Friday, August 31, 2007


A lot of people are discussing this Washington Post story about the bios of members of Congress that were distributed to the troops when the members were in Iraq -- but I'm not sure I agree with how the story's being interpreted.

The sheets of paper seemed to be everywhere the lawmakers went in the Green Zone, distributed to Iraqi officials, U.S. officials and uniformed military of no particular rank. So when Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) asked a soldier last weekend just what he was holding, the congressman was taken aback to find out.

In the soldier's hand was a thumbnail biography, distributed before each of the congressmen's meetings in Baghdad, which let meeting participants such as that soldier know where each of the lawmakers stands on the war. "Moran on Iraq policy," read one section, going on to cite some the congressman's most incendiary statements, such as, "This has been the worst foreign policy fiasco in American history."

The bio of Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.) ... was no less pointed....

"This is beyond parsing. This is being slimed in the Green Zone," Tauscher said of her bio....

I'm sure the quotes and other information were, as the story goes on to say, "selected to divide the visitors into those who are with the war effort and those who are against" -- but I suspect this was done not to slime the opponents, but to put them in two different categories requiring different variants on the charm offensive.

Basically, the administration wanted the pro-war people to come out saying, "Hell yes we should stay the course!" and the antis to come out saying, "Well, it's not as bad as I thought." I think the Bushies thought the two outcomes required different kinds of stroking.

In other words, this is a shameless, unconscionable politicization of the military -- but in a nice way, not a nasty way.

I say this because nothing in the article says that any of the troops or handlers were rude to the anti-war members of Congress. I don't think turning anyone against those members was the point. I think psychologically manipulating those members so that they'd return to the U.S. and say what the Bush administration wanted them to say was the point.

And regarding the inaccuracy in Tauscher's bio (see the Post article), I'd say there are two possible explanations: (1) The White House wanted to be sure she got the specific treatment reserved for antis, or (2) the Bushies screwed up (because, well, they're Bushies).

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