"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Publishing A Rough Draft 

My local paper, the Seattle P-I has a usually dependable Washington correspondent in Charles Pope. Unfortunately, Mr. Pope dropped the ball today.

Writing about the rumors (or, as he calls them, "urban myths") that a draft is on the horizon, he notes that several sources on the Internet and elsewhere are reporting that a resurrection of the draft is imminent. In particular, he cites a story that appeared in the Sept. 8 edition of the Daily Kent Stater which claimed "George W. Bush is planning to reinstate the military draft by June 15, 2005." As a result of these stories, Pope writes, Congressional representatives are receiving a deluge of letters and e-mails from constituents objecting to a revival of the draft.

But then, Mr. Pope jumps the shark:
But it isn't true. There are no plans to reinstate the military draft. None.

Now, it is clearly irresponsible for the Daily Kent Stater (or anyone else) to report categorically that the draft will be reinstated, unless the authors of those stories are privy to inside information from the bowles of the Pentagon itself. But - it is just as irresponsible for Charles Pope to state categorically (he was not quoting any official) that there are no such plans. Pope doesn't know, any more that the Kent State author, what plans exist or do not exist. It is at best lazy journalism, and at worst outright advocacy, to claim any such certainty.

Consider that recruitment and retention rates are down, while at the same time the Pentago has expressed an interest in shortening rotations for Army units depolyed in Iraq. Consider further that the Junta is engaged in considerable sabre rattling towards Iran, Syria, and (to a lesser extent) North Korea. Now, it may be that all of this is occurring without any meaningful consideration of reviving the draft. But then again, anyone who is capable of performing simple arithmetic must be wondering where the needed manpower is going to come from. It is not absurd to think that there might be at least some contingency planning going on.

But Charles Pope, citing no source at all, assures us that this is certainly not the case.

As I said, Pope is usually pretty good, so I will give him the benfit of the doubt and assume that he was simply working on deadline and misspoke. But let's not allow this sort of lazy journalism to go unchallenged. When a reporter writes that a thing is true, let's make sure that he is obligated to explain how he came to acquire such knowledge to a degree of moral certitude. Drop Charles Pope a line (charliepope@seattlepi.com) and ask him how it is that he knows that this "urban myth" is not true.




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