Ray “Desert Ox” Odierno got all the U.S. troops out of Iraqi cities by the June 30 deadline. At least that’s what the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media tell us. The al Maliki government proclaimed the birth of Iraq’s “sovereignty” from the American occupation, but like Cheney’s turned corners and young Mr. Bush’s “mission accomplished,” the sovereignty claim has been made many times before. And oh, 130,000 American troops still occupy Iraq, the number of troops we had there in January 2007 when “King” David Petraeus began his cockamamie surge.
We’ll no doubt have 30,000 or more troops in Iraq well into the 30s. The Status of Forces agreement isn’t worth the latrine linen it’s printed on. Young Mr. Obama’s promise to have all combat troops out of Iraq early in his watch was a sham from the get go. As journalist Gareth Porter explained in March, the transformation of “combat troops” into “support troops” is Orwellian Newspeak. Assign a fistful of “advisers” to a combat brigade and it becomes a peace platoon. Transfer a baker and a butcher into an infantry battalion and it turns into a delicatessen. Augment an armored division with two lap dancers and it’s a USO tour.
The misinformation campaign in the Bananastans is even worse. At his Senate confirmation hearing, Stan “The Man” McChrystal swore on a stack of Army field manuals that “the measure of effectiveness will not be enemy killed. It will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence.” When he landed in the Bananastans, he issued a “tactical directive” that his publicity agent, Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, said would limit use of air strikes to reduce civilian deaths.
Shortly after that, McChrystal ordered a major offensive in southern Afghanistan. U.S. and Afghan troops met little resistance because the Taliban fighters had the common sense to fade away rather than fight a superior force. In eastern Afghanistan, however, insurgents killed two American soldiers in a frontal assault on a U.S. base and forced the defenders to call in airstrikes to avoid being overrun. Unnamed “military officials” said 10 insurgents had been killed in the counterstrikes. So much for the number of enemy killed not being the measure of effectiveness.
In the other Bananastan, Pakistani air strikes, supported by the U.S., killed 12 “suspected” insurgents. There’s no sure way of telling if any of these kill statistics were really insurgents or not. Our intelligence in that part of the world amounts to beating or bribing someone into telling us what we want to hear, and it will never be any better than that.
For almost a decade now, U.S. intelligence has been to intelligence what Pig Latin is to Latin. Someone like Ahmed Chalibi tells a lunatic ideologue like Dick Cheney whatever fairy tale he needs to hear to justify an invasion of a country like Iraq. Dick Cheney passes that fiction on to access-poisoned journalists like Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller. The next thing you know, the handsomely paid for lie pops up on the front page of the New York Times and it becomes gospel truth.
Our entire information environment is polluted, perhaps beyond recovery. Nowhere is this truer than the packaged messages we receive regarding our wars. Admiral Smith calls himself a public affairs officer, but he’s every bit the propaganda operative that Joseph Goebbels was. Military information operations of all sorts have merged; it’s all strategic brainwash now. The firewalls between public affairs and operational deception and black propaganda have vanished like a blind dowager’s jewelry.
The traditional news media are now fully embedded members of the Pentagon’s long war sales force. At one end of the spectrum, we have Pentagon beat veterans like the horrible Thomas E. Ricks, who has pawned whatever integrity he once had for a seat in the front car of Petraeus’s armored motorcade. At the other extreme we have NBC dimwit Jim Miklashevski. I doubt if Jim understands a single word he says on TV about military affairs. The likes of Smith must have to write extra short talking points for Mik, so he doesn’t forget them before he goes on camera.
You can’t trust the media’s retired military experts any further than you can shoot them out of a popgun. Barry McCaffrey, Wayne Downing and Ken Allard were among the many who passed along pro-war propaganda under the guise of “expert analysis” and who profited from the war through their connections with major military contractors.
Most of the military press outlets like Military.com are run by ex-Department of Defense public affairs types. Naval Institute Proceedings, the self-labeled “independent forum,” has offices on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy. The head of the Naval Institute is always a retired admiral or Marine general. An editorial board of active duty officers headed by a true-believer bird captain approves all Proceedings articles. Anything that drops out of an admiral’s rear end and lands on a piece of paper becomes a Proceedings cover story. The one military press outfit I tend to trust is the Military Times consortium, but even their material must be filtered through a healthy layer of skepticism.
So it is that the Pentagon can get away with saying one thing and doing the opposite over and over and over. Everyone who knows how to sound like they know what they’re talking about doesn’t really know what they’re talking about, or they’re in the tank, or both.
Dick Cheney has a long-standing, consistent record of being in the tank and not knowing what he’s talking about, but that makes no never-mind. Any time he wants to broadcast his Dr. Doom message, the media will happily give him a bull pulpit and all the bandwidth he wants.