Sunday, August 28, 2005

Former General Blames Iraq Quagmire on the Media

The war in Iraq is a quagmire indeed. Damned if we leave, damned if we don't. No end in sight, no plan in place. Just steadily increasing U.S. military deaths; an insurgency that gets stronger every day; a sham of a constitution; a soon-to-be radical Islamic state; and a cost of over $1-billion per week. Lil' Vietnam...and getting bigger every day. This invasion, and the ensuing under-manned, under-equipped and grossly under-planned occupation, is a military and political blunder of epic proportions. So who's to blame? President Bush, VP Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and former National Security Advisor/current Secretary of State Condi Rice? Not if you're Fmr. Gen. Wayne Downing, U.S. Special Operations Command. On NBC's Meet the Press today Downing, a former member of the Bush posse, downplayed the violence and death and instead adopted the standard administration talking points about success in Iraq, blaming the media instead for choosing to focus on the mounting casualties rather than on the progress being made. Progress, by the way, which seems invisible to just about everyone outside the administration. Downing, a major hawk, was a key figure in the Bush administration's pre-9/11 neo-con planning to invade Iraq and topple Saddam. The Pentagon devised what was then known as "Desert Storm Lite," which would rely heavily on a combination of armor, infantry and aircraft. Downing opposed the plan and instead aggressively offered up an unconventional alternative that relied on air power, special operations forces and Iraqi defectors to oust Hussein. Having been enticed out of retirement following 9/11 to serve as a deputy national security adviser, Downing ultimately resigned from the White House post just nine months later. In response to host Tim Russert's question this morning about the American public's growing opposition to the war, Downing said: "Quite frankly, I think that one of the problems that we're having is that the news media--the opposition to the war--are framing this discussion in terms of casualties and casualties only. I think what we don't have is a serious discussion about why you take these casualties." After again regurgitating a few of the Bush "progress" talking points, he challenged Russert directly: "I really think that it's incumbent upon you and the others in the responsible American press to put the casualties into these kind of contexts. In other words, what it is they're accomplishing." And then the standard GOP historic analogy to WW II: "I mean, can you imagine us...judging the D-Day invasion of Normandy back in 1944 by the casualties that were suffered?" In short, what Downing is saying is that the media should stop reporting the truth. Stop showing death and destruction. Show some happy Iraqis instead. Show a school here and there. Find a Sunni who welcomes the occupation, and who eagerly awaits the autonomous Shiite region in the oil-rich South. Surely there must be at least one . No more discussing the non-existent WMD; the lack of a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda; the Americans being blown to bloody smithereens daily; the growing resolve of the insurgents and their more powerful, lethal weapons arsenal; or the complete lack of an exit strategy. Yes, to focus on these things renders the American media irresponsible, according to our war-mongering former general. What we need to do instead is whitewash. Sugarcoat. Spin. Deceive. Lie. That's what Americans want. And that's precisely what the Bushies are best at. Andy


Anonymous said...

Ok, Let's give Fmr. Gen. Downing the benefit of the doubt; what should the metrics be? How should the media split their coverage time? Do we look at power plant output? ...oil flow? days made? days missed? …Google hits on “Everything’s fine in Iraq?”

Organizations need to measure their effectiveness but I don't hear the former general outlining a list of metrics.

Furthermore, if the general had come out during President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" media spectacle and claimed (as many pointed out at the time, including Andy) that you cannot and should not measure the success of the democratization of Iraq by the initial military campaign, he’d have much more credibility now. But he didn’t.

“Mission Accomplished” has now entered the lexicon as a false claim by a clueless person of power. If the former general wants credibility, his metrics need to include all the relevant data or they'll fall the way of Karl Rove’s most notorious media goof and be just another Administration mistake on Iraq.

I propose we start by outlining the foolishness of the President’ remarks in the debates with then VP Al Gore that Bush wouldn’t allow our troops to be nation building. The President made good on that promise by gutting the Army College’s Peace Keeping Initiative early in his term. What was the cost? The metric of that?

The President ignored OECD recommendations on international banking controls to combat illegal money transfers and accounts (including of course, tax evasion.) The President and his men may have know quite a bit about bin Laden’s intentions prior to 9/11, the President has spent much political capital besmirching opponents like Joe Wilson and much political capital covering for the besmirchers. All these items can be measured, in dollars, media time, or even Google hits.

When the former general (and his handlers) makes it a top priority to root out government officials who out CIA operatives, and offer all possible sympathy and support to ALL the mothers of our war dead, he’ll have the moral authority to structure commentary for a more enlightened military-aware media. Until then, he’s just Swift-Boating the media and re-enforcing that newest, sad contribution to the lexicon by this administration: Swift-Boating.

The Ostroy Report said...

Good points Jad. The Bushies clearly have lots of priorities backwards. But give them credit: their spin monkeys stay on message like white on rice.