Lobbying by the Pentagon has helped Republicans embrace the Iraq war as a supposed positive instead of a negative in their anxious campaign for the November congressional elections. In the recent start of the long-delayed great debate, they settled for no exit plan from the seemingly endless war, agreed on the simple slogan “Stay the Course,” and blasted Democrats as surrender-minded wimps who want to “cut and run” for demanding a strategy to bring the American occupation to an close, end the slaughter and bring the troops home.
To provide political ammunition for the Republicans, the Pentagon took time off from managing the war to get up a 74-page briefing book and quietly e-mailed it to Republican members of the House of Representatives. Trouble was, they mistakenly sent it to some Democrats as well, and when the lobbying effort leaked out they tried unsuccessfully to recall the document.
Getting the text of the briefing book was not easy. Press reports made only brief mentions of it. A Pentagon spokesman couldn’t seem to find it. Maine’s two Republican senators said the document went only to House members. Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud’s office had been cut out of the distribution. Finally, the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, where a copy had gone by mistake, e-mailed the text.
The briefing book shows it to be mostly a public relations handbook. It emphasizes the positive, omits the negative, and lumps the Iraq invasion and occupation into the “Global War on Terrorism” – that’s the title of the booklet – even though Saddam Hussein and Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks that started the whole thing off.
It warns that this will be a long war but adds that “we have mobilized to win other long wars, and we can and will win this one.” How about America’s longest war, the one in Vietnam, which ended in defeat and humiliation and which most Americans now agree was a misguided mistake?
The summary of a section titled “Victory in Iraq” says that “we cannot cut and run,” lest stay-the-course congressmen and women forget how to denounce those who demand an exit strategy.
As a strategy for victory, the handbook prescribes “Democracy, Security, No Retreat.” It claims that the new unity government has “prevented civil war,” although Sunnis and Shiites are killing each other in mounting ethnic cleansing that comes close to civil war.
It says that the enemy campaign is “ambitious, simple and clear: Bankrupt and exhaust us (like the Soviet Union in Afghanistan or the United States in Vietnam).” True enough: Failures have, indeed, occurred, and those are two of them. Skeptics may well be correct in doubting that the Bush administration’s vision of a peaceful and democratic Iraq leading the way to general Middle East peace is a dream that will never come true and that no occupying force has ever defeated an indigenous insurgency.
Still, what’s a war without propaganda?