda targeting US citizens. Much of the account is first person, the way that it unfolded.)
25 April 2012
USA TODAY journalists are experiencing something that I first began describing roughly two years ago. When a writer pens uncomfortable words about the military, the writer invites systematic defamation. This dispatch reveals fact-patterns and information that can reveal the tell-tale fingerprints of the propaganda machine.
USA TODAY reported last week:
WASHINGTON – A USA TODAY reporter and editor investigating Pentagon propaganda contractors have themselves been subjected to a propaganda campaign of sorts, waged on the Internet through a series of bogus websites.
Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created in their names, along with a Wikipedia entry and dozens of message board postings and blog comments. Websites were registered in their names.
The timeline of the activity tracks USA TODAY's reporting on the military's "information operations" program, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan — campaigns that have been criticized even within the Pentagon as ineffective and poorly monitored.
This also happened to me. After I wrote that two Generals should be sacked, certain milblogs began a military-sponsored attack against me. They alleged that I had PTSD and that I had been dis-embedded from US, UK and Canadian forces for security violations. They also claimed that my own service record was tattered. None of it was true. My time in the military was honorable, and in the wars as a writer, I had not embedded with Canadian forces, nor was I ever dis-embedded from other militaries for OPSEC violations.
I have been dis-embedded for writing things that they did not like. Generals often are sacked for doing or saying things that people do not like. McChrystal, for instance. The list is very long.
Milbloggers such as Jim Hanson at Blackfive wrote that I was kicked out of Afghanistan and Iraq. Untrue. Of the approximately 65 countries that I have traveled in, only Burma ever denied me a visa. The bedroom and backyard milbloggers do not grasp that the US military has no control over travel to Iraq, Afghanistan, or to Canada. All are sovereign countries that control their own immigration and borders.
The US Army deployed an unstable milblogger, Master Sergeant CJ Grisham, to Afghanistan. The Army shipped Grisham back months early, in March 2012, after he complained of mental problems. Grisham, still a soldier, and a de facto spokesman for the US Army, has previously claimed that he hears “voices in his head,” and has expressed suicidal thoughts.
Even today this Army sanctioned milblogger’s accusations against me remain on Wikipedia.
The USA TODAY folks are experiencing normal misinformation operations. My own Wikipedia page has at times been largely fiction. A target can spend his waking hours guarding a Wikipedia page against sabotage. I myself have made no entries or deletions but I have asked others to make Wiki factual. They encountered difficulty making the changes stick.
The military media hit team creates spoof websites, fictitious Facebook pages, and in my case, somebody also registered a fake Skype account. It is conceivable that someone has used this Skype account to misrepresent me to media, or to others:
Milblogs, such as Blackfive, who are so often implicated in propaganda campaigns, are nominees in this year's annual milblogger awards, sponsored in part by the US Army, and hosted by milblogging.com.
Jim Hanson, sometimes called “Uncle Jimblow,” or “Jimbo,” is tightly and publicly associated with other questionable milbloggers such as Matt Burden and CJ Grisham.
Blackfive, Mudville Gazette, or any of another dozen milblogs would write the initial propaganda, which associates, such as Grisham, then would cite on Wikipedia or send out to journalists or to other bloggers.
Key: By stroking milblog thought-leaders, the military can harness a pack response with little input. Their ink is attainable with simple favors and a little bit of attention.
General McChrystal Strokes Jim Hanson
In 2010, Uncle Jimbo was in direct communication with General Stanley McChrystal and staff.
Uncle Jimbo passed around and bragged about his communications with General McChrystal:
People like Hanson are key in the sense that prostitutes in Colombia are key. Guys in key places use their services, but would prefer to keep it in the dark.
Hanson directly stated, in writing, that he was sanctioned by high authority to discredit my work. I pushed back, saying that the above statement looked like “Sholtis” wrote it. Jimbo replied, “Mikey, C'mon do you think I would lead with the real shit. That was just to make sure you understood that this transcended just ISAF.”
Lieutenant Colonel Edward “Tadd” Sholtis was copied on the above email from McChrystal. Sholtis, a media operative for McChrystal, was also secretly running a blog called “The Quatto Zone,” but the website Mudville Gazette exposed him privately.
After I wrote that McChrystal should be fired, Sholtis secretly sabotaged me. Some of his backchannel communications made their way to me. (Sholtis later admitted unequivocally in writing to being part of a conspiracy.)
During 2010, General McChrystal had a ridiculous media fight after trying to close a few Burger Kings in Afghanistan. There must have been a thousand international stories about the Burger King onslaught. The distraction from the fight with the Taliban and building Afghanistan was a global story. This misplaced priority was symptomatic.
The war had turned into a bloody circus. On March 2, 2010 I published that Canadian Brigadier General Daniel Menard should be fired:
On 15 April 2010, I would be dis-embedded by ISAF for reasons I still do not fully understand. Those reasons probably were related to my writing that General Daniel Menard should be sent home. It didn’t help that Menard is Canadian, and I am American. Menard was the first military person I had ever said should be fired. The silliness of the war had become overwhelming.
McChrystal was trying to control the message and he needed suckers. Experienced war correspondents were the last thing that the Generals wanted around. After dis-embedding me because there was “not enough space,” McChrystal’s public affairs crew embedded a 21-year-old “journalist” with zero experience. His name was Michael Enright.
Mr. Enright spent a few weeks in Afghanistan and he saw no combat. He went home to America, got drunk, and he slashed a taxi driver’s throat. Nearly killed the guy.
Enright’s lawyer, of course, started talking about PTSD.
McChrystal’s crew was on a roll. In addition to Enright, they embedded Michael Hastings from Rolling Stone, during a command trip to Europe. Some of the crew, including McChrystal, reportedly got stumbling drunk with Hastings on 16 April, staggering out of a Paris bar after midnight.
Hasting’s book has the chapter:
APRIL 16, 2010, PARIS
Jake [McChrystal staffer] wobbled up the stairs in the lobby, a glass of beer he’d taken from the bar still in his hand. Charlie [a Colonel] collapsed in a chair in the lobby, checking his Blackberry.”
“That’s dangerous to do while drunk,” [Hastings] said to him.
On 15 April, the day before they got drunk in Paris, McChrystal’s bunch dis-embedded me in Kandahar. People were calling me crazy for saying that two Generals should be fired. I started to leave Kandahar Airfield to stay downtown in Kandahar City. I was late getting to the house, which was lucky: A truck bomb hit it that night, leaving many dead and injured.
The truck bomb left me stuck on base waiting for an airplane to Jalalabad. Thanks to McChrystal, I had nothing to do. So I revealed that Brigadier General Daniel Menard was having an affair with a staffer. That caused a huge scandal and Menard was later relieved of command. I revealed the case due to his military incompetence, and because I was stuck on base with an idle mind. Strangely, McChrystal accidentally helped Menard get relieved.
After McChrystal’s night of drinking in France, Hastings describes the Paris hangover of 17 April 2010:
The team woke up at seven A.M. the next day. McChrystal allegedly got his seven miles of running in. The staff went up the Eiffel Tower. The generals were worried that other tourists in the elevator car could smell beer on them.
Blackfive swung into action on 18 April, with a rant, and reposted my Facebook entry. I had called Senior Public Affairs people crazy monkeys, but had I known they were actually getting drunk with Rolling Stone when I wrote that, I would have said Crazy Drunken Monkeys:
Approximately a dozen milblogs (many of them current nominees for the 2012 milblog awards), defended McChrystal and attacked me at once. Some claimed to be my friends, but I had never met any of them, and I did not even know most of their names, other than Matt Burden. I had met Matt briefly in Chicago back in 2006.
As for the kinetic war, and the information war, McChrystal had no method. I didn’t see any method. They were monkeys in the cockpit of a war, pushing buttons and trying to sound confident. The war was just a thing that they were doing, and on 16 April, they were doing it in Paris.
For his antics, General McChrystal got called to the main office. The White House. I emailed to the public affairs office of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to please fire McChrystal and that I would support Petraeus. General Petraeus knows how to win.
Soon, Petraeus was standing there with President Obama. I was watching in rapt amazement, and I pulled out my BlackBerry and I emailed Petraeus right when he was standing there with Obama getting the job.