Thursday, June 12, 2008

"You Can't Handle the Truth!"

Last summer, all we heard from certain circles was that “Bush’s War” in Iraq was lost, that the conflict there had descended into a civil war, and that we needed to bring “our boys” home immediately. A number of politicians, media outlets and others invested their egos in this drumbeat of defeat laid down by entities with a vested interest in seeing a failure in Iraq; whether for political gain or for some other reason. Everywhere you went for information had a dismal outlook for Iraq and our successes there, except for military blogs or some imbedded reporters actually reporting on the troops. Granted, pre-surge military strategy in Iraq didn’t seem to be getting the job done, but our National leaders did what they needed to do. They asked the experts, they listened to the experts, and they did what the experts advised them to do. The “surge” was the result.

This summer, despite every effort to undermine the “surge” from the beginning, it’s apparent to just about everyone that Iraq has turned the corner and is (hopefully) on the road to success. Media outlets that last summer reported gloom and doom now report almost nothing about Iraq. Some media outlets have even reported positively. What our milbloggers and independent journalists have been reporting all along has been true; the “surge” is working.
Why then, has the House passed Amendment 56 to the Defense Authorization Act for FY 2009?

This Amendment prohibits the Department of Defense from engaging in publicity or “propaganda programs and bans funds for those programs. It also calls for a GAO investigation into DoD’s Military Analyst Program. The sponsors of this Amendment, Representatives Hodes (D-NH), DeFazio (D-OR), and DeLauro (D-CT) say the Amendment is needed because the DoD manipulated the media and deceived the public with false information about the Iraq war during Pentagon briefings to retired military pundits. What baloney!

There was no Pentagon propaganda, if you define propaganda as spreading false ideas or information. The idea is absurd. First, the Pentagon and DoD has got to be one of the most scrutinized institutions on Earth. Can you imagine the number of Congressional hearings if there was one iota of evidence Pentagon briefers deliberately gave false information to retired pundits? Just look at all the investigations into whether the false information about Jessica Lynch’s actions before her capture was deliberate or not, or whether the information given to Pat Tillman’s family was deliberately falsified. Second, military public affairs folks are professionals and know that any falsity will hurt the overall mission and potentially harm those in the field. They won’t do it. As Lance Fairchok says in his article for American Thinker,

A fact that you will not hear from the press is that military public affairs and media liaison offices stress a strict adherence to truth. Despite the myths we are fed from the let, the military understands that a lie will always come back to haunt you; while truth may be difficult at first, it is a far better and honorable course. The military still believes in honor. While individuals may break this code, they inevitably suffer for it. In each of the supposed “exposes” such as Abu Grab, Hadditha, and Guantanamo Bay, the military had already conducted investigations and indicted those suspected of wrongdoing. They needed no prodding from the press.

Now, that’s not to say that public affairs folks won’t chose their words carefully. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not propaganda to use the word “hit” instead of the word “bludgeon.” One just sounds worse than the other; but both are true. Finally, what’s wrong with giving those retired military pundits who serve as talking heads a primary source of information, rather than making them rely on second or third-hand reports (some of which may be information planted by our enemies)? How does this constitute “propaganda?”

These briefings to retired military pundits were not the false propaganda the sponsors of this bill and it’s supporters in certain circles would have you believe. The information was accurate, verifiable, and comported with what was being reported by independent journalists and those in the field. Look at General Petraeus’ testimony on Capitol Hill. His testimony didn’t need the “willing suspension of disbelief” to understand. He didn’t give “spin.” He gave facts, perhaps not the facts those invested in Iraqi defeat wanted to hear, but facts nonetheless. Despite attempts to interrupt him, to silence him, and to insult him, General Petraeus remained the consummate warrior; speaking the truth and providing the facts.

This Amendment is really an attempt by those invested in the drum beat of defeat to regain control over information. For a long time, those certain circles (with the collusion of major media sources) controlled the information we receive. Since information influences opinions and decisions, by controlling information they tried to control our opinions and our decision-making. They used information to get us to think like them. Sometimes it worked; particularly when there were no alternative sources of information. As Mr. Fairchok explains,

Much of what the American people believe about Iraq derives from images, ideas and narratives produced by people who hope for our failure and would gladly abandon Iraq to ruin. The consequence of their advocacy, as ever, does not trouble them. Our failure in Iraq would aid them politically and that is all that matters to some.

And it’s not all about Iraq. Look what’s happening with the economy. The media has been telling us that we’re in a recession, so despite economic indicators to the contrary, most of the country believes we’re in (or headed for) a recession. It’s all about needing to have the economy as a focus for a Presidential election, not about whether or not Joe down the block is struggling economically.

Fortunately, in today’s “information age” it’s not so easy to control information. Look at how independent journalists and the milblogging community have been able to “force” a recognition that the situation in Iraq has greatly improved. We need to resist being put back into the box. Keeping our independence of thought, in reality, is too important. We need to stand on principal and think for ourselves; not let those in certain circles think for us. Amendment 56 passed the House 384-23 in a voice vote. Amazing. We need to remember this come election day. Mr. Fairchok says it best,

The political fight for America’s access to the truth, whatever the source, is one battle the military cannot fight for us. They must remain apolitical. This is a fight we the people, must win for them.


David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 06/12/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Curmudgeon said...

I've noticed that the mass media prefers to "report" the Iraq war from a hotel room in Bagdahd.

My son is a Marine combat engineer with two tours in Anbar under his belt.

The only press I can recall him mentioning in Anbar were Marine PAO folks.