« Barnburner | Main | Progress, or not »

November 02, 2006

Bye bye Kerry; now back to Iraq

In another too-little noticed development, the Associated Press reported this week that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has come up with a new Iraq strategy and is taking concrete steps toward accomplishing it.

Remodeling work is under way at the Pentagon to create a suite of offices for additional members of the public relations staff. The additional staffers will "develop messages" for the 24-hour news cycle, "correct the record," and coordinate "surrogates," according to a memo obtained by the AP. The memo, the AP said, "describes an operation modeled after a political campaign - such as that made famous by Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential race - calling for a 'Rapid Response' section for quickly answering opponents' assertions."

So there you have it. As spiraling violence leaves hundreds of Iraqis dead and wounded each week and U.S. deaths climbing each month, Mr. Rumsfeld is launching a public relations blitz. But forget some basic facts. The AP reported that, despite repeated requests, "Pentagon press secretary Eric Ruff would not provide the exact number of people to be hired, how many would be transferred from other Pentagon jobs, or how many would be political appointees or contractors."

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is growing increasingly restive with U.S. attempts to control his government -- he recently told U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad that "I am a friend of the U.S., but I am not America’s man in Iraq." Even more dramatically, al-Maliki this week demanded the removal of American checkpoints from the streets of Baghdad, checkpoints that have disrupted daily life and commerce without reducing the daily and deadly bombings and attacks that plague the city.

The American military apparently was surprised by al-Maliki's strongly worded demand, but complied. Al-Maliki is, after all, the man produced by the democracy we've insisted we're bringing to Iraq. There were elections, a constitution was written and adopted, negotiations among Iraqi political parties and ethnic groups were conducted and al-Maliki chosen as prime minister. We can hardly ignore his wishes, even though his government is having enormous problems in quelling the violence.

He is a Shiite, his prinicipal support comes from Shiite parties, critical ministries -- interior, the police, etc.-- are held by Shiites who are widely suspected of tolerating, if not directing, the death squads behind much of the spiraling violance against Sunnis, the religious minority that pretty much ran Iraq under Saddam Hussein and which now form much of the insurgency battling the government. Private militias associated with various Shiite clerics and political parties haven't been disbanded and al-Maliki is resisting U.S. suggestions that deadlines be imposed for doing so.

It is a complex and ever-more dangerous situation, one that will hardly improved by a Pentagon public relations blitz.

No wonder even Republican Congressional and Senatorial candidates, their election day outlook endangered by anti-war sentiment, are distancing themselves from Mr. Rumsfeld or calling for him to step down.

President Bush, though, insists the secretary of defense will continue in his post, which also makes it no wonder so many Republican candidates are dodging any campaign help from the president. Some of it's pretty funny. Jim Nussle, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Iowa, passed up a chance to appear with the president last week because he, wash, he said,scheduled to speak a Rotary Club meeting.

Democratic congressional candidate Leonard Boswell, in a "gesture of goodwill and bipartisanship," offered to switch Rotary speaking times with Nussle so that Nussle could be with the president. Nussle declined.

Ah, well, the president can take some comfort from the fact his 2004 opponent in the presidential race -- John Kerry -- is even more unwelcome at Democrat events than the president is at Republican ones. Kerry, in a California appearance, tried to make a joke at the president's expense but ended up insulting American soldiers.

Kerry bumbled and fumbled around before apologizing, but Democratic candidates didn't hesitate at all -- a good many of them, like congressional hopeful Bruce Braley in Iowa's First CD, instantly dis-invited Mr. Kerry from previously scheduled appearances. Republicans had a good time for a couple of days attacking the 2004 candidate, but as the ever-inept Kerry slinks off the stage with Democratic boots firmly kicking his backside, the GOP once again must with deal with the real issue -- Iraq.

Posted by jcb at November 2, 2006 11:38 PM


John, I agree that John Kerry's botched joke cost him a ton politically.

But while Kerry botched a joke, President Bush botched a war. While Kerry botched a joke, President Bush botched a deficit and botched a war.

But perhaps the larger joke is that President Bush committed this week to keeping Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on board throughout the entirety of his term left in office.

I'm waiting for a huge national reaction to that news and that joke.

Proportionately speaking, that joke has a much bigger impact than the botched Kerry joke.

Posted by: values matter at November 3, 2006 03:38 PM

jcb, you know I love ya man, but I believe that your exclusive focus on Iraq, rather than the larger conflict has caused you to be scornful of the important battle we face in the War of Ideas.

At some point, we will leave Iraq. But that won't mean the "war" is over. What we will face is a multi-decade Cold War type of low level conflict, with flare-ups all over the world.

If we ever hope to defeat radical Islam, it will not be enough to win on the battlefield, we will have to win "hearts and minds" as well in nations that get their information about our country from such anti-American media sources as AlJazeera, the BBC and CNN.

What the Pentagon is doing with public relations is really important. The military seems to be the only government agency that can actually get something done in a bloated bureaucratic government. We need to win the War of Ideas as much as we need to kill the bad guys.

Posted by: paladin at November 5, 2006 01:10 PM

I thought it was funny that a bunch of dumb enlisted soldiers made a sign for John Kerry. But the sign showed how uneducated the enlisted soldiers were because it had spelling errors.

We I deserted the Korean War they had a bright military. The Korean war conflict was filled with drafted skilled and educated citizens. Not just hacks trying to get their education paid for or parents trying to get their kids of drugs and MTV.

Very sad. It is a sad commentary for this military today.

Leland Milton Goldblatt

Posted by: Leland Milton Goldblatt at November 5, 2006 06:12 PM

ummm... maybe i'm wrong, but i am 99% sure that sign was a joke. it was meant to show how 'dumb' the soldiers really were.

Posted by: Robbie at November 6, 2006 09:43 AM

Looks like Goldblatt didn't get it.

It is so sad that he has been going through life missing so much.

Posted by: True Observer at November 6, 2006 09:16 PM

I have a completely different take on this. I think Goldblatt is doing a Borat-style satire on liberals whose hearts and minds are stuck in the '60s.

What tipped me off that Goldblatt was doing a "Borat" was this priceless quote: "We I deserted the Korean War they had a bright military."


Posted by: paladin at November 7, 2006 09:29 AM

ok, so we have all this cool election news and no new threads??? i need a place to gloat

Posted by: Robbie at November 9, 2006 08:49 AM