WHO KNEW THE MILITARY had time for fighting the war of words? The pen (or is it now the keyboard) is mightier than the sword, or the M 16, or whatever else it is the Defense Department fights the war in Iraq with against the rejectionists, Saddamists, and the odd number of terrorists. As previously reported at the bottom of a long post (scroll way down), the military has enlisted the Lincoln Group to get the facts out on Iraq because Iraqis apparently wouldn’t know the truth of the war without that help. PLUS The new word is the generals see the war as Bush does too. THE IRAQIS CAN’T SEE apparently the war happening all around them. They have to read about it with United States plants of news of Bush’s new fire of freedom burning all around them because the country doesn’t have electrical power half the time for televisions to work. The Washington Post tells the tale:
"This is a military program to help get factual information about ongoing operations into Iraqi news," said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in Baghdad. "Because this is part of our ongoing operations and an important part of countering misinformation in the news by insurgents, I can't provide details of what that entails. I want to emphasize that all information used for marketing these stories is completely factual." . . .
“FACTUAL” HAS RAISED some opinions and concerns. Apparently Bush meant it when he said front line commanders would decide what level of troops and what level of BS would be needed to win the war over there. The Pentagon doesn’t know shit.
Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said that officials are looking into the matter and that "some things about it, if true, are a bit troubling." Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said on MSNBC's "Hardball" program that his panel would look into the matter "because I'm concerned that our credibility abroad is very important."
CREDIBILITY MIGHT BE an issue. If you can’t win the war of guns, letting people know you are winning the war of words is key.
One Pentagon official said yesterday that such a program could violate Defense Department doctrine on psychological operations that bars intentionally misusing the media. "It's a transparency issue," the official said. "One should never have to guess as to who is providing the information."
Mr. Bush, in some passages of his speech, came much closer than he has before to matching the hard-nosed assessments of the war that have long been made by American commanders here, at least among themselves. While maintaining a stoic confidence in public, many of these commanders, over the past 18 months, have pressed behind the scenes for the Pentagon to move toward a more realistic appraisal of the war than has been common among major administration figures in Washington. These generals contend the war is winnable, though they do not says so with the tone of certainty that Mr. Bush mustered Wednesday at Annapolis.
WHAT EVERYONE WANTS to avoid according to Burns is another situation like Fallujah. The Fallujah the Pentagon remembers is the stop and go, are we in or out? fighting the enemy in a chosen spot Fallujah, not the Fallujah the Iraqis remember. That was the Fallujah that was destroyed to save it. The Pentagon now wants to pick its spots. Let the facts and foes fall where they may.
Now, American commanders say they believe they have a strategy that can win the war, if anything can. They have concentrated American forces for a series of offensives aimed at regaining control of strategic cities like Falluja - recaptured from the insurgents in a bloody offensive last November - and denying insurgent infiltrators safe havens in towns along the Syrian border. In Baghdad and other major cities, they have mounted a relentless campaign to track down, kill and capture Islamic militants whose bombing campaigns were killing as many as 600 Iraqis a month - and making headlines in the United States that eroded public support for the war.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW the Times reporters' take (or is it the editors0, check the headline on the Burns piece: For Once, President and His Generals See the Same War. No one has been ordered to be optimistic, not yet.
THE TIMES IS MUCH MORE HARSH on its editorial page. Guess the reporters didn’t get the memo telling them they are part of the mainstream media against Bush. The editorial heads that way The snark jumps out to bite Bush in the butt: Plan:We Win! Note exclamation point. Can almost hear (applause) (laughter)
That may be the most grandiose set of ambitions for the region since the vision of Nebuchadnezzar's son Belshazzar, who saw the hand writing on the wall. Mr. Bush hates comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. But after watching the president, we couldn't resist reading Richard Nixon's 1969 Vietnamization speech. Substitute the Iraqi constitutional process for the Paris peace talks, and Mr. Bush's ideas about the Iraqi Army are not much different from Nixon's plans - except Nixon admitted the war was going very badly (which was easier for him to do because he didn't start it), and he was very clear about the risks and huge sacrifices ahead. A president who seems less in touch with reality than Richard Nixon needs to get out more.
THIS IS VIETNAM IRAQ and new thinking is needed.
RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL READS NTodd: I think he [Bush] doesn't pay attention to the news or the polls because they would make him feel bad. [Gallup] . . . we need a C-in-C who clearly understands the reality on the ground, talks frankly with us, and is willing to have an honest debate about what to do next. We don't have that. Instead, we have an administration whose definition of winning is scoring cheap political points, and that tactic is now working as well at home as it has in Iraq. Avedon on The Times and Bush and Nixon: Oh, now they find that disturbing? Anyway, even the cadets are bored by this by now. Bet it wouldn't happen with a real president.
UPDATE ON BUSH IN STEP WITH HIS GENERALS, IN SYNC, WHATEVER ALL TOGETHER EVERYBODY is the new mantra. The LA Times heads its piece on the war that has yet to see the peace with Bush Is Now in Step With His Generals, but the tone has some nuance the NY Times piece does not. On one level it offers more praise for the illusions Bush raises in an artful way, but damns the reality. Read it in full.
In many ways, his speech was an artful domestic tightrope walk, one in which he forcefully rejected his critics' calls for an immediate troop pullout — or even a timetable for one — and repeated the applause lines cherished by his core supporters. "I will settle for nothing less than complete victory," he said at one point. "We will stay as long as necessary to complete the mission." Yet behind these words, Bush's glowing assessment of the progress of Iraqi forces provided a response to two of his most crucial political constituencies: his core supporters desperate for reassurances that a plan exists for the victory he has so often promised, and the growing number of supporters-turned-skeptics who now demand a viable exit strategy.