TUESDAY, APRIL 1, 2003
SPUN AND AWED: Is the Admin bogged down in Iraq? Here at THE HOWLER, we have no idea. But its hard to believe this weekends big flap, in which conservatives swore that the public had never been spun about the length of the war. Meanwhile, liberal pundits have again fallen short in their efforts to detail the spinning. Working off a set of quotes that the (hapless) DNC sent around, pundits have cited remarks by Richard Perle, Dick Cheney and Ken Adelman (among others). But they have generally ignored the heaviest spinningthe widespread spinning in the last two months that was known as shock and awe.
Through the spinning of shock and awe, we were told that the war would be short and flower-strewn. If we retain any interest in knowing the truth, its important to recall just what happened.
The spinning of shock and awe began on January 25, on the CBS Evening News. The network summarized David Martins report on its web site:
CBS NEWS: Theyre calling it A-Day, A as in airstrikes so devastating they would leave Saddams soldiers unable or unwilling to fight.If Shock and Awe works, there wont be a ground war, CBS pleasingly said.
Was this pleasing picture coming from Bush? Not directly, no. CBS sourced its report to Ullmanbut as Bill Plante told Ari Fleischer last Friday, the White House made no apparent attempt to shoot down this pleasing speculation (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/31/03). And shock and awe spread far and wide. By February 26, for example, William Bunch was chatting it up in the Philadelphia Daily News:
BUNCH: It starts on a pitch-black, moonless nightquite possibly in two weeks or lessover the sands of the Iraqi desertBy now, Bunch was attributing shock and awe to a Defense Department spokesman, Lt. Dan Hetlage. And shock and awe had already made it to Newsweek. In the February 24 edition (released 2/17), John Barry and Evan Thomas described the Admins pleasing plan:
BARRY: The desired effect of the first nights bombing, in the expression commonly used by military planners, is shock and awe. The overall goal of the American blitz against Iraq will be to so stun and demoralize the Iraqi Army that Saddams forces will quickly give up. The Iraqis will realize that resistance is futile and throw down their weaponsor turn them on Saddam. In the first 48 hours of the attack, the United States armed forces are expected to rain some 3,000 precision-guided bombs and missiles on Iraqi air defenses, command-and-control, WMD sites and leadership targets, which is to say they will try to kill Saddam, his sons and their closest followers.Lets not belabor an obvious point. Shock and awe was bruited all overoffering citizens a pleasing dream, in which the war would last two days, ending in a shower of tulips and roses. Who wouldnt sign up for a war like that? Saddams forces will quickly give up! As Americans were deciding their stance on the war, this pleasing picture was being spread all through the American media.
But somehow, Weekend I came and went, and the Iraqissurprise!were still fighting. And when journalists began to take note of this fact, domestic propagandists got busy. Youve seen the fakery all about, but lets return to this weekends Fox News Sunday. At one point, William Kristol scalded the press for daring to note that shock and awe hadnt worked. Kristol refers to the innocuous questions to Ari Fleischer which we included in yesterdays HOWLER (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/31/03):
KRISTOL: Lets take the questions to Ari Fleischer. Ari Fleischer himself said at the White House briefing, the Friday that the war began, when everyones expectations were very high, heres what Ari Fleischer said in a room at which Bill Plante and Terry Moran, the two people you showed asking those questions sit: I think its important for the American people to remember that this still can be a long, lengthy, dangerous engagement, Ari Fleischer said this, last Friday, nine days ago. This is the opening phase, it can be a long, lengthy, dangerous engagement, because this is war. So Ari Fleischer says this Friday. A week later, two reporters say, You never told it could be a long, lengthy, dangerous war.But that isnt what the reporters said (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/31/03), and what the reporters said was perfectly accurate. At any rate, for two solid months leading up to war, Americans were told that the war could be over in the first weekend. Now, propagandists want to pretend that this spinning never happened. So people like Kristol got busy fakingtelling us about the note of caution Fleischer struck on the day that the war began. Many noted that our plain-spoken president, George W. Bush, also warned us at this very same juncture.
Kristol rarely spins like this. But for many others, this faking is normal. We live in an age of High Propagandaa time when many pseudo-conservatives serve as mouthpieces for the king. On Sunday, Hume and Snow were spinning hard too. But how shocked could you be about that?
Final point: By the way, who was an early author of shock and awe (circa 1999)? Thats rightDonald Rumsfeld! Safire explained it in Sundays Times. You know what to do: Just click here.
THE REPUBLICAN GUARD: In this world of High Propaganda, pseudo-conservatives invent preferred facts. According to Fox, no one said the war would be easyand over at the Wall Street Journal, Dorothy Rabinowitz is making up quotes, helping us see who is anti-American. Of course, anyone can see whos really anti-American in Eric Boehlerts excellent piece, which you simply must read at Salon. But then, they made up quotes for Gore all through Campaign 2000, putting Candidate Bush in the White House. Why would Rabinowitz ever have dreamed that she cant keep inventing quotes now?
In yesterdays column, Raspberry expressed shock at things he read in a Josh Marshall column. Make no mistakewe still think that Josh and other good guy pundits elected Bush by their own Campaign 2000 sleep-walking. But Marshalls recent work has been superb. How much better served would our nation by if he were on the Post op-ed page, and the Posts liberal dozers were finally allowed to spend all their time at polite dinner parties?