Very few U.S. journalists have dared to contradict this presidential fiction, even though they watched in December and January as Bush spurned the advice of virtually all his top commanders before adopting recommendations of neoconservative theorists for a “surge” in U.S. forces. Bush then fired key commanders who opposed him.
Nothing new there, you might say. The U.S. press corps has played the role of handmaiden to Bush’s lies for the past seven years. But now, Washington journalists face a tricky dilemma.
One of their all-time favorite “wise men” – former Secretary of State Colin Powell – has belied Bush’s “commander guy” fiction, albeit in an understated way. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on June 10, host Tim Russert asked Powell why his prediction of a troop drawdown by early 2007 hadn’t come to pass.
“A different choice was made by the President,” Powell answered. “The President received advice from his military advisers last fall that said, do not send more troops.
“Gen. [John] Abizaid went before the Congress, the commander of Central Command, and said he had consulted with all his division commanders in Iraq and all of the senior commanders, and none of them wanted to send additional troops.
“They thought the strategy at that point should be to put the burden on the Iraqis to resolve what I call a civil war.”
Abizaid’s position was supported, too, by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and last fall even by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who sent the President a memo on Nov. 6 suggesting a redeployment of U.S. forces away from police functions, echoing earlier recommendations of Democratic Rep. John Murtha.
After Bush announced the “surge” plan in January and installed more compliant commanders to carry it out, such as Gen. David Petraeus, the President seamlessly shifted back to rhetoric about how he listens to the advice of the military experts on the ground.
When faced with Democratic positions that mirrored those of the experienced senior commanders – opposition to the “surge” and calls to pull U.S. troops out of policing a civil war – Bush said on May 2, “the question is, who ought to make that [military] decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear – I’m a commander guy.”
No press uproar followed his “commander guy” comment just as there was no protest over the past four years whenever Bush insisted that Saddam Hussein didn’t let U.N. inspectors into Iraq before the invasion. [For details on that fib, see Consortiumnews.com’s “GOP/Media Rewrite Iraq War History.”]
But now on “Meet the Press,” a high-profile Washington news show, media darling Colin Powell has spelled out that Bush repudiated the counsel of virtually every senior commander in order to clear the way for a neoconservative scheme that has escalated the pace of U.S. military deaths in Iraq, which now exceed 3,500.
Many Americans, however, won’t be surprised if the U.S. press corps still manages to look the other way and leave the responsibility of pointing out these unpleasant facts to Internet sites and blogs.