Fewer troops – and a pony for you too!

By Robert Silvey

George Bush’s minions have again leaked the amazing news that Bush is considering removing lots of American troops from Vietnam … oh, I mean Iraq. I thought for a moment it was another announcement of Dick Nixon’s secret plan for peace. David Sanger and David Cloud at the New York Times seem to take the leak at face value:

The concepts call for a reduction in forces that could lower troop levels by the midst of the 2008 presidential election to roughly 100,000, from about 146,000, the latest available figure, which the military reported on May 1. They would also greatly scale back the mission that President Bush set for the American military when he ordered it in January to win back control of Baghdad and Anbar Province.

The mission would instead focus on the training of Iraqi troops and fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, while removing Americans from many of the counterinsurgency efforts inside Baghdad.

This astounding news is attributed to “senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate”—an internal debate, I presume, not about what actions to take in Iraq but what lies to tell in America. Whether Vietnam or Iraq, it’s deja vu all over again, and again, and again, as Glenn Greenwald documents at Salon: nearly identical leaks, suppositions, and announcements of illusory troop reductions ever since the Mission was Accomplished:

For four straight years, the same set of war supporters have constantly and repetitiously given the same exact false assurances about Iraq — virtually verbatim — in order to protect themselves politically. It is hard to know what is more amazing about this ritual — (a) how stupid they believe Americans are that they can make the same commitments over and over which never transpire, or (b) that the press jumps each time to proclaim the imminent troop reductions as though it never happened before:

The media might have learned a lesson or two about mendacity and complaisance by this time. Bush will always promise to reduce the numbers while increasing the numbers. His lies—and his war—will continue until Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can round up enough Republicans to call a veto-proof halt. And that will happen when the constituents of those Republicans let them know that their reelection is in danger as long as they support the Iraq War. In the meantime, it would be refreshing to see some Greenwaldian context in the newspaper of record. And some outrage at an administration that plays us all for forgetful fools.

3 replies »

  1. Two points Robert – thanks for the great analysis btw:
    1) I wonder how many people have stopped thinking of the NYT as the “newspaper of record.” That lost cred can be directly traced to their treatment of this president;
    2) I hope you’re right that Republicans will feel heat from their constituents over Iraq. But if they live in the Fox News watching areas – as my latest post explains – they may not know just how bad things are.

  2. Good points, Jim. I should have put “newspaper of record” in ironic quotes, though Bill Keller has made some changes in the last year or so, and I see some improvement. As for the second point, I sometimes think the obliviousness extends well beyond the Fox “News” areas. As you point out in that fascinating post, Fox is definitely the worst, but the other networks (cable and broadcast) don’t give this war the importance it deserves

  3. Agreed, Robert – what I wish the PEJ study did was look at the content of the reporting from – not just the number of stories (although they do identify “areas” – on the ground in Iraq, homefront, and the Iraq policy debate).

    And the overwhelming majority of that coverage went to policy debate – only about 15% average coverage went to “in Iraq” coverage – and we both know that it was on the ground coverage in Vietnam that turned public opinion on that war.

    So in a real sense, by controlling the actual “in country” reportage, the administration is controlling the debate on the war – and making it look like “politics as usual” rather than the grave matter of wasting young lives and wrecking the national economy that it is.

    And I don’t think that will change unless we get a universal draft or unless the gas price (or some other economic cost) issue becomes so economically painful that people have to start paying better attention. And, frankly, I’m not sure where the line is on the latter.