New Warblog Gathering "Rubber Ducky" Stories about Iraq: Guaranteeing Success

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The proposal is to counter the "police blotter" media slant against the war by collecting actual 1st person accounts from soldiers who were or are in Iraq. There are several problems with their methodology, enough so to qualify this as a standard-issue propaganda piece with a veneer of objectivity.

One, the proposal aims to verify stories by collecting the name, rank, and serial number of each account. Any form of this, as one commenter pointed out, will narrow the stories to positive, "rubber ducky" stories. Soldiers are mandated to support the military actions they are undertaking. Any soldier caught "undermining" those actions by reporting negative stories with their names attached risks reprimand. Even if the website allows the publication of rank only while maintaining a file with all pertinent information, the soldiers who whistleblow will be at risk.

Two, the stated aim of the website is not an accurate picture of Iraq, but publishing the "positive aspects" that aren't being reported. If a soldier does give an account that has negative aspects or is negative overall, will the website go ahead and publish the account without editing? It's likely that they wouldn't on the grounds that they'd be doing the work of the "liberal media" for them.

Three, stories may not restricted to the Iraqi soldiers. They're also considering using the accounts of people who know the soldiers (hearsay) and the stories of "private-industry personell (sic)" that are in Iraq or Afghanistan (public relations bonanza). The potential for innocent and open abuse of this system is bad enough as is; these proposals could turn such abuse up to eleven.

Four, the assumption is that only the above named can provide a clear picture of what's going on in Iraq. What about accounts from Iraqi citizens? Would the website publish such first-hand accounts as Riverbend's Baghdad Burning weblog? Resistance to this would be along lines of verifiability and such accounts being propaganda for whatever Iraqi faction is trying to get a leg up in the country. But the American accounts are subject to the same failings. The Americans in Iraq are a faction as well, with their own agendas in play, one that soldiers will be inclined to support. Why not publish all stories from Iraqi?

Five, other than verifying the identity of the soldiers, there will be no effort to verify the facts reported in the accounts. There's no one behind the project (so far as I can tell) who's in a position to do so.

I could be cynical and assert that the faith of the project's leaders in coming up with overwhelmingly good stories out of Iraq is because they're absolutely aware of their methodology's misgivings. But I don't think that's the case. Theirs is a blind faith - similar to the Bush Administration's blind faith in finding WMD, so much so that they were willing to use faulty intelligence to lead this nation to war. This website is more of the same - it's expecting a flood of positive raw data that it intends to publish without (or even in the face of?) sufficient vetting.

Bottom line: I don't doubt that there are American soldiers playing on swing sets with Iraqi children. Is it worth $87 billion dollars to keep that happening?