I was in Starbucks getting my caffeine fix and I saw the headline of the Chicago Tribune:
The Bush administration, deeply concerned about recent assassination attempts against Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and a resurgence of Taliban forces in neighboring Afghanistan, is preparing a U.S. military offensive that would reach inside Pakistan with the goal of destroying Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, military sources said.The Tribune should have titled it - Hey Osama, Watch Out!
U.S. Central Command is assembling a team of military intelligence officers that would be posted in Pakistan ahead of the operation, according to sources familiar with details of the plan and internal military communications. The sources spoke on the condition they not be identified.
As now envisioned, the offensive would involve Special Operations forces, Army Rangers and Army ground troops, sources said. A Navy aircraft carrier would be deployed in the Arabian Sea.
Referred to in internal Pentagon messages as the "spring offensive," the operation would be driven by certain undisclosed events in Pakistan and across the region, sources said. A source familiar with details of the plan said this is "not like a contingency plan for North Korea, something that sits on a shelf. This planning is like planning for Iraq. They want this plan to be executable, now."
The Defense Department declined to comment on the planned offensive or its details.
...A series of planning orders--referred to in military jargon as warning orders--for the offensive were issued in recent weeks. The deadline for key planning factors to be detailed by the U.S. military was Jan. 21.
Sources said the plan against Al Qaeda would be driven by events in the region rather than set deadlines and that delays could occur. But military sources said the push for this spring appeared to be triggered by the assassination attempts on Musharraf, both of which came in December, and, to some extent, the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Hussein was captured after eight months of an intense military and intelligence effort on the ground in Iraq. Pentagon and administration officials, buoyed by that success, believe a similar determined effort could work in Pakistan and lead to the capture or killing of bin Laden, said sources familiar with the planning.
Thousands of U.S. forces would be involved, as well as Pakistani troops, planners said. Some of the 10,600 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan would be shifted to the border region as part of regular troop movements; some would be deployed within Pakistan.
This makes my blood boil...You think that this is going to be a surprise attack? Not anymore thanks to the stellar reporting at the Tribune! And you all know someone who is heading over there and will certainly be part of any offensive in the area.
It was written by Christine Spolar - Tribune Foreign Coorespondent. This is Christine Spolar's email address. You also can contact the newspaper's public editor, Don Wycliff . If you decide to send her an email, please keep it professional. Here is my message to Spolar and Wycliff:
Dear Ms. Spolar-Please let the Tribune know that this is unacceptable.
I read your front page article today in the Chicago Tribune. I am very concerned that your article may jeopardize American lives, if and/or when the offensive is launched.
I have some very good friends there now, and some very good friends on the way to Afghanistan.
I would hope that, in your efforts to be a top journalist and get a front page article, you are considerate of the potential costs in lives that your writing may cause. That goes for your editor, too.
At best, you may have destroyed our chances for a surprise attack. At worst, you may have gotten some of our men and women killed.
Update 11:30 AM CST: Just received a response from Christine Spolar. Here it is:
Thanks for your letter. Having covered conflicts for years, including the Bosnian war and now the effort in Iraq since April, I too am aware of your concerns. They are my concerns as well. I too have good friends in uniform, in the Pentagon and on the ground.It's a dodge and I am sure everyone expected the "right of free speech and the freedom of the press" argument...And BTW, I don't believe anyone has a right to know about planned operations (especially Special Operations like these) except for the military and their civilian oversight (DOD, Congress, Senate, President).
I also believe that keeping abreast of what these plans is part of my job and the public, and that includes military personnel involved in such endeavors, has the right to know, to be educated and to judge for themselves these operations. Thanks again for your thoughts...C
Update 6:30pm CST: Here's a few letters to the Tribune that I was copied on...
The outrage, anger and the hostility I feel at this moment are just words and can't begin to describe how I feel about your front page article in today's paper. If one US Service member is injured or killed because of your reckless and irresponsible reporting, I hope it stays on your conscience for the rest of your life. No matter how you found out about this plan, what you and the Tribune did is dead wrong.
I hope you have the courage to visit the family members of any one wounded, maimed or killed to explain to them your were complicit in causing their injury or death and the escape of Osama, if he is still alive.
Anything less makes you a moral midget and coward.
I suppose had you been a reporter in late May of 1944 your would have run a front page story about D-Day so Hitler and his Generals could have killed even more American, British and Canadian troops.
I don't want to sound like John Kerry but I am also a wounded Viet Nam Vet who was awarded a Bronze Medal. I know what it is to be shot at and hit. You don't!
I was appalled to read on your web site the details of future American military operations ("U.S. plans Al Qaeda offensive", Jan. 28).
You and your sources have significantly compromised this operation. Will you follow-up this article with equally large headlines taking credit for the American casualties you cause, or the Al Qaeda operatives you help to escape?
Smash has a round up of posts on this topic.
I hope Darren Kaplan is right.