- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Central Command, the U.S. military headquarters for operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan, released its report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan’s Farah Province at 4:52 on Friday afternoon — and in the summer. That is typical of military public affairs — in fact, I once heard an Army PA officer boast about good they were at using late Friday to disclose embarrassing information. Among other things, the late hour makes it difficult for reporters to find outside experts who have read the report and can comment on it.
Stunts like these are not cute. They undermine the credibility of the military and increase public suspicion of its statements. If General Petraeus is serious about improving strategic communications in his command, he’ll tell his subordinates to stop throwing the bad news out the back door late on Fridays.