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Saturday, January 26

How to be well-informed about the war on terror if you don't have 40 hours a week to invest in the project

There are many helpful "milblogs," and there are thousands of other internet sites that provide at least some daily mention of the global war on terror. But trying to gain a comprehensive picture of the war from the piecemeal approach is time consuming.

If you want to stay on top of news about the war and have little time to invest, you're well advised to check in daily at Long War Journal, Iraq Slogger, and to tune Mondays to the one-hour Loftus Report radio broadcast.

Long War Journal readers knew months ahead of others about the improving security situation in Iraq. And they knew months ahead of others that Pakistan's President Musharraf was cutting deals with the Taliban. LWJ's creator and editor, Bill Roggio, took flack from the Democrat side of the political aisle in Washington about the former reports, and took flack from Republicans about the latter. But LWJ is an independent, nonpartisan site with only one agenda: to provide accurate reporting and analysis on the 'ground war' offensives.

Last week Bill Roggio was the guest on a Loftus Report show. Bill and John Loftus spent an hour talking about Long War Journal, and analyzing the current fighting situations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the war strategy, war reporting in the mainstream media, and General Petraeus. The conversation, which is available as a podcast, is a great introduction to Bill and LWJ.

By the way you don't need to mess with downloading; the broadcast archive, as with all others on the site, is available with one click and the podcast is conveniently divided into two half-hour segments (thank you, Chuck Boyce). And it's free.

Iraq Slogger will keep you abreast of the 'everything else' about the Iraq war: the political battles in Iraq and in Washington about Iraq, Arab opinion from outside the country about Iraq situation, humanitarian and social issues in Iraq, and the struggles between Iraqi militias, to name just a few of the situations that IS covers.

The site also provides daily round-ups of the best articles about Iraq in the US mainstream press.

In short, Iraq Slogger covers the entire nation-building and reconstruction effort in Iraq.

Slogger readers are also ahead of the mainstream press on much important Iraq news. I think I've noted before on this blog that if only Iraq Slogger had been available at the start of the post-invasion phase, everything about the war and reconstruction effort could have gone much better years ago.

Warning to Iraq war boosters: Don't expect a hopeful tone from the website; I think their motto must be: If it's going well, just give it more time.

So then what is the difference between the narrow, negative view that The New York Times and other mainstream media generally present of the Iraq situation, and Slogger's view?

The difference is total immersion. Iraq Slogger is all about Iraq and neighboring situations that impinge on the country. So it is easier to fit the bad news in context with the astounding scope of the project underway in Iraq, which Slogger's reporting addresses on a daily basis.

Many people are so angry with the US invasion of Iraq that they refuse to pay attention to what's going on there, except to count the war dead and ask when the US is leaving. But Slogger's project to inform the public on Iraq's post-Saddam era is of immense historical importance.

Even if you can't find time to read every article, just perusing the headlines on a daily basis will keep you plugged in on the direction of things in Iraq.

The downside for readers who are a money diet is that Slogger is a subscription site; however, the main page of headlines is a free view, and so are the articles linked at the sidebar.

Also, Slogger provides a week's free trial subscription to the site (write their subscription department). That's a help for readers who might be able to swing a subscription, or get their company to do so, but first want a look-see. Also, for those on the hunt for investment opportunities in Iraq, Slogger is a good news source in that regard.

Once you spend a week visiting the site, I think you'll realize that you're not only purchasing information; you're also helping fund the expansion of vital branches of knowledge in the 21st century.

Bill Roggio has correctly observed that there are key differences between Iraq and Afghanistan that make it unwise to wholesale transfer to Afghanistan several lessons learned in Iraq. But many aspects of Iraq's struggle with development and democracy under wartime conditions can be applied to several countries today.

There are scholarly books on infrastructure development and bringing democracy to people with no experience of it. But in Iraq it's all happening in real time. And many of the lessons learned are far more useful to today's world than can be found in older development and democracy-building tomes. Iraq Slogger is playing an important role in bringing that information to the public.

Iraq Slogger makes use of a network of Iraq informants who are often placing their lives at risk to provide Slogger with information. Unlike the 'embedded' conditions under which Bill Roggio and other reporters associated with Long War Journal work in Afghanistan and Iraq, the informants are working totally without protection.

Of course the embeds also face very dangerous situations. But my point, for readers who wonder why Long War Journal doesn't also charge a subscription price, is that right now LWJ doesn't have all the expenses that IS has. Thus far, LWJ has been able to struggle along on donations.

Yet both news organizations are in effect daily newspapers on the war. They are to war reporting what the Wall Street Journal is to business reporting.

Because the Iraq political situation does not occur in a void, IS reports on the involvement of Turkey, Syria and Iran in Iraq's business. And because the war in Afghanistan cannot be separated from Pakistan, LWJ gives a great deal of attention to Pakistan.

Both sites also report on region-wide issues relating to the war, and Bill Roggio's site provides coverage or at least links to major news on terror initiatives and counter-initiatives around the globe.

However, neither site specializes in the Israel-Palestinian situation, which of course is another key component in the war on terror. That is where Monday night at the Loftus Report comes in.

John Loftus, John Batchelor and Malcolm Hoenlein get together for an hour and analyze the week's events relating to the I-P situation. Because that situation also does not happen in a vacuum, discussion can include situations in Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iran that impinge on the I-P one.

Is the analysis biased in favor of Israel? The radio show airs on a Jewish station and Malcolm is the Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The conference is not a lobbying organization but their mission is to promote Israel in the United States.

The discussion does not avoid criticizing and questioning of the Israeli government's actions. However, there is so much sloppy reporting in the mainstream media on the Israel-Palestinian situation that often the conversation at Loftus Report is to correct errors and address omissions in mainstream reports.

If you want to call that pro-Israel bias, I call it presenting a clearer picture of the situation than Britain's BBC, Canada's CBC, and several other major news outlets provide.

I note that Loftus and Hoenlein did not start out as reporters and news analysts. Years ago John Batchelor spotted their potential in those areas and pressed them into service on his daily news show for ABC radio affiliates. They've both come along very well. Indeed, the Loftus show is coming along very well, and often Batchelor drops in on other nights besides Monday to act as co-host.

The Loftus Report has a limited broadcast range (see the website for details) but it is also available online. If you can't tune in that late (11:00 PM Eastern time), the discussion is available the next day on podcast.

On the Monday show the most important issues are generally fitted into the first half hour of the one-hour show or at least summarized for further discussion in the second half. So if you can't spare an hour, at least tune for the first part.

While you're at the Loftus Report website, scroll through the descriptions of recent broadcasts for any discussions relating to GWOT that you find interesting. The Loftus Report, which airs Monday through Wednesday, is all about GWOT related issues. And Loftus often finds important issues relating to the war that are ignored by the mainstream media, or which have not yet come to MSM attention.

So, for readers who have told me about time management issues conflicting with their desire to keep up with the war news, there you have it: the recipe for success.

If you can squeeze in roughly seven minutes each daily for Iraq Slogger and Long War Journal, and add to this listening to the Loftus Report on Monday, you'll soon find yourself well on top of the war news.

Then you'll have more time left over for visits to your favorite blogs. And for tuning into John Batchelor's Sunday night news marathon starting at 7:00 PM Eastern Time at New York's WABC-77 AM radio, and rolling over to KFI-640 AM in Los Angeles starting at 10:00 PM Eastern Time; the KFI broadcast is available within a day or so on podcast, beep this is a recording.

I have one more time-saving tip but I will leave that for another writing.
4:30 PM ET Update
Reply to huffy Batchelorite:

Yes, I know that Bill Roggio has also been a guest sometimes on the John Batchelor Show since John's return to radio. I am also well aware that Batchelor wrote the book on comprehensive, coherent and consistent reporting on the war -- and I have mentioned that several times over the years on this blog. Yet John did this while he had three hours a night, five nights a week, to cover the news in the US and around the rest of the globe.

The Batchelor Sunday night radio marathon is indispensable for keeping up with important news around the globe. But when it comes to war news it is not a substitute for the daily show -- particularly at this time, when Batchelor is having to give considerable attention to the US presidential campaign and the worldwide credit crisis.

Clearly, the way to solve the problem is for John Batchelor to be returned to his daily show. That's a matter for Batchelor and the radio biz brass to work out.

But as I noted, this post is for readers who have a serious time management problem. It was easy to keep up with the war when Batchelor was on the radio five nights a week. You could do other things while listening and be effortlessly well informed. That's not so today.

And everyone with sense realizes by now that this war is going to drag on for many years, if not decades. So what to do if you're trying to raise two kids, hold down a job with overtime, commute, maintain a comprehensive picture of the war, and still get in some sleep? This post is my best answer at this time
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