March 10, 2011

Stay classy, Michael Hastings! Part III

Well, hopefully this will end the furor over an ugly and now thoroughly discredited hit piece. In a more just world, Rolling Stone would conduct an internal investigation to determine how one of its reporters managed to so grotesquely smear an honorable man. Kudos to Spencer Ackerman, a friend of Michael Hastings, for doing some actual reporting:

The “information operations” officer at the center of an explosive Rolling
story about an allegedly-illicit propaganda operation will
meet on Wednesday morning with an official inquiry to determine if his
old boss, the general in charge of training Afghan troops, broke the


Only the officer, Lt. Col. Michael Holmes, concedes that Lt. Gen.
Caldwell’s effort was little
more than spinning legislators
— something any press flack could
have done innocuously. ...


And all that raises questions about precisely what Caldwell is
supposed to have done wrong. (Full disclosure: Both Michael Hastings,
the author of the Rolling Stone piece, and Caldwell are
longtime friends of this blog.) After the story broke, the Internet was
filled with breathless allegations about Caldwell’s “psyop,” making it
seem like his staff used Jedi mind tricks to convince senators that the
Afghan training mission is going swimmingly. But even Holmes says that’s
overblown. ...


He was also asked to contribute to briefings for visiting U.S.
dignitaries, like senators and congressmen, who came to Kabul’s Camp
Eggers to observe the training mission and talk to Caldwell. Initially,
that meant “just a Google search” on their bios, personalities, and
voting records, he says. “That’s not illegal… At that point, I wasn’t
asked, ‘Hey, what is it we’ve got to tell them to get our message
across?’ I wasn’t asked to put a spin on it.”


And that’s the extent of what Holmes says Caldwell did wrong:
“putting a spin” on what to tell legislators about the training.

Holmes is upset about the command climate at NTM-A, and that's now what his complaint to a specially appointed investigating officer will be about. In the interests of full disclosure, LTG Caldwell's former chief of staff is a friend of mine, so I'm going to refrain from commenting about all that. But those of you who jumped the gun and were calling for Caldwell's head a few weeks ago should now feel free to both apologize to Caldwell and to cancel your subscriptions to Rolling Stone.