Saturday, January 06, 2007

All the King's Horses and All the King's Men

This week's shake up at CentCom, the military's central command division that is responsible for overseeing forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, made me want to visit their website again. They have a multi-year history of posting voluminous leaflet galleries, so that U.S. citizens can see the printed ephemera of the battlefront. (Some of the more interesting ones I've grabbed from the web over the years are posted here.) When I was publishing an electronic hypertext essay in Kairos about how the rhetoric of government websites communicated sometimes ideologically contradictory messages about the September 11th attacks and the subsequent war in Afghanistan, CentCom had the only official webmaster who would answered my e-mails, and he responded with friendly, public domain assurances and genuine interest in what he could do to improve his information services. Despite following their stated procedures for access, it was impossible to get the White House, the FBI, the State Department, or the Department of Justice to respond to my requests for information and formal publication permission. So Centcom has long had a warm spot in my heart.

Unfortunately, the once model transparency of Centcom has clearly gone downhill, and they've become little more than advertising in justification of the doomed Iraq policy by perpetuating a simplistic binary world view of good and evil. The site includes Heroes in Action and What Extremists are Saying. A related periodical The Nature of the Enemy addresses remarkably little about the opponent's probable motivations and is largely devoted to demonization. Another series of PDF periodicals Iraq Reconstruction Reports seems particularly disingenuous, given the absence of power or public safety that blogging Iraqis are reporting.

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