Bloat redux

The war powers report can be read here:

Under the War Powers Resolution, the Department of “Defense” is required to report on where U.S. troops have been sent into “hostilities or into situations whose imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances.” Note that the language does not stop at “hostilities.” Rather, it then adds a 12-word qualifier beginning with “situations” that make it a judgment call by the Pentagon whether to report on all places where troops are in hostilities.

In this year’s war powers report, the Pentagon has reported on Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq and Syria, Somalia, Libya, and Niger—but nowhere else.

For instance, U.S. troops have been in the Philippines since the second Bush administration, which sent them there on an alleged anti-terrorism mission, though it is described by other sources as an internal insurgency. Kerry Firth of Nevada is among U.S. soldiers who have since died in the Philippines, but the new war powers report contains no reference to those hostilities.

On June 14 last year, the New York Times reported from Mindanao, “American troops are on the ground in the embattled southern Philippine city of Marawi, where the Philippine military is battling Islamic State-linked militants for control, a Philippine military spokesman said on Wednesday.” At that time, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he was unaware of U.S. forces being in Marawi.

Agence France-Presse reported, “U.S. troops are on the ground helping local soldiers battle terrorists in a Philippine city, a Filipino military spokesman said on Wednesday, June 14, giving the most detailed account of their role. The small number of U.S. soldiers are providing vital surveillance assistance and, although they do not have a combat role, are allowed to open fire on the militants if attacked first, spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said.”

Reuters reported besides those troops in Marawi, Pentagon officials said there were “an additional 300 to 500 troops in the country to support regular training and activities, without giving further details.”

This year, Australia’s Sydney Herald reported, “The United States will upgrade and build facilities on Philippine military bases this year, Manila’s defence minister said, bolstering an alliance strained by President Rodrigo Duterte’s opposition to a U.S. troop presence.”

Although the law requires that there be an unclassified summary of the war powers report, the Trump administration made it as difficult as possible for the public to read the unclassified portion. It was not released publicly. Instead, it was sent out to Congress and had to be viewed there. LawFare, a national security blog, reported that “the White House has limited public disclosure of the report to a cover letter indicating that the document has been transmitted to Congress. But, over the course of the day on Tuesday, the congressional committees began to receive copies of the unclassified report. So, curious as to what it said, we decided to head down to Capitol Hill to review it in person, an underappreciated option for many congressional reports. While relevant committee rules did not allow us to make copies or take pictures of the report, we were able to spend a few hours with a hard copy.” Fortunately, Slate, the New York Times and other publications obtained copies and posted them online.

And although the Pentagon has world class technical facilities, the report is put out in primitive fashion, akin to mimeograph, including a format in which text cannot be highlighted and lifted out but must be copied word by word.