Greetings! You are reading an article from The Mudville Gazette. To reach the front page, with all the latest news and views, click the logo above or "main" below. Thanks for stopping by!
April 22, 2007
Getting the MessageBy Greyhawk
Earlier this year, top Democrats in both houses of Congress refused to attend a bipartisan briefing offered by General David Petraeus to discuss the challenges in Iraq. Next week they’ll have another chance when the General comes to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers in the House and Senate on our progress in the Global War on Terror.Hey, I'm pretty busy these days, too.
(Via The Tank)
Boehner is a Republican congressman - so it should be noted that Democrats would probably characterize the events (or non-events) he describes in a different light.
Likewise, the Democrats have little to fear from attending hearings with General Petraeus. While they might not like what they hear, that will matter very little - because American voters aren't going to hear it anyway. That's simply a matter of supreme confidence in their own complete domination of the field of message control.
Case in point from this week: Harry Reid declares the war is lost. In most regards this is a "dog bites man" story. But take a look at the circumstances in which he made the comment:
Reid, the Senate's top Democrat, described part of a meeting with Bush at the White House on Wednesday -- the same day bombs killed almost 200 people in Baghdad in the worst day of violence since a U.S.-backed security crackdown was launched there earlier this year.We'll talk violence in a moment. First, the boring part - that meeting. The meeting itself was to discuss the supplemental funding bill (aka the Iraq withdrawal bill - aka the 40+ billion in pork projects bill) currently making it's way to the President for veto. Want details of the meeting? Here are all the details the story provides:
In their meeting, Bush and congressional Democrats failed to settle their fight over funding for the Iraq war, as lawmakers pressed Bush to accept a troop withdrawal timetable.And that's that. Probably 90% of Americans have no idea the meeting occurred. And certainly few realize that (as in the Petraeus story above) Democrats initially tried to present an attitude of "not interested":
“What the president invited us to do was come to his office so that we could accept, without any discussion, the bill that he wants,” Pelosi said at an afternoon news conference in San Francisco to discuss her trip to the Middle East last week. “That's not worthy of the concerns of the American people. And I join with Senator Reid in rejecting an invitation of that kind.”But for whatever reason they had a change of heart, the meeting occurred, Senator Reid promptly declared the war lost, and the meeting itself became a sub-paragraph in a story devoted to that comment. And that, good friends, is message control - and Republican congressmen would do well to note that before taunting Democrats about attending meetings.
It does make for quite an exciting headline - especially on a day when nearly 200 Iraqi civilians are killed. And as noted, most of the rest of the details are boring - math stuff, even. For instance, what of the 40 billion in pork? Was it discussed in the meeting? Will it be a political payoff to eliminate the withdrawal conditions? I'd like to know - and it certainly seems that even the most partisan Republican or Democrat might share that concern - albeit with slightly different focus. But from the reporters, nary a peep...
But certainly some questions deserve an answer. How goes the war? Who is winning? Those did get some attention in the coverage of Reid's declaration that it's "not us":
Reid, the Senate's top Democrat, described part of a meeting with Bush at the White House on Wednesday -- the same day bombs killed almost 200 people in Baghdad in the worst day of violence since a U.S.-backed security crackdown was launched there earlier this year.That certainly is an example of fate smiling on the Democrats - albeit with a sinister smile. While violence occurs daily in Iraq, to have one of the most horrific attacks in history occur on the day of the meeting with the President is certainly an act of providence they could not possibly welcome.
As it was when the exact same thing happened three weeks prior, immediately before the congressional Spring Break:
March 24, 2007 -- WASHINGTON - A sharply divided House of Representatives voted yesterday to order President Bush to bring combat troops home from Iraq next year - a victory for Democrats in an epic war-powers struggle and Congress' boldest challenge yet to the administration's policy.
March 25, 2007:Later:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A suicide truck bombing in the northern city of Tal Afar last week is the deadliest single attack since the Iraq war began in 2003, a high-ranking Iraqi Interior Ministry official said Monday as a new death toll for the blast surfaced.Until this week*.
To achieve their second goal, turning Americans against the war, the mujahideen need to shape their operations "to support anti- war sentiment in the west", he says.Let's not go tinfoil hat here - the Democrats aren't in collusion with al Qaeda. It's a simple matter for the terrorist group to time their attacks to coincide with very public, and very scheduled events in the United States. One doesn't need a "mastermind" to intuit that - it would be tactically ridiculous to act otherwise.
Of course, message requires medium - and we have media. One might expect someone therein to notice the synchronicity of operations and recognize something beyond divine providence or the whims of war...
Reid, the Senate's top Democrat, described part of a meeting with Bush at the White House on Wednesday -- the same day bombs killed almost 200 people in Baghdad in the worst day of violence since a U.S.-backed security crackdown was launched there earlier this year....or not.
Violence isn't boring - it is something else entirely. Something of which we are not fond - something we prefer not to dwell upon, something we choose not to examine in too great detail - it is far easier to condemn it, then turn away without noticing the gory details.
This, good friends, is al Qaeda message control.
So given their supremacy in message control, one might think it a good tactic to appear to be grabbing the Democrats by the hand and forcing them to sit and listen to General Petraeus - someone who may be able to garner at least some attention for the counterpoint. But if Congressman Boehner - or any other individual - believes the Democrats will be intimidated by hearing the message a politically neutral (although deeply involved at the pointy end of policy) and ostensibly respected visitor might bring to the table, he'd best think again.
"The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.
"Coalition and Iraqi soldiers and police have had some tough days as well. It is such violence that Iraqi and coalition forces will work together to reduce in the months ahead, recognizing, to be sure, that some sensational attacks inevitably will continue to take place, though every effort will be made to reduce their number by identifying and destroying the networks and facilities of the bombers, and by interdicting those who would visit such violence on the Iraqi people.
Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, challenged President Bush on Saturday over his threat to reject an Iraq spending bill if it calls for a troop withdrawal...That, good friends, is message control.
But certainly, in speaking to congress, General Petraeus can "clarify" issues. After all,
When questioned directly, Petraeus said he would not be able to do his job as commander of MNFI without the additional 21,000 troops President Bush has pledged to Iraq....and,
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) asked Army Lt. Gen. David H . Petraeus during his confirmation hearing yesterday if Senate resolutions condemning White House Iraq policy "would give the enemy some comfort."...but,
Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), until recently chairman of the Armed Services Committee and a co-sponsor of one of those resolutions, later explained to the general that he needed to be more careful about appearing to wade into a political debate and warned Petraeus to not let himself be trapped into portraying members of Congress as unpatriotic for disagreeing with President Bush.Proving that Republicans can practice message control, too.
And anyhow, if the General doesn't behave himself, and insists on talking "political" issues, well, the Democrats are ready for that, too...
Senator Reid was a busy man this week:
Flanked by two former Army retired generals Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) blasted President Bush for “clinging to a failed escalation strategy” in Iraq and “failing our troops and our country.”The only things new about the Democrats using Generals are the specific names. Last year they had a different crew.
Batiste and two other retired officers spoke before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, a rump group with little legislative clout but access to a proper Senate hearing room. And Batiste made up for lost time.That call for a surge was why they had to be replaced on the podium, of course.
You probably heard that last year's generals had called for Rumsfeld to be fired - but did you know they had called for a surge?
That, good friends, is message control.
2006 - before shifting strategy: Failed strategy
2007 - after shifting strategy: Failed strategy
That's called sticking to the message.
And if you'd like to see a subtle shift in message - how about this: In the early days of the surge, Democrats wanted to pretend it hadn't begun. Now - with implementation half way accomplished, it's a complete "failure".
One thing generally absent within stories that bring "into question the US-backed security plan for the capital" are any attempts to answer said questions. But explanations of exactly what Coalition Forces are doing are available and unclassified - in the broader details - thus there's no valid reason to leave the reader to conclude that the answer is "nothing".So don't read this, either.
But we began by discussing a possible meeting between General Petraeus and congressional members next week. (And oh by the way, that day might be a good day for a lock-down in Baghdad.)
So is this meeting hopeless? No - significant advances can be made. In the interest of readiness, the General may want to request a copy of upcoming schedules - or at least a couple of days "heads up" to any future key votes or meetings on their plan for withdrawal. If the Democrats don't see that as a threat to message control, they'd probably oblige.
That bit of take-away intel probably won't counter the negative impact on American military efforts from the inevitable press releases and bumper sticker quotations masked as news stories that result from the briefing, but it just might save a few American and Iraqi lives.
In the interest of fairness, here's one last key message, without additional comment:
Added Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.: "We're going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war."
UPDATE (April 27): Was I right or wrong? A post-briefing followup here.
*Sharp readers will note that this week's "deadliest single attack since the start of the war" killed fewer people than the previous "deadliest single attack since the start of the war" - but I see no point in quibbling over which data point/sound bite is most accurate - they are both bad.
And here's another example of message control. (And in all the brouhaha over McCain and Ware, who knew they agreed on the fundamental points? Another example of message control? You bet - I got a million of 'em...)
Posted by Greyhawk / April 22, 2007 3:23 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com