Sunday, March 19, 2006

Iraq three years on: taking stock, Part I 

The media and the blogosphere are taking stock of the Iraq war from various angles. Belgravia Dispatch has famously despaired, the Guardian has published a progressive case for the war, Donald Rumsfeld conjures up his own wishful thinking, Gateway Pundit is looking at various wrong predictions made by critics of the war, and Canadians compare Bush to Hitler (as if that were news).

I will have my own thoughts on the subject within the next day or so. It will make nobody happy, as I am struggling to look at the situation as objectively as possible, recognizing that virtually all data available to me (and everyone else) has been laundered through a partisan agenda. Jack Murtha's absurd ranting on "Meet the Press" this morning is symptomatic of the problem -- one can think of all sorts of criticisms of the war in Iraq, but when the most prominent public critics incessantly analogize to a flawed conception of the alleged lessons of Vietnam it is almost impossible to promote a dispassionate discussion of the state of play and the best policy for the future.


By Blogger sirius_sir, at Sun Mar 19, 12:38:00 PM:

I caught Murtha's inexecrable act on the Press this morning and thought to myself... At long last, sir, have you no shame?

That thought applies equally to Murtha for droning on as he did, and to Russert for letting him do so without offering the least challenge.  

By Blogger sirius_sir, at Sun Mar 19, 02:56:00 PM:

Execrable. Inexecrable would be an improvement.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Mar 19, 03:43:00 PM:

I just had a horrible waking nightmare.

"President Murtha"  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Mar 19, 06:23:00 PM:

The war might be over by now if more "patriots" like yourself would stop "fighting" via posting blogs and actually enlist. What? Too scared to enlist? Thought so.  

By Blogger GCC Advancement, at Sun Mar 19, 07:34:00 PM:

Murtha is stuck on equating Iraq to Vietnam and seeing the dying and injured troops. His goal is to stop the dying. That also seems to be George Will's goal although he seem to be going at it purely politically (deaths are not good politics). However you can't fight a war worrying about every death. If you try, you loose. This is as old as warfare itself.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Mar 19, 09:31:00 PM:

Speaking for myself, I'm too old and dumpy to enlist.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Mon Mar 20, 05:21:00 AM:

Stop with the chickenhawk meme.

It is both tired and old. The truth of the matter is that the ROE over there have been changed into something ridiculous because of the stupid anti-war sentiment and the press coverage over here. We are fighting with one hand tied behind our backs and thus it really hardly matters how many troops we have over there. We can't even use the damn ones we have over there effectively for fear of being accused of... God forbid... actually fighting a war.

And our guys are dying from cowardly IED attacks because they can't go out and wipe these SOBs out. So stop spouting nonsense. You don't know what the hell you're talking about.

This is war. If you're going to be in a war you put your head down and you fight. Unless of course you're the fricking United States, in which case you pull a pillow case over your own case and hand a bat to France and the rest of the world so they can beat you about the head and shoulders with it.  

By Blogger Shochu John, at Mon Mar 20, 08:29:00 AM:

"but when the most prominent public critics incessantly analogize to a flawed conception of the alleged lessons of Vietnam it is almost impossible to promote a dispassionate discussion of the state of play and the best policy for the future."

I agree, and when the war's boosters incessantly analogize to a flawed conception of the alleged lessons of World War II, it is almost impossible to promote a dispassionate discussion of the state of play and the best policy for the future.

Perhaps both practices should stop.  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Mon Mar 20, 09:12:00 AM:


You're really doing it, aren't you? You're blaming the state of the war on the Anti-War movement and the press coverage.

I hear your frustration, but don't the military leaders and political leaders get maybve a teensy, weensy shred ot responsibility for the conduct of the war?

If not, I guess it's all my fault. Geez. Sorry. I didn't know that my blog would make those insurgents so mad. I'll stop.

And Hawk,

We know that Murtha's a favorite punching bag, but to suggest that we're not allowed to use any lessons from Vietnam (much less say them out loud) doesn't make sense. He was right to say that the administration's Pollyanna prounouncements for the last three years have been off the mark, so were the administration's responses to Vietnam. I understand that we can't make one comparison in a vacuum then stand shrieking "See! Iraq's Vietnam all over again!" But it makes sense to draw parallels where they exist. We needn't shut our eyes to the past.

I'll look forward to your very controversial views. It's hard for someone to voice a position that's even one iota away from the administration's position without being branded anti-american somehow. Good luck, and I hope your readership forgives your free-thinking.  

By Blogger sirius_sir, at Mon Mar 20, 09:53:00 AM:

If we are going to analogize to Vietnam, why not go back to the time when Ho Chi Minh--inspired by the writings of Thomas Jefferson--asked Woodrow Wilson for help in overturning the colonial impositions of the French Empire?

Yes, we failed in Vietnam, and it can be argued that particular war probably should have never been fought, but for a reason most people, whatever their political inclination, have little or no inkling.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Mon Mar 20, 10:26:00 AM:

Yes Screwy, I am.

When the press simultaneously blame the administration and the military for not securing Iraq after the invasion and accuse them for being too heavy-handed, yes, I blame them. When's the last time you read an article saying "Wow. What a well-run and successful offensive!" It'll never happen because that would mean admitting we did something right. If they were at all fair, we'd see at least some positive stories. But we don't. Why is that Screwy? When's the last time you wrote something positive? Have you ever? Even once?

We have won just about every single engagement we've been in, but you'd never know that from the media.

When the press and the anti-war movement blame the military for not cleaning up the insurgency, but focus a microscope on them 24/7 and want to try them for war crimes if they mistakenly (and I'm not talking about real war crimes here) shoot someone in the heat of battle? The whole point of insurgents is that they DON"T WEAR UNIFORMS. Duh.

Kinda makes it hard to tell who's the enemy, doesn't it? But don't cut our guys any slack whatsoever, and then blame them for taking too long to conduct the war.

Yeah. I blame them. Because no matter what we do, it is NEVER right.

I'm sorry Screwy, but it's probably a mistake for me to talk about this right now. I'm way too angry. Perhaps later.  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Mon Mar 20, 11:06:00 AM:

So, Cassandra, you're saying that because the press (which is locked into the Green Zone for the most part and gets information almost solely from government sources) hasn't reported the good news about the many battles we've won (and, somehow, because I haven't) and the Iraqis who are better off (the Kurdish north is doing all right), the military has chosen not to effectively prosecute the war?

You're saying that the military commanders on the ground are under the control of the newsmedia somehow? This doesn't make sense to me. The newsmedia somehow is fueling the insurgency? The newsmedia is keeping more troops from being deployed? The newsmedia?

Fascinating way to spread the blame around. I imagine you blame the military commanders and political leaders for not being resolute enough, but you don't mention that because then you'd be siding with the evil newsmedia?

I admit it, Cass. You've confused the bejesus out of me.  

By Blogger Stuck on Stupid Lies, at Mon Mar 20, 12:16:00 PM:

Yes the newsmedia (sic) influence the conduct of the war. Yes "if it bleeds, it leads." Yes "there is no one so blind as one who refuses to see."
n.b. My qualifications to comment: medically retired Special Forces Staff Sergeant, one silver, three bronze, two purple, and five years of combat pay earned (not counting Vietnam)in places I doubt you've ever heard of, much less be able to find on a globe (actually some don't exist any more).
I have been on the ground in "newsworthy" locations and times and have always been struck by the analysis and reporting of those events. Much as the media complain about the ethos of John Wayne movies, they always seem shocked that it really doesn't work that way and critical that the plotline isn't as simple as John Ford might prefer. The press normally gets it purposefully wrong.
Why do you consider the media "locked in the Green Zone"? Have you read any of Ralph Peter's articles? (Mandatory disclaimer; He and I have crossed paths a couple of times long long ago and far away.)
We live in a representational republic (so far), and the press knows that it can influence military affairs by "exposing" their pravda to a general populace trained to think that long-term means "mini-series length" and that platitudes and sound-bites are a reasonable substitute for critical thought.
The military of our country is under civilian political control, the press sees themselves as political arbiters (remember the 15 points for Kerry they delivered?), and as such being able to influence military decisions. After all, they won Vietnam, didn't they?. My view of them, I admit, is shaped by my experience with them. For example, as a SSG, I have seen press represntatives insist that they be housed and boarded with field grade officers because they are civilians which makes them better somehow than enlisted men especially those poor dumb uneducated unemployable privates who have volunteered and gone through traing that I seriously believe would have most of the media crying nightly. And I would really like any press idjit that uses the word torture again have to attend SERE at Bragg.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Mon Mar 20, 01:49:00 PM:

Screwy, let's stick with what I did say, OK?

First of all the press arent' "locked into" the Green Zone.

Second, I didn't say, anywhere, that the press is keeping troops from being deployed. Making things up when my comment appears right above yours isn't terribly effective. What I *did* say is that the press blame us for not securing Iraq (not enough troops on the ground) and then talk out of the other sides of their mouth about our being too heavy handed and establishing permanent bases or acting like an occupying force. Well make up your mind - what do you want us to do?

Just like they whine about our not sealing the borders and then whine about dying donkeys. Never an admission that we finally did seal the borders -- just "OMG! The donkeys are dying and US forces are to blame!" And last month it was "OMG! The insurgents are pouring over the borders! Why can't US troops seal them off???"

Every time I make a comment Screwy, you distort it out of all reason and then argue with what I didn't say.

Try sticking to what I did say.  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Mon Mar 20, 08:33:00 PM:

O.K. Damn blogger ate my considered, polite, piece de resistance comment.

I don't think the media made Major General Paul Eaton (" Eaton was commanding general of the Coalition Military Assistance and Training Team. His job was to train the Iraqi forces in 2003-2004.") say that Rumsfeld is incompetent,

"[D]efense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is not competent to lead our armed forces. First, his failure to build coalitions with our allies from what he dismissively called "old Europe" has imposed far greater demands and risks on our soldiers in Iraq than necessary. Second, he alienated his allies in our own military, ignoring the advice of seasoned officers and denying subordinates any chance for input.

In sum, he has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld must step down.

In the five years Mr. Rumsfeld has presided over the Pentagon, I have seen a climate of groupthink become dominant and a growing reluctance by experienced military men and civilians to challenge the notions of the senior leadership. [...]

Mr. Rumsfeld has put the Pentagon at the mercy of his ego, his cold warrior's view of the world and his unrealistic confidence in technology to replace manpower. [...]

Donald Rumsfeld demands more than loyalty. He wants fealty. And he has hired men who give it. [...]"

Cassandra, take your anger out on the people actually making decisions on the ground in Iraq. It's not CBS News or some pajamaclad blogger criticizing torture at Gitmo that's making trouble - it's the military and political leaders who are fucking up royally that deserve your wrath.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Mar 20, 09:14:00 PM:

Now Screwie, what have I told you about misdirection?  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Mon Mar 20, 11:27:00 PM:

Misdirection? Maybe I wasn't clear...

First, scrutinize the military leaders and the political leaders for the unnecessary war, the "incompetent" prosecution of that war, and the burgeoning consequences of that war. Democrat or Republican, responsibility must first lie with our leadership.

Then maybe you ought to criticize the news media who don't tell the story the same way you would. I know the feeling, they don't tell the story the way I would tell it either.

To blame the media and citizens of conscience against the war for the shortcomings of our leaders' decisions is the epitome of misdirection. There was a time when Republicans called themselves the party of personal responsibility. Those were the days.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Tue Mar 21, 05:13:00 AM:

Eaton is a moron of the first order.

1. The Secretary of DEFENSE does not build coalitions. That would be the President of the United States or, better yet, the SECRETARY OF DEFENSE. The man needs to take a civics course and learn about what his own government does. Idiot...

2. John Kerry was forced to admit before the election (twice) that France and Germany would not have sent troops for him either (after all, France and Germany came right out and said this several times, even though Kerry had been claiming otherwise for months). Does Eaton have some imaginary friends he thinks would help us?

3. Screwy, I am far closer to what is going on (regarding military leadership of the war) than you are. I'd wager I have a better handle on that than you do.

No one, least of all me, claims there haven't been any mistakes made in the war but many of them lie at the feet of Congress and the lack of support going in. The time to put lots of troops on the ground was RIGHT AWAY immediately after the invasion. But that was really impossible, wasn't it? Because people like Ted Kennedy were screaming about the cost of the war and people like John Kerry were grandstanding about how we shouldn't be closing down fire stations in Peoria and building them in Baghdad.

You can't play it both ways Screwy.

There was no political support in Washington to fight the war the way it should have been fought from the get-go, so all the BS second-guessing is intellectually dishonest at best. We went in with the most we could get and your party fought even that tooth and nail.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Tue Mar 21, 05:15:00 AM:


...better yet the Secretary of STATE!

I guess that's what the preview button is for.  

By Blogger Chris, at Tue Mar 21, 06:18:00 AM:

Here is a critique of Major General Eaton's comments


By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Tue Mar 21, 09:09:00 AM:

"Eaton is a moron of the first order."

And you say the liberals dishonor the troops. What a rotten thing to say about the commanding general of the Coalition Military Assistance and Training Team. Your leadership put him in charge. They must have thought he was a skosh above moronic, eh?

I can't believe you're blaming anyone other than Don Rumsfeld and his lackies for the number of troops and the style of the offensive. It's absurd, Cassandra, patently absurd to blame John Kerry or Ted Kennedy for military decisions made by Bush, Rumsfeld, and the military leaders on the ground.

"lack of support going in"? What the hell are you talking about? I'm not sure there could have been any more support. There was oodles more support than there was for Gulf War I.

I've been agog at the support since Day One, so don't try to sell me a lunatic line like Kerry and Kennedy are responsible for failures in Iraq. It makes you sound unhinged.  

By Blogger sirius_sir, at Tue Mar 21, 09:54:00 AM:

I can't believe you're blaming anyone other than Don Rumsfeld and his lackies for the number of troops and the style of the offensive.

Question. Is it to Rumsfeld and his lackies credit or not that no order was given to shoot looters on sight once we'd secured Baghdad? This is not an issue relating to force strength, but rather how and even if it should be used.

Question. Should Rumsfeld and his lackies simply have ignored media criticism and continued the first battle for Fallujah? Again, this is not an issue relating to force strength, but rather how and if it should (continue) to be used.

My answers: yes in both instances. Thing is, most democrats will never credit Rumsfeld and his lackies in the first instance, and would have excoriated him in the second.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Tue Mar 21, 10:05:00 AM:

Screwy, just being in the military doesn't exempt a person from criticism for their words.

If they say something dumb, then I'm going to call them on it. Period. Saying the SECDEF is responsible for putting together an international coalition is just plain dumb. And uninformed. And ignorant.

And you are, once again, misstating what I said. I said we go in with the military we have. If people are already complaining about the cost of the war, we can't very well send in more troops now can we?

It is dishonest in the extreme to pretend that men like John Kerry, who voted against funding even the troops WE DID SEND, would have supported sending MORE TROOPS.

But I don't suppose you'll admit that, will you? Yet that doesn't prevent them from criticizing Bush and saying we should have send more troops. WITH WHAT MONEY? THE MONEY THEY WOULD NOT HAVE VOTED FOR? The money they were on the campaign trail, day in and day out, saying was better spent on Americans here at home?

Uh-huh. Got it.

The truth is that they would not have supported the things they now criticize Bush and Rumsfeld for NOT DOING and you know it. So do they.  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Tue Mar 21, 12:03:00 PM:


If you ever get past your Kerry hating maybe you'll notice that the President has gotten every dime he asked for for Iraq. Every last dime. The Republicans control the Congress, and somehow Kerry was going to stop something? Nonsense. Bush and the Republicans are in control of the money and the decision making. How can you argue otherwise?

You're mad at your leaders and projecting it onto your opponents. Bush, Rumsfeld, and the gang could have conducted this war any way they chose, and some would argue they've fought it exactly as they intended from the outset.

Stop blaming the people who aren't in charge. Enough.  

By Blogger sirius_sir, at Tue Mar 21, 02:25:00 PM:

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.  

By Blogger sirius_sir, at Tue Mar 21, 02:29:00 PM:

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.  

By Blogger sirius_sir, at Tue Mar 21, 02:34:00 PM:

As long as we are entertaining notions of what could have or should have been done, Christopher Hitchen's contribution to the mix can be found here:

So, now I come at last to my ideal war. Let us start with President Bush's speech to the United Nations on Sept. 12, 2002, which I recommend that you read. Contrary to innumerable sneers, he did not speak only about WMD and terrorism, important though those considerations were. He presented an argument for regime change and democracy in Iraq and said, in effect, that the international community had tolerated Saddam's deadly system for far too long. Who could disagree with that? Here's what should have happened. The other member states of the United Nations should have said: Mr. President, in principle you are correct. The list of flouted U.N. resolutions is disgracefully long. Law has been broken, genocide has been committed, other member-states have been invaded, and our own weapons inspectors insulted and coerced and cheated. Let us all collectively decide how to move long-suffering Iraq into the post-Saddam era. We shall need to consider how much to set aside to rebuild the Iraqi economy, how to sponsor free elections, how to recuperate the devastated areas of the marshes and Kurdistan, how to try the war criminals, and how many multinational forces to ready for this task. In the meantime—this is of special importance—all governments will make it unmistakably plain to Saddam Hussein that he can count on nobody to save him. All Iraqi diplomats outside the country, and all officers and officials within it, will receive the single message that it is time for them to switch sides or face the consequences. Then, when we are ready, we shall issue a unanimous ultimatum backed by the threat of overwhelming force. We call on all democratic forces in all countries to prepare to lend a hand to the Iraqi people and assist them in recovering from more than three decades of fascism and war.

Not a huge amount to ask, when you think about it. But what did the president get instead?


By Blogger sirius_sir, at Tue Mar 21, 02:36:00 PM:


By Blogger sirius_sir, at Tue Mar 21, 02:38:00 PM:

I don't know why I can't leave a proper hyperlink to the essay, but here it is the old fashioned way: http://www.slate.com/id/2138332/  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue Mar 21, 07:05:00 PM:

Wait wait wait, SH... so, Bush should have ignored domestic considerations and public opinions and sent over more troops anyway and steamrolled additional spending through Congress, all the while removing himself from the ongoing presidential campaign at the time?

But, I thought that he was already imperialistic, unilateral, and all those other high faluting pseudo-intellectual criticisms? Hmph.

Cassandra's point is that the national leadership has constraints; one of the primary constraints is the domestic political atmosphere. This is a republic, remember? Republican congressmen are not automatons, appointed by the executive, and they don't lock step on command. Occasionally, they defect from the party. Because of these constraints, the national leadership felt that they could not follow through with more aggressive ROE's, additional money, more soldiers and marines, et cetera. Cassandra blames a dishonest/politically activist media for helping create this atmosphere.

So you are correct in asserting that they could have done it anyway, but it would have likely been political suicide. Then, we would have President Kerry right now, whom I have less than 0 confidence would do well in international affairs, especially issues begun by his predecessor that he routinely attacked. (and switched stances on three times, but that's another matter)

Cassandra is also correct in asserting that the actual task of fighting the insurgency has been hampered because of the dishonest/slanted press coverage.

Here's a testimonial. I'm at DLI right now, and was amazed to learn that the Air Force is training interrogators (!) to speak Arabic to go serve in Iraq (!?). "What the hell?" I asked. "They don't know anything about land warfare, guerilla campaigns, or human intelligence."

Well, said an Army interrogator, the Army is so fucking scared of another Abu Ghraib scandal that not only are the troops lambasted with ethics and Rules of War classes, (predictable bureaucratic response) but the entire process of interrogation there has been so watered down and sterilized (I'll skip the details and jargon) that it doesn't work. All a prisoner has to do is refuse to cooperate. That's it. No coercion, no threats, no favors or bargaining are allowed. TWO reports have to be filed just detailing how the questions will be phrased. And so they have to be handed off to the Air Force out of sheer practicality. They've even changed the name of the MOS Interrogator to Human Intelligence Collector to try to shake the stigma.

Let me make this clear. The Army is not afraid of another incident of prisoner abuse. As prisoner abuse goes, that was pretty light, and is not indicative of an erosion of discipline or professionalism in the general Army; it was indicative of bored MPs with a camera. The Army is afraid of the news/images being spread all over the world by the press and further fueling enemy recruitment.

I saw those pictures and heard accounts of the incident hundreds of times. But I saw stories about the soldiers involved being court-martialed about four times, not counting military press.

So now, rather than people saying "Hey, I sure am glad that the Army is morally strong enough to prosecute soldiers who take pictures of naked terrorists," people say "Man, I never would have thought that the Army would institutionalize mistreatment of people to the degree that pictures would be taken and circulated around." It still happens that I when people talk about it I have to tell them "you know, those soldiers were stripped of their rank and imprisoned." "Oh really? I never heard." "Yeah, I know."  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Tue Mar 21, 09:41:00 PM:


Thanks for the thoughtful response.

Bush's approval ratings here.

Bush didn't go below 60% approval from 9/13/01 through 5/30/03. The Major Combat Operations were over and done. He had free rein over spending and decision making. The Democrats were cowering in the shadows or pulling a Lieberman, trying to Be Like W. Let's not rewrite history to make it appear that Bush was in any way restrained in his choices in the run-up and in the prosecution of the war. Every Republican in the House and Senate were tripping over themselves to tie themselves to his bold leadership. Remember?

When the press reports torture, white phosphorous, civilian casualties, and insurgent violence, they are doing their jobs. They don't all the time do it well, but we bloggers would certainly be lost without them.

Military leaders and soldiers are also doing their jobs, and most of them are honoring us with their focus, dedication, and willingness to try to be their best under the worst situations. However, torture was and is allowed to continue. When Gonzalez was writing legal briefs intended to reinterpret international law and human decency, he wasn't doing it because the newsmedia made him.

No one in the newsmedia created the conditions in Iraq. The decisions of our leaders and the decisions of Saddam Hussein created the conditions in Iraq. When the newsmedia reports something factual that gets people upset and worried about their country, stop blaming the newsmedia without acknowledging that the facts have merit.

I'm glad the military is worried about another Abu Ghraib. Good. They should be. The actions undertaken there did unspeakable damage to the efforts of our soldiers. The policies behind the actions were and are the responsibility of our leaders. We need to be torturing prisoners like we need a hole in the head.

I've been, of course, stridently against the war since the sentiment first passed the President's lips in the days after 9/11. I believe that it is the greatest foreign policy blunder in my lifetime. It is the bloodiest conflict of my lifetime with tens of thousands of civilian Iraqi dead in addition to twenty thousand American casualties, over 2,000 of those dead. It never should have happened. After it happened, it never should have happened so badly.

I could go on and on. That's why I love this blog.

Dawnfire, this is my favorite comment you've ever made. I think your idea that slanted press coverage might hamper war effort is charming. When only a few corporate interests control the vast majority of media in this nation, and most politicians don't favor any sort of media reform, it's hard for me to stomach the idea that the media is a net negative for this administration.

It was a sweaty love fest for almost two years following 9/11 between Bush and the media. Only now, over six months after Katrina is the press beginning to acknowledge that the President is unpopular.

It was when the costs of the war's mismanagement started piling up (and the cataclysmic Katrina) that the political atmosphere around George W. Bush darkened. Ever since then he's been desperately trying to unshit the bed.

This is one long as hell comment. I'll stop now. But thanks for the nice response. It obviously inspired some conversation.

And, Cassandra, you know I love you right?  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed Mar 22, 12:57:00 PM:

"When the newsmedia reports something factual that gets people upset and worried about their country, stop blaming the newsmedia without acknowledging that the facts have merit."

I never said the facts didn't have merit, though I may have implied it by accident when I said 'dishonest.' By that I meant that members of the media *purposefully ignore* good news that comes from Iraq, and *purposefully inflate* the bad. Others assume that such good news is artificially created in some sort of conspiratorial Pentagon office. Again, I've got personal experience here but I'm tired of typing so much. In this particular series of incidents, members of the Texas media accompanied the Texas National Guard (of which I was not a member, though I had acquaintance with a very high ranking member of it) to Iraq. While on 'tour' there, they saw Bedouin volunteering information on terrorists, at least once spontaneously in front of the reporters, reconstruction projects, and friendly locals. They refused to report these positive events, and said so vocally. They referred to it as 'drinking the Army's kool-aid.' (wherever the hell that phrase came from)

The press is theoretically supposed to report 'the story.' To me, this means an objective relation of facts. As I just explained, they don't do this. Everything is polarized. CNN, ABC, the NYT, et cetera have a (sometimes sickeningly) liberal slant while FoxNews, New Republic, et cetera have a conservative one. The MSM picks and chooses what to report and how much, and it seems like anything that makes the US look bad, especially the President, gets more airtime, analysis, and overall coverage than it deserves. (conservative outlets go the other way, but there are fewer of them)

Witness the stupid, idiotic focus on VP Cheney's hunting trip. He was in a hunting accident. Whoopty shit. Why was that news worthy? Why was that played and referred to 24 freaking 7 for like 12 days? Was it because nothing else was news worthy? No.

"However, torture was and is allowed to continue."

False. Did you listen to anything I said? Here is a quote of myself from a different thread on this topic.

'Torture, or even mildly harsh interrogation techniques are neither taught nor tolerated at the US Army Interrogator school. I promise.

Here, take a look. http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/policy/army/fm/fm34-52/

The only people in the entire governmental national security apparatus who perform anything even remotely close to torture are JSOC and the CIA. (not counting SERE school, where our own troops get abused to show them what to expect if they are captured)'

"When Gonzalez was writing legal briefs intended to reinterpret international law and human decency, he wasn't doing it because the newsmedia made him."

There is no such thing as international law. I've covered this before too. However, you can find the relative US document here. http://faculty.ed.umuc.edu/~nstanton/FM27-10.htm It's amazing how many people talk about things that they have never even read, Congressmen included.

"It is the bloodiest conflict of my lifetime with tens of thousands of civilian Iraqi dead in addition to twenty thousand American casualties, over 2,000 of those dead."

Also false, unless you're about 8 years old. Ref: Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Iran/Iraq War, Columbia, Sudan, Nigeria, Afghanistan the 1st time + civil war, Kashmir. You know, it used to be the liberals who admonished people for ignoring plights outside of our borders...

If perhaps you meant bloodiest US conflict and just forget to qualify it as such, that is because it is the first extended conflict since about 1975. These are not large numbers of casualties. We have yet to pass the casualties of the Battle of Antietam, which lasted a single DAY, much less other important battles like Okinawa or Sicily. The last major conflict (1991) lasted all of 2 weeks on the ground and is routinely touted as a policy mistake. That is, people think we should have stayed *longer* and suffered *more* casualties to topple the Hussein government. The losses of this conflict aren't exactly negligible, but they're very low, lower than any other major conflict in US history, Mexican War and Revolution included. Live a bit longer, and you'll probably see what a REAL war looks like. Well. Hear about it, anyway. I'll see it. But I guess I'd be wrong in my interpretation of events then, too.

Aside, I'm confused as to why you brought up Bush's poll numbers and such. I don't care. I've never cared. Popular opinion has very little to do with good governance. Abraham Lincoln was exceptionally unpopular during his terms and was (rightfully) accused of abusing his position as national executive during a time of war. But how is he remembered now?

My whole point is that the president is constrained in his actions by domestic politics. The news media, by their slanted coverage, has altered the domestic political atmosphere enough to make it unwise to do what should have been done Summer 2003. "What? Sending more troops? This is just like President Johnson! Vietnam, Vietnam!" And don't kid yourself that it wouldn't have worked out that way; they tried to do it anyway. It just didn't stick.

"The policies behind the actions were and are the responsibility of our leaders."

*sigh* There was no "torture policy." Else why would they have been prosecuted? The whole idea that they got some sort of secret instruction from further up the chain of command is a myth invented by... the press! One of the accused troops used the excuse, "well that's what I thought I was supposed to do" (a time honored junior enlisted excuse for just about anything) and the media took that as evidence that there was some sort of secret coverup to hide the involvement of higher ranking officers. I know people who were there and who testified to the authorities; while one particular colonel was exceptionally disliked, there wasn't any kind of indication that an order like "hey, strip down and photograph those prisoners" was ever given by him or anyone else. There were investigations to this effect.

"When only a few corporate interests control the vast majority of media in this nation, and most politicians don't favor any sort of media reform, it's hard for me to stomach the idea that the media is a net negative for this administration."

I don't even see this as coherent.

"I think your idea that slanted press coverage might hamper war effort is charming."

How very condescending of you. I suppose it's natural for you to assume that that idea originated with me, (and Cassandra I guess) and didn't come from historical lessons. Ref: unfettered press access in Vietnam which did its best to convince the public that the US was losing, specifically the Tet Offensive, when in fact Tet was a huge military defeat for the North. We know now that the North was considering peace terms after Tet, and changed their minds when they saw the public reaction in the US and instead continued to fight. Also, all the focus on how terrible it was to expand the war, or zooming in on civilian casualties, and second guessing every military decision and statement helped accelerate the dissolution of discipline, competent practice, and sound decision making. President Johnson even took it upon himself to dictate what size bombs could be used on what targets at what times according to what press accounts would say, rather than military necessity. PR got so bad for the military that medals started being handed out like candy, many of them undeserved, to try to put servicemembers in a positive light. (Kerry?) Thanks, press. You really helped us out then.

There's also the little thing about the censoring of battlefront news during WWII because it could hurt the war effort. Charming, hm? But then, you don't like WWII examples, so refer back to the Vietnam one instead.  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Wed Mar 22, 02:05:00 PM:

So what do you propose, Dawnfire, to cure the evils of the fourth estate?

Further, I recognize that "charming" does come off as condescending, and I don't intend to condescend to you. I'll strike the word and replace it with "clever". I appreciate your willingness to have the conversation.

I'm at work, so there's no time to properly respond right now. But I wonder how you would propose to fix the problem of the media losing our wars for us while retaining our 1st amendment rights. I want factual reporting as much as the next guy, and I recognize that, with limited column inches, any media (outside of we all powerful bloggers) must pick and choose which facts to report and which to exclude. How do you propose to tailor those choices to the benefit of the nation?  

By Blogger Lola, at Thu Mar 23, 09:30:00 AM:

To answer Screwy Hoolie's question of how we would like the media to decide what to publish I first offer an example of what is and is not being published. I'm sure you have all heard of Cindy Sheehan, but have any of you heard of Merilee Carson. She is the mother of a fallen soldier who is a member of a coalition called Families United for Our Troops. She has a great message to tell but has received very limited press while Ms. Sheehan gets front page coverage. Basically, shouldn't we hear from both of these women. Even if they won't put Ms. Carson on the front page with Ms. Sheehan, I would at least like to see an article discussing her efforts and her stance (she votes democrat but wants Americans to support the troops and their mission - peacefully and with grace). You can check out their website for more of these families and their testimonials, because you won't see them on the nightly news or in your newspaper - familiesunitedmission.com.  

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