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We've already noted the media's recent selective quoting of General George Casey, commanding general of the Multinational Forces in Iraq. This past weekend another fine example of the technique played out on national television.
First, take a look at General Casey's introductory comments from that press briefing again. He's explaining why he believes the aftermath of the Shrine bombing reveals that the Iraqi security forces and government are becoming increasingly capable of handling issues on their own:
I did want to give you a perspective, my perspective, on really the last 10 days of what's gone on here in the aftermath of the Samarra mosque bombing. As Ambassador Khalilzad and I said in our initial joint statement condemning the bombings, we saw this as a deliberate attempt to foment sectarian strife at a very sensitive time in Iraq's political development. And while it's been a difficult few days, I can tell you that Iraqis have again risen to the occasion.I'd characterize that as cautious optimism, and a reasonable assessment of the situation from someone on the scene. After those remarks the general took questions. At least one presented him with a yes/no option:
Let me give you a couple of data points here. First of all, the Iraqi security forces performed well across the country, generally well, not uniformly well. And I'll give you some examples of both the positive and the negative here later. But we're quite pleased with what we saw both in the Iraqi army, in some of the Iraqi police and with the coordination -- improved coordination that we're seeing between the army and the police.
In general, Iraqi security force leaders took the initiative early on in moving to full alert and to securing key sites. In eight of the 18 provinces in Iraq , there was little to no reaction to the bombing, and this includes Anbar province, which as you know has been one of the most difficult challenges that we've wrestled with. In eight other provinces, there were demonstrations and there was militia activity, but it was quickly contained by Iraqi police and by the Iraqi army. And this demonstrates a maturing capability to cooperate and operate effectively in providing domestic order, and we saw this in several places around the country.
In Baghdad and Basra , where our security response was also strong, it did take the Iraqi security forces a few days to settle the situation, and this with the assistance of the coalition forces in a supporting role.
Now I think it's important to note here that in all cases, Iraqi security ministries and Iraqi security force leadership directed the operations, and the coalition responded in a supporting and assisting role.
Q General Casey, Charlie Aldinger with Reuters. You seem to concede that -- certainly that sectarian violence was fomented by the attack on the mosque. Could this happen again?Now keep that in mind as we take a look at last weekend's Meet the Press interview with General Peter Pace:
GEN. CASEY: Charlie, could this happen again? Sure -- yes, it could happen again. As I said, Iraq is not out of danger. There is still a terrorist threat here that is working to foment continued sectarian violence.
I think they tried. They tried to have this the straw that broke the camel's back, and it failed. And the Iraqis, as I said, rose to the occasion. There are still sectarian tensions here now that the Iraqis are continuing to work their way through, and we will all continue to stay on the front foot here as we work our way through this sensitive period.
Q Once more, is the country close to civil war or could it fall into civil war?
GEN. CASEY: Anything can happen, but I think as long as there's -- the coalition forces are here in the -- on the ground working with the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi -- the vast majority of the Iraqi people remain committed to forming a government of national unity, which I firmly believe that they do, I think the chances of that are not good.
MR. RUSSERT: If you were to be asked whether things in Iraq are going well or badly, what would you say? How would you answer?No doubt they do. And there's little doubt that editing the comments of the on-scene commander to make it appear as though he disagrees with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington helps instill this opinion, and cultivates a belief that "Washington is out of touch" with front line reality. Of course, the media can argue that such edits make for "good television." Not reality television, of course, but "good" television.
GEN. PACE: I'd say they're going well. I wouldn't put a great big smiley face on it, but I would say they're going very, very well from everything you look at, whether it be on the political side where they've had three elections, they've written their own constitution, they're forming their government. You look at the military side where this time last year there were just a handful of battalions in the field, Iraqi battalions in the field. Now there are over 100 battalions in the field. They had no brigades--that's about 3,000 men each. Now they've got about 31 brigades. No matter where you look at their military, their police, their society, things are much better this year than they were last.
MR. RUSSERT: The American people were asked that exact same question, how things are going in Iraq, and here's how they responded: Well, 36; badly, 62. Why do you think there's such a disconnect from your view and that of the American people?
GEN. PACE: I don't think we're getting the goodness out to the American people the way we should. Somehow we need to find a way to have balance in the amount of reporting that we're able to get out. If you remember back when the war began, we had 24/7 coverage. Folks could watch television, they could read newspapers, they could read magazines, and they could put together their own opinion of what's going on. Now the amount of coverage from the war zone is much less than it used to be, and understandably, the coverage, then, that comes out is the bombings and the things like that. People don't get a chance to see or hear about all the good things that are happening.
MR. RUSSERT: After the mosque was blown up, General Casey this week talked to the Pentagon reporters, and let me show you a small exchange he had with the press. Let's watch.
(Videotape): General GEORGE CASEY (Commander, Multinational Force, Iraq): Could this happen again? Sure, yes, it could happen again. As I said, Iraq is not out of danger. There is still a terrorist threat here that is working to foment continued sectarian violence.
Unidentified Reporter: Is the country close to civil war, or could it fall into civil war?
GEN. CASEY: Anything can happen. (End videotape)
MR. RUSSERT: Anything can happen. Seventy-three percent of the American people believe we are headed to a likely civil war.
In fact, there have been several examples of this tactic this past week. Note the heavily edited quotes and frequent paraphrasing in the LA Times interview with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. Or this AP evaluation of remarks made by CENTCOM commander General John Abizaid:
Abizaid, meanwhile, said he was "very, very pleased" with the response of Iraqi armed forces in containing the recent sectarian bloodshed, disputing critics who said too little was done to quell attacks that killed more than 500 people the past week.American military and State Department officials, along with Iraqi government leaders, have agreed that the bloody days following the shrine attack have offered a tough test of the fortitude of the people and a measure of progress of the fledgling institutions there. You can refute the results of that test, but inarguably the key players are on the same sheet of music - whether you like the tune or not.
Abizaid's assessment was more upbeat than the one given Thursday by the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey, who told reporters that Iraqi police and army units had performed "generally well, not uniformly well."
Which begs the question, why does the media want so desperately for it to be otherwise?
And it also answers this question:
MR. RUSSERT: The American people were asked that exact same question, how things are going in Iraq, and here's how they responded: Well, 36; badly, 62. Why do you think there's such a disconnect from your view and that of the American people?I admit I don't completely agree with General Pace's answer to that one.
I love the MSM's circular cause and effect style of reporting.
First, they try to convince everyone things are going badly.
Then, they take polls to ask whether things are going badly, and (surprise!) people say they are.
Finally, they cite the polls saying things are going badly as proof things are going badly, and use it to justify more reporting on how bad things are.
Notice nowhere in here is there any objective measure of whether things are, in fact, going badly.
"I admit I don't completely agree with General Pace's answer to that one."
I tend to view Gen Pace as the Pilot trying to land an airplane in stormy weather.
The press are the passengers screaming in the back of the airplane.
The pilot doesn't want to commit to an exact landing time, because the weather is rotten, and he might need to circle for a while.
The pilot has a view of the fuel,altitude, wind speed and glide slope.Posted by Soldier's Dad at March 8, 2006 09:17 PM
I used to have some respect for Mr. Russert, but not any more. Seems that he has joined the MSM bandwagon to oblivion.Posted by aet2u at March 8, 2006 09:24 PM
In arguing a position, you take everything being said as confirming your position - irrespective of WHAT IS BEING SAID. Reporters are not asking a direct examination (like a lawyer) they are cross-examining people, because, by God, they know what the truth is and they are going to "catch" the speaker in a lie. And since the pursuit of the truth is really a HOLY calling, if by lying to a speaker I can get him to reveal his own lies - AH HA! I have fulfilled my scared mission. Hence the use of cut off audio/video clips.
"Mister Russert, someone accused you of (insert evil horrible unspeakable crime here), and they also accuse you of (next crime). I mean this is a serious charge - Is that who you ARE? I mean isn't there more, or it that who you ARE? They are referring to Mr. Russert, the journalist - you, right?"
Russert: Yes, that's me....bu.." audio/video cutoff - Russert keeps talking off the air "but I can prove that these charges are false and that this is slander on my honest good name." Hello? Can you hear me? Is my mike on?"
"Yes, viewers. Sadly you heard it here first. When asked about whether it was he who commited these terrible (insert crimes here), Russert's response was "Yes, that's me.." I never would have believed it if I had not heard it with my own ears - you heard it too. So sad, that what lawyers would call an "admission" should be the end of a long journalistic career."Posted by californio at March 8, 2006 09:30 PM
This is the only thing that Russert does. He does it every time. He takes a quote out of context and asks the guest to comment. He is a one trick pony. He does this with every guest regarldess of party or political bent. Week in and week out.Posted by shaffer at March 8, 2006 09:56 PM
I don't suppose he could have gotten away with saying, "They only know what they see on the news."
Or even, "The people's opinion is formed by the media."
The pen is mightier than the sword could be reworded as, "the pen is more dangerous than a loaded pistol in the hands of a toddler."Posted by Julie at March 8, 2006 10:32 PM
I sure wish the Bush administration was more nimble in countering a hostile press. Reagan did it so it's not impossible. They are just slow, as in the ports deal and Harriet Miers. I've pointed out to a number of Democrats that they are really losers if they can't beat this bunch of amateur politicians. Bush is the MBA president in every way, including inept PR. He's doing a good job but that isn't always enough. They've got to do better in explaining the plan. Some of the problem may be the uncertainty about the future in Iraq but the only guy who seems to handle the press well is Rumsfeld. He is a pleasure to watch, especially if you get to see the uncensored version. His press conference here shows what a master he is.Posted by Mike K at March 8, 2006 11:41 PM
Nice job, G.
fPosted by Fred Schoeneman at March 9, 2006 02:17 AM
I just blogged on this very phenomenon - in particular, the hand-wringing over "80% of the American public believes that Iraq is headed for civil war!!" given as some kind of evidence that what "the American public" believes is ground truth, versus "almost 70% of the American public believes that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks!!" from a couple of years ago, given as some kind of evidence that "the American public" are completely ignorant of ground truth.
One commenter, after pretending that I was actually comparing the polls, then pretended that I was mis-indicting the press by blaming them for "the American public's" perception of world events, rather than the Bush Administration that has an unbroken record of lies, etc., etc. Handily, Sec. Rumsfeld came to the same conclusion I did, though he implied that our actual enemies in al Qaeda have more of a hand in it than I'd given them credit for.Posted by Jamie at March 9, 2006 01:39 PM
Everybody is fussing about the coverage-polls-coverage of polls thing. Maybe that's because the commenters think the purpose of the polls is to inquire the opinion of the citizens about public affairs. I'm beginning to wonder if the purpose of the polls is something other than that: "see how we're doing at structuring public opinion in the way we want to see it." It's useful to the media, those ones who really are trying to slant things for a purpose anyway, because it tells them if what they've done is doing its job or not.
Just speculating, you understand.
Bush needs to hire some Special Forces guys to do his propaganda for him, because obviously Bush is incompetent at propaganda and needs to delegate his "authority" to experienced people.Posted by Ymarsakar at March 11, 2006 08:17 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(11) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)