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In which we attempt to answer the question: If you put a group of reporters in a room and explain Operation Iraqi Freedom to them very, very slowly and carefully using very simple terms, will they attain any level of understanding?
Read Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli's briefing from the second day of Operation Swarmer and you'll find a great illustration of the press disconnect from ground truth in Iraq. After an opening statement updating the misreporting of the "civil war":
...the press was actively tracking and reporting every single mosque attack, but the vast majority of the reporting was off the mark. I recalled reports of hundreds of mosques attacked and 30 mosques burning in Baghdad in one night. These reports were terribly inaccurate....the General outlined progress and explained plans for the upcoming months.
...We received 81 reports of mosques being attacked from sources other than our subordinate units. Of these 81 mosque reports, 17 had light damage, such as bullet holes or broken glass, and six had medium damage, repairable within six months. Only two mosques were completely destroyed, and none were burned.
Following that came questions and answers, and Operation Swarmer was foremost on everyone's list. Bear in mind that this is only the second day, no one has had time to read the full (280+ words!) press release, and reporters are still confused about the nature of the operation. They think it's a massive air attack on a city somewhere - but it's really a search for weapons caches and insurgents in a one hundred square mile desert area:
Q General, this is Bob Burns from AP. I'd like to ask you a question about Swarmer. Is there a reconstruction, economic development piece that goes hand in hand with this operation or is it strictly an offensive operation?You have to appreciate that the General is now trying to frame an answer about the "economic development piece" that doesn't make the reporter look like an uninformed buffoon, and that he in turn might not fully grasp the fact that the reporters are convinced a new version of "shock and awe" is ongoing:
GEN. CHIARELLI: There's a -- we work all lines of operation in every single operation we conduct, and I think Swarmer will be no different from any other one. We consider that an essential part of what we're doing. And I think you can tell by Swarmer it was conducted in the desert, for all practical purposes, in an area about 10 miles by 10 miles. It was a large operation consisting of Iraqis and U.S. forces. Again, it's one of those changes that has taken place since I came back to Iraq. Had we tried to accomplish a mission like this 11 months ago, it would have been primarily U.S. forces. But in this case -- I think you've all seen the numbers -- is we have primarily Iraqi forces supported by U.S. and coalition forces. And I can tell you that we will work all lines of operation, including reconstruction, in support of the Iraqi people in that area at the completion of the operation.But the next questioner on the topic didn't catch that bit about this being an operation in the desert:
Q General, this is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra Channel. Would you please give us more details about the Swarmer operation? What kind of resistance are you facing in Samarra?So the General tries to explain once again:
GEN. CHIARELLI: First of all, Swarmer was an operation out in the desert. It really marks a change, and it marks an evolution -- our ability to get outside many of the large metropolitan areas and begin to do and conduct operations based on intelligence we receive both from U.S. sources, from Iraqi sources in areas where we think insurgent networks are operating. And that's really why the size of the operation was the way it was, is that it was a huge area -- 10 kilometers by 10 kilometers (sic) [10 miles by 10 mile]. We had intelligence that -- we had anti-coalition terrorists and foreign fighters working in that area, and it took a lot of Iraqi soldiers and U.S. support to get into the area that we wanted to work.Moments later the third reporter to ask a Swarmer question still hasn't caught on to the fact that the operation is taking place in the desert:
We'll be in there for a couple of days searching for caches.
The amount of resistance we had was very, very light. I think the last count I had is that we have 31 individuals that we have detained, but we found caches of just about everything that you find, everything from 120-millimeter rockets to 107-millimeter rockets, 130- millimeter projectiles, mortars, some SA-7 components, and munitions. So we found what you would expect to find and what we expected to find out there. We'll continue to look for caches and any other terrorists and foreign fighters that might be in the area.
Q This is the other Lisa, Lisa Meyer, from AP Radio. I've got two questions about Operation Swarmer. I'm wondering if you could describe what the composition of the leave-behind force will be once the operation is completed, whether it will be Iraqi or American, both; whether it will be police commandos, whatever. And also about the timing of it. Could you explain to us -- there are some people that say that there's a political subtext here, and I'm wondering if you could describe whether in fact there was a long period of time that transpired between conception and execution.And by this time the General must be wondering if his mic is working:
GEN. CHIARELLI: I really can't -- I can't figure out why people did the analysis that they did. I think that anybody's who's been on the ground -- and there are a lot of folks that have been on the ground -- I think today we had some people up there -- will see that this is a largely uninhabited area that is 10 miles by 10 miles; it is a huge area where we had some direct intelligence but where we felt what we needed to do was really look through that entire area, look for these caches. There's a science to hiding this stuff, and we went out there with that in mind.Or maybe it's April Fools? Because that could explain how the fourth questioner missed that subtle hint about the operation occurring out in the desert:
As for stay-behind forces, again I don't want to comment on follow-on operations. I can tell you we'll be working in there for a number of days, and we'll continue to work in there again at a later date if intelligence indicates that we need to go back in there. But we will be working with the people, the small population that is in there, to work some of the non-kinetic lines that I mentioned earlier.
But there was no attempt on anybody's part back here to time this to anything other than the intelligence that was coming in. It was an operation that we had been working for a couple of months. And quite frankly, one of the biggest problems I have over here sometimes is -- all the days seem the same -- is remembering what day of the week it is and also the actual date. But I do remember today's St. Patrick's Day.
Q General, Al Pessin from Voice of America. I wanted to follow up on the second Lisa question. When we heard about the series of operations in northern Iraq last year, the idea was that you were leaving Iraqi forces behind to secure the areas. Are you not doing that this time? I understand it's at least the second time that this particular area's been assaulted. So are you planning to then leave it and perhaps end up having to do this again?The general then tries one last time to explain that as we turn over the cities to the Iraqi troops you'll see more rapid deployment of US and Iraqi troops to more remote locations (the desert, for instance) in hopes of catching some of the bad guys who have been driven from the towns:
GEN. CHIARELLI: I'm not going to comment on what forces we're going to leave or any kind of operational matters of what we're going to do in the future. The issue is that we had good intelligence so we needed to go out in this area. We needed to look at this area. We needed to conduct operations in this area. Some focused on very specific targets. Others focused on targets that we saw throughout that 10-mile by 10-mile area, and we conducted those operations. There's -- I can tell you there's not an intent to stay out in all 10- miles by 10-miles, but I'm not going to comment on exactly where we're going to be at the conclusion of this operation -- just that we're not going to leave until we've done everything we need to do out in that particular area of operations.
MR. WHITMAN: (Off mike) -- last minute right now. Perhaps I should turn it over to you to see if you have any last thoughts that you'd like to make before we run out of time here.
GEN. CHIARELLI: It's a great opportunity. I think operations like Swarmer are operations you're going to see more and more of as we turn over more of the large urban areas to Iraqi forces. We're going to get out into some of these areas -- they're very manpower intensive -- to take a look and to look at intelligence that we've gotten, areas that we may not have been able to get to before, areas that the Iraqis are particularly, given their capabilities, good at moving into and helping us find the kind of things we found on Swarmer -- that we'll continue to do these kinds of operations.So there you have it, a general trying his best to explain that this operation - initially involving 1,500 US and Iraqi troops - is designed to check out a 100-square mile desert area where some insurgents were holed up, while a few hundred thousand other coalition forces are holding the cities. In short, what we've been planning on doing all along.
And here's the next evolution:
This is also the year of the police, where we are providing police training teams and unit partnerships and mentoring to help develop the capability of the police force, much as we have with the army. Once trained, these police forces will take responsibility for securing urban areas, allowing the army to move out of the cities for more of a focus on national security.But if you ignore all those facts, numbers, and plans you can make a good "whack-a-mole" story:
Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said the operation casts "serious doubts" on U.S. policies in Iraq and said it was "another version of Whack-A-Mole."Because it fits on bumper stickers.
And of course, if you ignore everything the general said about operation Swarmer, then go check it out for yourself, you could be disappointed to discover he was telling the truth.
Meanwhile, something else from Lieutenant General Chiarelli's briefing almost went unnoticed:
As I left Iraq -- I can only speak of Baghdad. And in fact, I think Baghdad was the only location in Iraq in March of 2004 where we had actually turned over battlespace to Iraqis. We had a brigade headquarters and two battalions inside Baghdad. I come back to Iraq with what you all see every day -- us turning more and more battlespace -- it's hard for me to even keep track of it on a daily basis -- over to Iraqis to the point where by this summer, about 75 percent of Iraq will be in -- that battlespace will be owned by Iraqi units.President Bush recently announced a much more humble "goal of having the Iraqis control more territory than the coalition by the end of 2006" - making him much more pessimistic about our progress then his commander on the ground.
Q It was about the -- you said 75 percent that the Iraqi security forces would be controlling by summertime -- do I have that right? And could you give a more precise timetable, if you have one?
GEN. CHIARELLI: Yeah, if I said summertime, I meant the end of summer. That's currently when we're looking at that occurring. That is kind of that mark.
I think that all indications are we will make that. But again, I don't want to be so precise as to put myself into a box. These are individuals, these are units that we're training. We're doing a very, very good job, and the Iraqis are doing a great job moving forward. But I think the end of summertime is about as far down as I can nail that.
I wonder how the press missed that disconnect. You'd think they'd be all over it...
"Disconnect on Battlespace"
I believe that 75% of Iraq Brigades will own battlespace. Can't get to 75% of Land Mass without AlAnbar wich is 30%.
It's a fair assumption that the Iraqi Army out in Western AlAnbar won't be ready by summer.Posted by Soldier's Dad at March 21, 2006 12:47 AM
Wonder how long the editors of papers would have their job if they sent the House and Gardens writers to cover sports? How long could they sell their rags when it dawned upon the consumers the writers knew squat about the subject they were covering or kept making obvious material errors in their coverage?Posted by Don at March 21, 2006 01:09 AM
Dumbasses.Posted by Jim at March 21, 2006 01:42 AM
The reporters (sic) in the field have a problem. If they sent in the truth they would be fired before sunrise. They may be a little stupid, and a lot cowardly, (their bosses are all left wing anti-americans) but they (field reporters) still like the weekly paycheck and are willing to kiss ass to get it. I never saw a job I wouldn't walk away from rather than kiss some fools ass. I guess that's one big difference in the left wing fools and real Americans.Posted by scrapiron at March 21, 2006 02:00 AM
Oh, sheesh. Poor Chiarelli.Posted by MaryAnn at March 21, 2006 12:40 PM
Don't they have a lot of free time hanging out in the green zone to read a couple of military/history books with maps, diagrams and a glossary of terms?
If so, after a couple of days studying, they would have to be smarter than they come off with those weakly constructed and ill informed questions.
The general must have a deep well of patience.Posted by stalkinghorse at March 21, 2006 05:10 PM
They think their questions are brilliant, because the objective is different than it should be. Each and every question asked is meant to expose the lies and evil of Bushitlerburton, not to help anyone understand what's actually happening. They spend all their time devising ways to trip up the soldiers into saying something that proves their pre-concieved perceptions about the disaster the military is hiding from them.
When they hear something informative like the generals' breifing, they are just scanning for the gotcha moment, and the real data and impressions go right through their skulls and out the other side. Any references to success or progress are dismissed as hype or propaganda, and they are reading between the lines for failure and disaster, which is all they are prepared to accept as reality.
This entire war is a lie, after all, so no good could possibly come from any of it. Poor brainwashed soldiers who couldn't get any other job, we must see through the Rummy smokescreen to the truth which must be awful. This is the U.S. military, so naturally Rummy has them all prepared on how to fool everyone.
Meanwhile, Bill Hemmer of the EVIL FOX News Channel is hanging out with Marines at Camp Falluja ALL WEEK, living in a plywood hut alongside the Marines. He's even willing to go so far as to let the Marines talk directly to his viewers uninterrupted for more than 5 seconds at a time. What a novel concept. He let a Marine give a brief on the up-armored Hummer and how it's saved hundreds of soldiers over the last year straight to the camera. More informative than all those questions put to together.Posted by brian at March 21, 2006 07:16 PM
DING DING DING! You just perfectly described every White House briefing for the past 5 years.Posted by Joe Rockhead at March 21, 2006 07:32 PM
To further illustrate the point, the intolerably leftist and vulture-looking 173 year old veteran journalist Helen Thomas at the White House today:
"QUESTION: I'd like to ask you, Mr. President -- your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime.
Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is: Why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, your Cabinet officers, former Cabinet officers, intelligence people and so forth -- but what's your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil, the quest for oil. It hasn't been Israel or anything else. What was it?
BUSH: I think your premise, in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- that I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect.
BUSH: Hold on for a second, please. Excuse me. Excuse me.
No president wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true."
Was I right on the money, or what?(patting myself on back furiously)
Here's the lovely Mary Katherine Ham@ Hugh Hewitt's post on it:
Hugh Hewitt: March 19, 2006 - March 25, 2006 Archives
As the MSM and the far left dwell on the reason(s) why we went to war in their cubicles in and outside the beltway our brave men and women continue to make progress and bring freedom to those in far off lands. I applaud Bill Hemmer for actually getting in the rut of it all to get the truth!!Posted by politico at March 22, 2006 02:08 AM
I never ceased to be amazed at the things that are "missed" by some in the media. I'm sure the General was frustrated with the questioning but even more so when his statements were still misconstrued after his effort to ensure the truth was conveyed. I've actually been confused myself at what Operation Swarmer entailed but this transcript cleared it up for me - I wonder why it didn't help those in the media. Do you really think they don't get it or don't want to get it right?Posted by AnnaB at March 27, 2006 08:47 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(11) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)