By Robert Parry
September 4, 2007
When members of Congress – or pundits and journalists, for that matter – are taken on tightly controlled visits to a war zone like Iraq, they undergo what the late Michigan Gov. George Romney famously referred to as “brainwashing.”
Romney said he had undergone a propaganda blitz when he visited Vietnam in 1965, persuading him that military progress was being achieved. Similarly, recent visitors to Iraq have flown home from August-recess trips with first-hand accounts about signs of success for President George W. Bush’s troop “surge.”
To bolster that case, Bush made his own surprise visit to a U.S. military base in Anbar province on Sept. 3 to tout growing cooperation between Sunni tribal leaders and American forces.
But the sheiks didn’t seek out U.S. help because an additional 30,000 U.S. troops had been shipped to Iraq. Rather, the sheiks had found themselves caught between al-Qaeda extremists on one side and Shiite-dominated government forces on the other.
The Americans became the enemy and erstwhile friend, respectively, of my enemies – and thus an ally of convenience for the Sunni sheiks.
Indeed, the Anbar situation could be viewed as evidence that the political and ethnic divisions of Iraq continue to deepen – with Sunni traditionalists growing only more desperate. But these shifting sands of allegiances have become the foundation upon which Bush is building his case for open-ended U.S. military involvement in Iraq.
Back in Washington, Bush has played off this “good news” in Anbar and in some neighborhoods of Baghdad to establish a new conventional wisdom: the “surge” is succeeding and Bush deserves another blank check for the war.
This viewpoint has strengthened as think-tank analysts, pundits and members of Congress have returned from VIP tours of Iraq.
Bush’s political supporters have especially enjoyed citing perceived cracks in the Democratic anti-war phalanx, noting that even war critics returning from Iraq have admitted that Bush’s strategy has made progress — and that Rep. Brian Baird, D-Washington, has defected to Bush’s side.
“I have seen firsthand the progress they have made, and I firmly believe we must give them the time and resources they need to succeed,” Baird said on his return.
But are Baird and the others just the latest politicians and analysts to be “brainwashed” while on a tightly managed “fact-finding” trip to a war zone? Or has meaningful progress actually occurred?
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TPMtv: Iraq By the Numbers
As we gear up for the big ‘Surge’ debate, we look at the various administration mouthpieces parroting ‘surge’ success numbers that appear to be directly contradicted by the statistics actually coming out of Iraq. The bamboozlement is so brazen even Wolf Blitzer is calling them on it.