George W. Bush, August 9, 2007
As I've said before, the Bush administration and the Pentagon have put more effort into spinning our Iraq escapade than they've spent on winning it. In the past week or so, we've seen a classic example of how the spin cycle works.
If you've been following at home, you know two of the administration's major pro-war propaganda points: A) newly appointed U.S. commander in Iraq David Petraeus is the second coming of Lawrence of Arabia and B) the Iranians are causing most of our problems in Iraq by supplying weapons to Shiite insurgency groups. The credibility of both of these assertions began eroding over time, and then…
On Monday August 6, the New York Times ran a story by Glenn Kessler revealing that a Government Accountability Officer report says over 190,000 AK-47 rifles and pistols and more than 200,000 helmets and pieces of body armor distributed by the U.S. to Iraqi security forces have disappeared, and many experts and officials fear this materiel has fallen into the hands of insurgents presently fighting U.S. forces in Iraq. This not only supported the argument that the U.S., not Iran, has been the main arms supplier to Iraqi militant groups. It put another ding in the armor of General Petraeus, who was in charge of training Iraqi security forces and police at the time most of the unaccounted for equipment disappeared.
Lo and behold, come Tuesday night, Petreaus was on the phone, giving an interview on Fox News Radio's Alan Colmes Show, and come Wednesday morning, Washington Post Iraq correspondent Josh Partlow had written an article that retransmitted--unchallenged--Petreaus's main talking points.
In "General Blames Clerical Errors In the Case of Missing Arms," Partlow wrote "Bookkeeping deficiencies allowed thousands of weapons issued to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005 to then go missing, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said yesterday."
Bookeeping deficiencies? Amazing. Just what other kinds of deficiencies would allow issued weapons to disappear with no record of where they went? That question apparently didn't occur to Partlow, who further wrote:
Petraeus, who then led the security training effort, said Iraqi units were ready to fight but did not have the equipment they needed just as Moqtada al-Sadr's influence grew in the summer of 2004. He described one case in which U.S. forces flew into the war zone of Najaf at night, their helicopters under fire, and "actually [were] kicking two battalions' worth of equipment off the ramp and getting out of there while we still could."
This was an astounding piece of double talk on Petraeus's part. No military unit can be considered "ready to fight" unless it has trained with the equipment it's going to fight with. But according to Petraeus, two Iraqi battalions were not only ready to fight without ever training on their equipment, they were already in the middle of a fight before he got their equipment to them. If that was Petraeus's idea of readiness when he was training them to fight, no wonder the Iraqi forces are in such a sad state.
Partlow quoted Petraeus as saying of the arms dumped into the middle of the firefight at Najaf that "we believe those weapons all certainly were given to Iraqi units."
Well, no kidding, General. Certainly all the weapons unaccounted for on your watch were given to Iraqi units. That's who the insurgents got them from!
During the actual Fox News interview, Colmes twice asked Petraeus if any of the missing weapons were in the hands of our enemies. Petraeus dodged the question both times, and Colmes let him do it. Partlow's lack of experience makes one tend to want to forgive him for being such a willing administration echo chamberlain. After all, when we invaded Iraq in 2003, Partlow was still a Post intern, training to be a financial reporter.
Reporters on some of the other big eastern papers, though, don't have Partlow's excuse.
Old Dogs, Old Tricks
Also on Wednesday, the New York Times ran an article titled "U.S. Says Iran-Supplied Bomb Kills More Troops." The author was Times chief military correspondent Michael R. Gordon, who has worked for the "newspaper of record" since 1985 and has covered wars since the U.S invasion of Panama. You may also recall that Gordon was Judith Miller's partner in crime in helping the Bush administration disseminate false information regarding Iraq's WMD program during the run up to war. Gordon also has an established track record of giving bandwidth to the administration's as yet unsubstantiated claims that Iran is arming Iraqi militants.
Gordon's Wednesday piece opened with "Attacks on American-led forces using a lethal type of roadside bomb said to be supplied by Iran reached a new high in July, according to the American military." As always, Gordon was vague in discussing who exactly says that Iran is providing these bombs or on what the allegations are based. Gordon did concede that "some critics of the administration" think that "the White House of exaggerating the role of Iran and Syria to divert attention from its own mistakes," but seriously, folks. It's not "some critics" who think the White House is exaggerating to divert attention from its mistakes. At this point in the program, everybody who isn't part of the non-sentient right thinks that.
Gordon saves the money message for the end of his article.
General Odierno [Petraeus's second in command] said Iran was increasing its support to Shiite militants in Iraq to step up the military pressure on the United States at a time when the Congress is debating whether to withdraw American troops…
…“I think they want to influence the decision potentially coming up in September,” he added.
On Thursday, NBC political director Chuck Todd remarked to Chris Matthews that if Petraeus gives a positive report on the "surge" strategy in mid-September, a third to half of anti-war congressional Democrats will cave in and vote to give Mr. Bush whatever he wants to conduct his woebegone war however he wants and for as long as he wants to.
In order for that stratagem to work, the administration must maintain Petraeus's façade of infallibility. I for one find it ironic that this façade is being reinforced by two mainstays of what AM talk radio, Fox News and the rest of the Big Brother Broadcasting network refer to as the "liberal media."
And I am horrified that, by fiat of the worst commander in chief in U.S. history, a vital decision on foreign policy is about to be dictated to Congress by a four-star general.
Related article by Jeff Huber: "The Cult of Petraeus."