News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Pentagon/Republican Playbook Against DoD Rules Against Politicking?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pentagon/Republican Playbook Against DoD Rules Against Politicking?

A report by RawStory links to a Pentagon document that suggests that the Pentagon is laying out talking points not only for the Pentagon PR office but also for political supporters of the US war in Iraq. What this ostensibly does is to provide attack points for those supporters in order to counter domestic political opposition to the war. And I always thought it was illegal for the military to get involved in domestic politics. Not according to the new Pentagon. ...

RawStory is reporting:

The 74 page document seems to be an election year guide for Republicans and Democratic supporters of the war, with many of the "points" seeming to be rebuttals to arguments made by opponents of the war.

Other portions seek to categorize opponents of the war as "cut and run" advocates.
Of course, impressions may be misleading. The Pentagon has an obligation to publish its plans and strategies for victory in Iraq. That's just "standard operating procedure," as they say in the military.

Rules against politicking by the military and its civilian representatives include "DoD directive for active-duty servicemembers [sic] and the Hatch Act for federal civilians," according to an online article by Donna Miles of the American Forces Press Service.

Dennis Ryan writes:
Soldiers may encourage other Soldiers to vote, but may not attempt to influence an election. They may also join political clubs, but not attend in uniform.
Republican candidates have been criticized for introducing military symbols and rhetoric into their campaigns. Perhaps one of the most egregious incidents occurred when a Colorado Representative, Marilyn Musgrave, had a soldier in uniform speak at a campaign dinner.

DoD Directive 1344.10 prohibits the military from engaging in most forms of electioneering and politicking. It provides a common-sense view of what electioneering and politciking means:
Any activity that may be viewed as associating the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security, in the case of the Coast Guard, or any component of these Departments directly or indirectly with a partisan political activity shall be avoided.
What does seem odd and cause for concern about the Pentagon "playbook" is that the document appears to have been distributed only to supporters of the war. This is anti-democratic because it does not allow the opponents of the war to counter assertions made in the document. It looks like it might also be illegal.

Update 1: Now RawStory reports that the Pentagon is asking lawmakers to return the playbook it previously sent out. This adds to the suspicion that the Pentagon is trying to influence domestic politics, something that is illegal.

Update 2: ABCNews' Liz Marlantes reports:
hursday afternoon, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) sent a letter to Rumsfeld complaining that his office had spent "taxpayer dollars to produce partisan political documents." Lautenberg also suggested that the document may have violated laws prohibiting the Executive Branch from using taxpayer dollars for lobbying and propaganda activities. [my emphasis]

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