Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Anyone else detect the hand of Rove in this?

Yesterday, NBC reporter Kerry Sanders included this photo in a post at one of NBC's blogs:

The post explained what we were apparently seeing:

...The picture above, declassified at NBC News' request, shows 190 members of the Taliban at a funeral. It's believed by U.S. Army officers that several of those gathered were top Taliban leaders. But the U.S. was unable to take out the men standing in formation.

Why? Under the rules of engagement, the U.S. cannot bomb a cemetery....

But Sanders pulled the picture -- then returned it to the blog in a new post today, with an explanation:

I received an urgent request from a U.S. Army colonel via e-mail this morning. He said that the surveillance photo I included in my blog post yesterday of Taliban members gathered at a funeral in Afghanistan should not have been released, even though I was told by others in the U.S. Army that it had been properly declassified. The colonel asked me to pull it off the Web site. There was no more explanation than that. As a courtesy, and with an awareness of the danger U.S. forces are in, I had the photo pulled.

We are now returning the picture to this blog after Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters in a briefing today that he is unaware of any official Pentagon or military request to pull the photo off or not to air the photo. I have also spoken to the military intelligence officers who gave me the photo and they say while there are now some internal debates about the release of the photograph, it's declassified and ours to broadcast and print on the Web....

In the interim, the photo made the front page of today's New York Post; the accompanying story had this headline:


Well, what an astonishing coincidence. We've just now been through a controversy about the perceived failure of nicey-nice Bill Clinton and his team to get bin Laden when they presumably had him cornered, as portrayed in The Path to 9/11, and almost immediately afterward, what do you know -- life imitates art! All just as election season is heating up!

I don't know where this photo really came from or what it shows -- you certainly can't tell by looking at it. Maybe it's exactly what it's purported to be, maybe not -- but in either case, I think Rove wanted it leaked, ordered it leaked, to reinforce the narrative that, thanks to Bush, our boys have the evildoers in our sights, and if the bad guys escape it's because the forces of good were stabbed in the back.

(Never mind the fact that if that's the case, the backstabbers are the people who drew up the rules of engagement -- a group that doesn't include Nancy Pelosi or Ted Kennedy or Ned Lamont. It doesn't matter. This story, like so many other stories floated by the Bushies, is meant to rile up the right-wing base at the lizard-brain level; anybody can be the backstabber, as long as Bush's failings aren't Bush's fault, or the fault of his inner circle.)

Both Sanders's blog posts and this AP story suggest that the leak was protested by the military in Afghanistan, after which the stateside folks at the Pentagon let it slide. Clearly, the Pentagon folks know what "the mission" really is: victory in November.


AND: I should add the obvious point that this tale will probably also be used by right-wingers as a comeback to any insolent lefty who asks why Bush let bin Laden get away at Tora Bora, even though a rational person can see it's no response at all.

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