Hello, Altercators, in this second day of Eric's foray to Sundance, a little from your friendly local infantryman, Bob Bateman. For those who only picked up on Eric's writing when he migrated over here to Media Matters, I have been writing for him for a while. Mostly from Iraq in 2005 and into the beginning of last year, less frequently recently, but I try. I am a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, but everything I write is my own intellectual content, and most definitely does not represent the opinions or position of the USG, the DoD, the Army, or even my own mom and dad. (Hmmm, probably especially my own mom and dad.)

Now that that's out of the way, will somebody please tell me what Elizabeth Cheney's qualifications are to speak on issues of national security? No, wait a minute, let me add a caveat. Everyone in a democracy is entitled to their own opinion, and everyone has a right to speak their opinion. These are two of the freedoms of the Constitution, a document that I have dedicated my life to supporting and defending. But that does not mean that everyone is entitled to having an op-ed on national security issues and warfare printed in The Washington Post on the day of the State of the Union address.

As near as I can tell, Liz Cheney's expertise as either a military strategist or a national security theorist consists of the following: None. So my question is for the Washington Post editorial page editors. To wit: "Why?" What makes Liz Cheney qualified to speak on issues of military theory, warfare, terrorism, and national security strategy?

Yes, she has worked with USAID and the State Department when she was fresh out of college back in the '80s. Fine. Then she went to law school, and practiced law. So yes, in addition to being a mother of five, she is also a former practicing lawyer, though she has not done that for many years. Again, fine. To her professional credit, she has apparently had some success working in the realm of international finance as a lawyer, and on this topic I would gladly welcome her opinion. (I might not agree, but I would readily cede that as a lawyer or an economist she is qualified to have an expert opinion, and I am not.) So far as I can tell, she really had no education, experience, or training in military affairs, terrorism, national security strategy, or military theory. Until her father became the vice president of the United States, she was not even in government at all. At that point, however, she was appointed to a high position within the State Department. Apparently it was a position which had never existed before.

OK, again, fine. Political patronage and de facto nepotism is a system we have decided works for us in the United States, at least since the heyday of Andrew Jackson. (JFK, it should be remembered, appointed his brother as the attorney general.) But for all of that, she was (past tense, that is, otherwise I could not write this) still only a deputy assistant secretary with a focus on international economic development and aid. This befits her education and experience ... but, Mr. and Ms. Editors-At-The-Post, that still does not make her a national military or security strategist, conversant in military or quasi-military theory or practice, or even suggests that she knows the first thing about anything to do with war.

Yet with those weighty national security qualifications of "none," she is given a bully pulpit in one of the most influential newspapers in the country wherein she makes strategic military assertions, and The Washington Post publishes them. I'm sorry, but that is wrong. It is as wrong as listening to Hollywood stars like Sean Penn or that Baldwin guy for incisive intellectual content on military or national security affairs. (Moral issues, sure, anyone can be an "expert" in that, but not military theory.) Frankly, the fact that Ms. Cheney took advantage of biology in order to get into print is just something that turns my stomach.

I am a Midwesterner, raised in Ohio and inclined to applaud merit and detest privilege. Maybe that's just a Midwestern thing, I don't know. But the fact that Liz Cheney got an international stage just because of who her father is strikes me as the antithesis of much of what I thought this country was about, and why I have served it for almost 18 years now. Then again, the meritocratic ideas of those of us from "flyover country" seem to be missing out on the left as well. Here is what the Post reported yesterday:

Some rank-and-file members see bias toward "bicoastal liberals" in [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi's [D-CA] inner circle -- particularly Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) -- and short shrift given to the views of Midwesterners and more conservative Southern Democrats.

Man, we Midwestern moderates cannot win for losing.

Now, in other news, the Congressional Research Service has apparently lost its mind. Roll Call captures the stupidity well ($):

In a move designed to help maintain its reputation as an impartial agency, the Congressional Research Service announced an updated media policy Tuesday that requires staffers to inform management within 24 hours of any interviews conducted with the press.

OK, that is not all bad. But look at what the actual rules are:

Staffers also must provide information about all on-the-record interactions with the media to their supervisors within 24 hours, including the name of the reporter and his or her media affiliation, date, time and details of the interview. CRS employees who serve as speakers at outside events covered by the media also would need to find out reporters' information and give that to their supervisors.

Christ. In effect, this means that civilian employees of CRS have fewer First Amendment rights than, well, we military officers. Nice move, CRS. Way to uphold the vision and intent of the Constitution.

Over the past couple of months, I have railed about the AP source "Jamil Hussein" (not his real name). Well, to show you that reporting can be done in really nasty places, here is an example of solid reporting from another major news collective, Reuters. In this article, the unnamed reporter does a good job. He tells us what he saw and what people said, but also explicitly explains the conditions under which he gathered the news so that we can form our own opinions, and simultaneously displays decent degrees of skepticism 360 degrees around.

In this story from the Guardian, we see the value of reporters who operate "behind the lines." Although I know he probably hates this, that reporter just did an immeasurable service in intelligence for us in the Coalition. See it here.

And now, please bear with me, but just because Michelle Malkin is broadly considered a lunatic by those on the political left (and probably by a fair sprinkling on the right), does not mean that she is wrong all of the time. Here.

OK, now to cleanse your soul after that last foray, a good news story. As a sidebar to that I would note that when I was growing up in semi-rural Ohio in the 1970s, the fact that I played soccer was tantamount to walking around in a tutu, so I know a little of what these kids have felt since arriving in rural Georgia.

I hesitate showing you all this one, but you are all intellectually adults, you can handle this. What I do know is that the people who made this are going to hell. As I strongly expect that someday I will as well, I look forward to meeting them.

Armenian Genocide: Well, now there's a hot topic that almost nobody in the West wants to touch with a 10-foot pole. The killing of a Turkish-Armenian journalist received little note in Western news sources. Definitely a Page 12 item in most papers. After all, Muslim Turkey is an ally, and we need to tread carefully when making accusations of a Muslim slaughter/genocide of a Christian minority, so that sort of thing sort of slides under the radar. Which is why I read Al Jazeera. At least they highlighted the story, called what happened a genocide (or more accurately explained the debate about it), and put it on their front page. See here.

India is a special interest topic of mine, not the least because my wife now speaks passable Hindi and I personally believe that the Subcontinent is the most important place in the world for us over the next 50 years. The fact that they have entered the realm of space in a serious, credible way is important for a whole bunch of reasons which I leave to you to suss out. See here. (Special warning: I don't know why, but most Indian websites seem addicted to pop-ups. Just a heads-up.)

At the same time, the Germans note that the United States has deployed two carrier battle groups into the Persian Gulf.

But in perhaps a more troubling area, despite the fact that the Germans have had only a few dozen combatants involved in operations in Afghanistan, they may have their own problems with torture and abuse.

If you want to write to me (which is not the same as writing for comment here on this page), feel free at

And now, on to the letters:

Name: John B
Hometown: Des Moines, IA

I see here that Alberto Gonzales doesn't believe the American people have ever HAD the right to Habeas Corpus, therefore the government taking it away isn't an issue. Truly we have jumped from mere historical revisionism to full-scale Orwellian Doublethink. To say that a right we've had since the signing of the Magna Carta no longer exists just because the Bushies say so is mind boggling. Mr. Gonzales is resting his argument on the Constitution not actually stating that we HAVE a right to Habeas Corpus. Someone should have pointed out to the Attorney General clear back in high school government class that the Constitution specifically states the rights of the people are NOT to be limited by lack of inclusion in said document. By contrast, the powers of the State are SPECIFICALLY limited by the Constitution and government does not have inherent powers NOT stated therein.

Name: Martin Cobern
Hometown: Cheshire, CT

Dear Eric (and Eric),

You may recall the hubbub when Linda Greenhouse, speaking as an individual at a commencement address, made some unflattering comments about the current Supreme Court. The Times' Public Editor was deluged with complaints that she was revealing her obvious bias, etc. etc.

Well, today Jan Crawford Greenburg, speaking as the (a?) legal correspondent for ABC News, published a love note to Clarence Thomas on the WSJ Op-Ed page. She is flacking for her book, which is designed to show "how the Rehnquist Court ... evolved into an ideological and legal disappointment for conservatives." She accuses the Court of "lurch[ing] inexplicably to the left," even after Thomas' arrival, and credits him with undoing the work of Justice O'Connor who [horrors!] "sought an ideological balance."

Do you think we should all complain to ABC about her bias? Would it matter? Would Disney veer from its rightward path? Will pigs fly?

Name: Brian Donohue

To any who suspect that there may be something more than randomness in coincidence: on the day of SOTU '07, Pink Floyd's classic album Animals turns 30 (released 1/23/77).

So as you watch Mr. Comfortably Numb addressing the nation this evening, think of these lyrics from "Dogs":

And when you lose control
You'll reap the harvest you have sown.
And as the fear grows
The bad blood slows and turns to stone.
And it's too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around.
So have a good drown, as you go down all alone
Dragged down by the stone.

For more on Animals and the Floyd, check our special from last week at

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