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September 11, 2007

Media Guru

Roy Meachum

Whatever just charges can be made of ineptness in the current White House, nobody doubts the president has displayed genius in selecting his media gurus. Whoever currently holds the job is performing in the bedazzling tradition of his predecessors.

Leading up to Monday's and today's Capitol Hill appearances of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, we constantly heard they would return from Iraq in "mid-September."

Since the month has exactly 30 days that reckoning suggests the gentlemen would materialize on or about September 15, which falls on Saturday this year. Keeping faithful to the announced date, you might anticipate their reports would be delivered Thursday and Friday, or maybe Monday and Tuesday. What's the hurry?

Especially since an inordinate number of leaks have summed up their basic approach, the four-star general and the administration could have productively put the added days to good use. If nothing else they could continue to wage their media guerrilla tactics, designed to weaken all their critics.

But no!

This is the anniversary of this generation's Day of Infamy, when Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda brought low Manhattan's towering World Trade Center and struck the Pentagon with bloody loss of human lives. In recent public appearances, President George W. Bush ignores the verified fact that the late president of Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks.

Talking about Iraq right now brings into play what's left of the emotional bender the whole nation suffered from the other September 11. The fear generated by events that day was, for a long time, the GOP glue that caused the nation to stick to the party. It excused our current Middle East military adventures when they happened.

Public realization that we couldn't strike and quickly withdraw, leaving grateful people behind, was slow in coming. Writing the hard truth before the invasion won me no friends in Frederick.

When I see anti-war demonstrations, except the Peace Center's, I wonder to myself: Where were they before? The question is asked not from bitterness, but from the sense that more protestors might just have managed to slow the invasion down. In fact, much of this conservative county considered my pre-war stance as verging on treason. But far higher numbers in Frederick really don't give a damn. And that remains the general mood in the nation.

Existentially the ambassador and the general, in testifying before Congress, are talking to their own. Creating an all-volunteer military turned away the heart of America. Except for National Guard units put and kept in harm's way by desperate politicians, the U.S. tries to police the world with paid mercenaries. For proof, I cite last week's story about Army recruiters reaching their goal for the first time in months, because the government ponies up big bucks for those willing to put on a uniform.

The overwhelming rush of patriotism set off six years ago this date has floundered on the realization most Iraqis and Afghans want little to do with us. Destroying homes and gunning down the innocent by troops forms only part of the case. The constant loss of life and property from even those whom we call insurgents increasingly attaches to Americans.

Whatever Washington's official protests, any early enthusiasm for our presence has turned bitter. Iraq's politicians are the exception; when U.S. troops depart so will their mainstay. We've seen it before, notably Vietnam, triumphal insurgents turn on their countrymen who sympathized with the "occupying" forces.

Mr. Bush should be reminded: The first step to resolve the Southeast Asian conflict came from GOP President Richard Nixon; pulling all the troops out fell to GOP President Gerald Ford. Bringing peace is not solely on Democrats.

As for testimony these days, both General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are new to their posts. Neither would have been appointed had either expressed doubts about eventual victory. They came into their jobs because they had gone out of their way to prove loyalty to the Oval Office. These are facts.

Ignore the rumors about the White House writing their reports; neither the ambassador nor the general provided anything to cause doubts in the hearts and minds of President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney.

You might not have noticed, news coverage of Iraq continues to dwindle, in recent weeks the number of American casualties has catapulted. Aside from politicians and veterans groups, only their families seem disturbed.

In part, that's because White House media gurus have performed very well, starting with the decision not to allow filming and photographing the caskets that bring home too many of our youth, girls and boys. They are past (and present) masters of conjuring.

The gurus make hard facts disappear; in their place we see things that are absolutely not true, like Iraq responsibly governing itself and respecting its neighbors. Never happen!

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