|September 10, 2007||by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, and Matt Corley
Contact Us | Tell-a-Friend | Archives | Permalink
Snow Job Summer
With its report due to Congress in just one week, the Bush administration has used the month of August to mobilize its congressional, military, and other right-wing allies to spin the facts on the ground and create a false impression of progress in Iraq. The administration has watered down nonpartisan government reports that undercut the White House’s claims of significant progress. It has also arranged highly-orchestrated congressional delegation trips for conservative lawmakers who come back heralding President Bush’s policies, even though they never leave the Green Zone and are often on the ground for less than a day. With all these attempts to create the appearance of success, it’s no surprise that the administration plans to use Gen. David Petraeus’s testimony before Congress next week to claim that escalation is working. As the Center for American Progress has argued previously in the report Strategic Reset, Iraq is currently engaged in multiple internal conflicts that American military power cannot resolve. A new Center for American Progress report, How to Redeploy, lays out a plan for an orderly and safe withdrawal over a 10- to 12-month period.
CONGRESS’S ‘GREEN ZONE FOG’: Approximately 50 Members of Congress have visited Iraq this summer. While there, the lawmakers rarely leave the Green Zone, are constantly surrounded by the U.S. military, and are subjected to the administration’s presentation of the progress in Iraq. “I will tell you that when you get in the Green Zone, there is a physiological phenomenon I think called Green Zone fog. … It’s death by powerpoint. It’s always that their argument is winning,” said Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), who recently returned from such a trip. Yet the administration has effectively used these trips to impress conservative lawmakers. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Bob Corker (R-TN), and David Vitter (R-LA) returned from a trip last month and “gave an upbeat report on progress in Iraq” to reporters, saying they saw “clear success, province by province” and believed the “surge is working very, very well.” Unmentioned in press accounts of Alexander and Corker’s trip, however, was the fact that they spent only half a day on the ground in Iraq. Yet as Washington Post correspondent Jonathan Finer points out, there is reason to be skeptical of these “dog-and-pony shows.” “Prescient insights rarely emerge from a few days in-country behind the blast walls,” writes Finer.
MILITARY AS PR FLACKS: The White House continues to employ Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, as a PR flack for failing Iraq policies. Most recently, the White House deployed Petraeus to help the re-election of Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard, who is one of Bush’s few foreign allies on the war and is now suffering in the polls. Last week, Petraeus offered a one-on-one interview with The Australian, timed to coincide with Bush’s visit. In the interview, Petraeus said Bush’s Iraq strategy is working, and there “had been a 75 percent reduction in religious and ethnic killings since last year.” But as numerous reports have indicated, these claims of success are specious. Sectarian and ethnic killings remain very high, running at almost double the rate of last year. Petraeus will be delivering the White House’s report on progress in Iraq to Congress on Sept. 15. Increasingly, however, foreign policy analysts and lawmakers are raising concerns about Petraeus’s “conflicting loyalty” between “the desire to please the president” and to report the unvarnished truth about Bush’s strategy. “We have to be sanguine about the surge, and it’s [Petreaus’s] idea. … I don’t know anybody that doesn’t want to sell their idea and keep selling it,” said Tauscher. A recent Washington Post report found that Petraeus succeeded in altering the key judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) about security in Iraq to reflect so-called “improvements in recent months.”
SHIFTING REALITY: Perhaps the most dissembling has come from the White House itself, which has used the August recess to plan political spectacles and alter government reports, even though August was the second month in a row that sectarian deaths rose. Over the Labor Day weekend, Bush made a “surprise” visit to Iraq, where he declared, “I have come here today to see with our own eyes the remarkable changes that are taking place in Anbar Province.” As The New York Times noted, Bush’s trip had a “clear political goal” — to “buttress White House contentions that its efforts in Iraq are beginning to produce results.” Yet Bush spent just seven hours on the ground and “never left the confines of the air base.” A draft version of an upcoming Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concludes that “Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress” and “the Bush administration’s conclusion in July that sectarian violence was decreasing as a result.” As with the NIE, the Bush administration has already hinted that it will push the GAO to alter its findings in the final report to benefit the President’s policies. Additionally, former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer has teamed up as the spokesman for Freedom’s Watch, a new right-wing front group for the White House that is “funded by high-profile Republicans who were aides and supporters of President Bush.” The group, which is intended to pressure Congress to continue supporting Bush’s Iraq strategy, has so far been little more than fear-mongering ads about an Iraq pullout. It has already gone after Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who believes Bush should announce in September that a few thousand U.S. troops will return home by the end of the year.
Just before leaving for its August recess, the House approved a little-noticed amendment to its energy bill “that would allow members of Congress to lease only environmentally friendly cars.” The House energy bill would require all federal agencies to buy only low greenhouse-gas emitting vehicles for their fleets.
MARYLAND: Maryland, “the wealthiest state in the union,” prepares to take an unprecedented step to ensure that its workers earn a “living wage.”
MISSOURI: “[M]ore than 100,000 Missourians were added to the ranks of the uninsured between 2005 and 2006,” triple the national rate.
ECONOMY: “After five years of nearly stagnant growth, state employees finally saw a substantial uptick in their earnings in the past year.”
THINK PROGRESS: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer dismantles Rep. Charles Boustany’s (R-LA) assertions of progress in Iraq.
THE HORSE’S MOUTH: The White House’s misleading PR campaign to show progress in Iraq has been enabled by the media.
CROOKS AND LIARS: Former Cheney aide Mary Matalin throws her pen on NBC’s Meet The Press after having her Iraq spin challenged.
AFL-CIO WEBLOG: A new report shows that one-third of the world’s workers are jobless and poor.
“Do you realize that the United States is the only major industrialized nation that cut greenhouse gases last year?”
“Kristen A. Hellmer, the spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, acknowledged afterward that the White House was unable to substantiate the claim.”