Posted on March 8, 2006
When, under pressure, a politician blurts out the truth?
The people doing the fighting think it’s going pretty well. The people doing the writing think the whole thing is doomed. Has been, really, ever since that sandstorm. That was when the tide shifted:
My experience will illustrate why this is important. I was embedded at brigade headquarters and saw everything the brigade commander saw. All the other Time and Newsweek embeds were at lower levels. Just after the sandstorm-enforced halt in the assault on Baghdad, Time sent me the copy for that week’s cover story entitled “Why Are We Losing” and asked me to find comments to feed into the story.
That day I saw Colonel David Perkins of the 3rd Infantry Division and talked to many of his officers. Their reaction to the story was, “Tomorrow we laager up to refuel and rearm. The next day we move out to hit the Medina Division. It’s beat up, facing the wrong way, and does not know we’re coming. The day after that we ride onto Baghdad International Airport.” After a few calculations, I figured out Time was going to declare the war lost on the same day we entered Baghdad. This was not good.
I sent a note to Time telling them they were about to look very foolish. Unfortunately, I was alone in my estimation of the situation. All of the talking heads on TV were shouting about disaster.
Fast forward three years, and in Secretary Rumsfeld’s press conference yesterday, the gantlet was thrown down, and the political mask in part removed:
SEC. RUMSFELD: Charlie.
Q Mr. Secretary, I’d like to clear up exactly what you’re saying here. Are you saying that this poll and that what you call the rush toward declaring civil war in Iraq, is that the result of intentional misreporting of the situation there?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I can’t go into people’s minds. All I’m doing is reporting on what we’ve seen. General Casey pointed out to this group here that he believes — his data shows that the numbers of mosque attacks and the nature of the attacks and the severity of the attacks have been considerably exaggerated and that the number of civilian Iraqis that have been killed or wounded has been exaggerated.
And — now, why someone or whoever did this, I have no way to judge. I’m not going to judge them. It’s just a fact that he is saying that, and I believe he’s correct.
Q But you said, Sir, that — I believe that the reporting was virtually one-sided. Does that mean –
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah, the interesting thing about it is they all seem to be of a kind. All the things that have later been corrected or need to be corrected or that he believes were exaggerated all seem to be on one side of the equation. We don’t see the similar thing on the other side, which you normally would get in some kind of a random spread, one would think.
I should expect that press conferences for SecDef will manifest a markedly frostier tone going forward. He’s up-Cheneying Cheney.
Alternatively, this could be a moment of soul searching and introspection from the media.
What do you think will happen?
Wretchard has more.