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Political denial and spinning as a direct application of distortion and fog


Part 3

Open source analysis is problematic when media distortions comissively misinform, and underreporting omissively starve, the public record. While Media distortion and the underpinnings of 'Wag the Dog' and 'Fog facts' in both media and print were written from the context of skewed or deficient reporting that blunts open source analysis, the political dimension is undeniable. I had politics in mind when deciding to cite Beinhart's politics in 'Fog facts' with the intent to defuse partisan dismissal by recognizing that his politics may inform the examples that he puts forward but that his central message should not be dismissed.

Events that sadly typify the themes of these notes emerged as they were being written, one much more reported than the other but both of significance. Concluding with the most reported event that had wide administration hallmarks of pre- and post-spin manipulation:

Political denial and spinning as a direct application of distortion and fog

As chance would have it, I happened to be watching the video feed of Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Internal Communications, Allison Barber, stepping a handpicked group of nine US soldiers from the 42nd Infantry Division on duty in Tikrit, plus one Iraqi (who in my estimation had to be handpicked as he spoke in English and later told Bush43 that, "Thank you very much for everything. I like you."). I then watched the president proceed through his questioning with this group. It is one thing to read after the fact, but quite another to hear both the inadvertently released Barber feed and the White House official feed. To this analyst, the pair constituted blatant coaching that elicited answers that unfortunately do not come at all close to the reality of the Iraqi situation on the ground as commented upon in this weblog and other sources.

In my professional opinion, it was a flight from reality, and that is charitable even after reading the blog entry of the combat medic, Sgt Ron Long, "Speaking with President Bush." I have no doubt that Sgt Long believes what he wrote, and I empathize with his feeling of being in harm's way with little public support, but he and I depart on comments such as this (bold face and caps are his):

I know that we are fighting here, not only to preserve our own freedoms, but to establish those same freedoms for the people of Iraq. It makes my stomach ache to think that we are helping to preserve free speech in the US, while the media uses that freedom to try to RIP DOWN the President and our morale, as US Soldiers. They seem to be enjoying the fact that they are tearing the country apart. Worthless! The question I was most asked while I was home on leave in June was, "So...What's REALLY going on over there?" Does that not tell you something?! Who has confidence in the media to tell the WHOLE STORY? It's like they WANT this to turn into another Vietnam. I hate to break it to them, but it's not.

Were I seeking a sympathetic audience, I would certainly choose dedicated individuals such as this, but I am bothered that as these soldiers are being queued for upbeat messages, the administration is backing away from its 2+ year mantra that:

as democracy took hold in Iraq, the insurgency would lose steam because Al Qaeda and the opponents of the country's interim government had nothing to offer Iraqis or the people of the Middle East

And has replaced it with presidential comments that warn that:

that the insurgency is already metastasizing into a far broader struggle to "establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia [and while predicting victory] appears to be preparing the country for a struggle of cold war proportions."

In step with that are "administration officials" that are "beginning to describe the insurgency as long-lasting, more akin to Communist insurgencies in Malaysia or the Philippines, but with a broader and more deadly base." Where now are the platitudes of an easy Iraqi parallel to the Japan and Germany of WW II? Certainly not with former Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage,

Those who argued at the time that the acceptance of democracy in Iraq would be easy, and who drew on our experience with Japan and Germany, were wrong… Germany and Japan were homogeneous societies. Iraq is not. Japan and Germany were also highly developed industrialised economies. Iraq is not.

in the case of both Germany and Japan there were memories of democracy; flawed, to be sure, but people were at least familiar with the inner workings and mechanisms. And most important of all, both Japan and Germany had extremely competent and professional bureaucracies [and] they did it in a way that meant it was not a function of cronyism and corruption, as it was in Iraq.

in both Germany and Japan's case there were people who suffered during the war and who stayed in the country. They experienced the horror and were victims themselves and afterwards were prepared to take up the cudgels on behalf of democracy. In Iraq, the political class [were] part of the diaspora.

In Germany and Japan, the population was exhausted and deeply shocked by what had happened [but] the US is dealing with an Iraqi population that is un-shocked and un-awed".

Your mileage may vary, but I did not accept either the comments of Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita, "The soldiers were advised as to the issues they should expect to discuss, and decided among themselves who would speak to each issue as it may arise," of White House spokesman Scott McClellan, "I think all they were doing was talking to the troops and letting them know what to expect," or the DoD press announcement that "service members were excited about the opportunity to speak with the President. No one intended to tell them what to think or how to express themselves; going through likely questions in advance was meant solely to help the troops feel at ease during an obviously unique experience."

I very much agreed with the "senior Pentagon officials told FOX News that they are angry that soldiers were coached at all before the video conference went live" and the "senior military commander told FOX News that he's outraged by the way the young soldiers were coached."

Given the unscripted responses that US troops have offered senior commanders, I can see an administration wishing to have a more telegenic experience, but Barber's 45-minute practice run of the teleconference "tells the story of soldiers who were being 'scripted' and given answers that had been [in Barber's own words] 'drilled through'" and then attempted to pass it off as contemporaneous remarks.

In closing, it is difficult not to comment on the recurring administration effort to erase Bush43 comments as to religious motives, even direct guidance, of key presidential actions. As I am accepting of any religion that does not hold my death as one of its tenets, I do not place judgment on what an individual does or does not believe if it differs from my own views but I do find it interesting that Bush43 consistently "confuses groups as diverse as the Palestinians and the Amish" as to the religiously inspired motives for actions that affect the nation.

Comments of first party participants on these stark religious drivers are consistently spun off into the fog.

Administration's Tone Signals a Longer, Broader Iraq Conflict
New York Times
October 17, 2005

George W. Bush and the G-Word
By Al Kamen
Washington Post
October 14, 2005

Pentagon Denies Talk With Troops Was Staged
Fox News
Friday, October 14, 2005

Bush has a rehearsed tele-conference with US troops in Iraq
October 14, 2005

Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged
President Bush Teleconference With U.S. Troops Was Choreographed to Match His Goals for Iraq War
The Associated Press
Oct 14, 2005

President Addresses U.S. Troops in Iraq in Video Teleconference
White House
October 13, 2005, 9:54 A.M. EDT

Cut & paste: If only Richard Armitage said this before the Iraq war
Maxine McKew interview with Rich Armitage
The Australian
October 07, 2005

Gordon Housworth

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