This milblogging flap comes at an odd time in the debate on the war—when a strong single message on the Iraqi occupation and its prospective aftermath seems impossible to put forward.
A recent ABC poll indicates that a majority of Americans concur with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s view that the war is lost. Congress and the White House are settling into their own Long War over Mr. Bush’s veto of supplemental spending legislation that approves the conditional onset of troop withdrawals from Iraq.
So why should the Pentagon crack down on the milbloggers, of all people, now? The simplest answer seems to be because it can: Bloggers in the military ranks are the one source of information about the war the senior brass still thinks it can control.
As it happens, this year’s winner of the Milblog Conference’s blogger-of-the-year award is Sean Dustman, a Marine helo corpsman who opposed the decision to invade Iraq. Mr. Dustman re-enlisted after his first eight-year tour, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. “We should have taken out Osama right after 9/11,” Mr. Dustman said. “That guy should be dust.”
Mr. Dustman began his site,
DocintheBox.blogspot.com, as a photo blog during his first Iraqi tour. Since he’s a Marine, Mr. Dustman isn’t facing C.O. crackdowns on his site.
“I just sort of point my finger over there and laugh at them,” he said in the spirit of interservice rivalry. The Marines, he added, “give me a pretty free rein. Their attitude is: If you write something we don’t like, we’ll find you.”
Mr. Dustman is heading back to Iraq for his fourth tour next spring—and despite his misgivings about the original invasion, he wants, like nearly every soldier serving in the field, to see the mission through.
“These aren’t just Islamists we’re fighting now,” he said. “They’re real monsters—people beheading civilians on videotape.”
It’s hard not to be struck by how sensible and uncontroversial Mr. Dustman is. Putting aside his military career, he seems, if anything, like a pretty sound reflection of general opinion on the Iraqi invasion—in retrospect, at least.
So what can the Pentagon have to fear from Mr. Dustman?
The Army, meanwhile, seems determined to expand the range of its hypervigilant oversight. In the same new OpSec directives, it casually groups “the media” as an “unconventional threat” to U.S. forces in combat. No further explication was deemed necessary.