Howling Dog Graphic
Point. Click. Search.

Contents: Archives:

Search this weblog
Search WWW
Howler Graphic
by Bob Somerby
E-mail This Page
Socrates Reads Graphic
A companion site.

Site maintained by Allegro Web Communications, comments to Marc.

Howler Banner Graphic
Caveat lector

PROP ACTS (PART 1)! Propaganda rules on the pseudo-right. Just watch as the WashTimes slimes Clark:

MONDAY, APRIL 14, 2003

GENERAL SPINNING: On the front page of yesterday’s Washington Times, James Lakely was peddling some prime agit-prop. You’ve seen the spin a hundred times now—Lefty news orgs bungled the war, misreporting Bush and Rumsfeld’s brilliant victory. Later this week, we’ll take a look at Lakely’s stream of clipped “quotations” and groaning deceptions. But this morning, we’ll restrict ourselves to one key point—his spinning of General Wesley Clark.

Early on, Lakely peddled pure propaganda—a point lifted wholesale from Fox. “Retired [military] officers…have questioned some of the Pentagon’s assumptions behind the war plans,” he complained. “Among the most prominent were retired Army Gens. Barry R. McCaffrey and Wesley K. Clark, who regularly took to the cable-news channels to predict a longer and more difficult battle for control of Baghdad than actually unfolded.” Lakely then let his readers know who had been right from the start:

LAKELY: Retired Air Force Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, however, was virtually alone in predicting a quick defeat of Saddam’s regime. In an op-ed piece he wrote for the Wall Street Journal in early October, Gen. McInerney predicted a “campaign that will be over within 30 days and have less casualties than we had in Desert Storm with a smaller attacking force.”

At the time, he was accused of being overly optimistic, but U.S. troops arrived in Baghdad on the 21st day of fighting—accomplishing battlefield victory in less than half the time with fewer casualties and half the force it took to eject Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 1991.

“It turned out to be spot on, give or take a few days,” Gen. McInerney said. “Not bad.”

According to Lakely , McInerney got it right. The blundering Clark got it wrong.

For the record, Lakely ’s points are prime Fox spin, pleasing to all WashTimes readers. During the war, McInerney has been one of the Fox News Channel’s on-air pundits, and on the April 9 Special Report, Brit Hume and the gang had spun this same line—praising McInerney for his prescience while slamming perfidious Clark. Mort Kondracke praised McI to the skies. “I’ve got to say that the person who was the most consistently right of all the embedded TV generals was our own Thomas McInerney, who from the beginning said that the combination of precision air and…limited ground and special operations and psychological warfare was going to win this thing and win it in orderly fashion,” Mort gushed. Brit Hume agreed that McI was the best—and Kondracke went on to damn Clark (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/11/03). “Wesley Clark, who wants to be vice president of the United States—the Democratic Party should think very carefully about taking advice from Wesley Clark, who has been a doomsayer about this from the beginning,” the spin-peddling pundit pleasingly said. In Sunday’s Times, compliant Lakely peddled the same pleasing line.

But Lakely ’s comments on Clark are badly inaccurate—another sign of the way pseudo-conservative new orgs like Fox have turned war-time “reporting” into pure propaganda. Was McInerney “virtually alone in predicting a quick defeat?” Did Clark “regularly predict a longer and more difficult battle for control of Baghdad than actually unfolded?” Sorry. What did Clark actually say on these matters? On February 17, Clark was asked how long the war would last. His crystal ball was quite bullish: two weeks:

WOLF BLITZER (2/17/03): If there is a war—we don’t know if there will be—but if there is a war, how long do you think, based on what you know, it will last?

CLARK: Two weeks. Two weeks, because it’s going to take a few days for the forces to get out of Kuwait and up into the Baghdad area. You got to allow a few days for the fighting up there and just the maneuvering and occupation of that country. I don’t think more than two weeks.

Clark predicted a two-week war, and correctly said that American troops would quickly move north into Baghdad.

In short, McInerney was not the only general predicting an easy triumph. (In fact, everyone predicted such an outcome, including Bill Clinton.) But did Clark go soft when things went bad? By March 31—roughly speaking, Day 11—rear-guard actions were hurting the drive on Baghdad. Three days earlier, General William S. Wallace had said, on the record, that the campaign was going to take a “pause.” Did Clark begin to whimper and moan? Sorry. Speaking again with Blitzer, he said the events were no big deal:

BLITZER (3/31/03): Coalition forces seem to be increasingly threatened by so-called guerrilla fighters, evidenced by this weekend’s suicide bombing that killed four American soldiers. We’re seeing more of the so-called martyr brigades as well…General Clark, what do you make of this potential threat? It’s not a potential threat, it’s a very real threat to coalition forces.

CLARK: Well, Wolf, I think that this is a kind of threat that the American and British forces have to be prepared to handle. And that’s difficult. But it is not going—the threat is not going to change the direction of the war. This is not a decisive military power that can be applied against the United States and British forces. It is just not.

In fact, Clark repeatedly criticized those who were knocking the coalition’s war plan. On April 1, for example, he said this to Blitzer (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/11/03):
CLARK (4/1/03): I think it’s very unfair and difficult for anyone to criticize a war plan without ever having been involved in the planning process and knowing what’s going on. This happened to me when I was commanding in Kosovo, and there were people back here sharp-shooting…They didn’t understand what was going to behind the scenes.
Clark routinely stated this viewpoint. Let’s say it again: Clark routinely challenged those who were slamming the Cent Com plan.

Weird, isn’t it? Lakely and Kondracke were massively wrong about what Clark actually said. And what was the source of their disinformation? Duh. The pair of pundits were peddling spin for the tough-talking tinpot, Tom Delay. On April 3, DeLay appeared on Inside Politics—and started the nasty sliming of Clark. You can probably guess why he did it:

DELAY (4/3/03): Frankly, what irritates me the most are these blow-dried Napoleons that come on television and, in some cases, have their own agendas. They’re not involved in daily briefings. They’re not involved in the Command Center. They’re not on the ground.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Who are you referring to?

DELAY: Well, General Clark is one of them that is running for president, yet, he’s paid to be an expert on your network. And he’s questioning the plan and raising doubts as he becomes this expert. I think they would serve the nation better if they just comment on what they see and what they know, rather than putting their own agenda forward as an expert.

  1. General Clark may be a Democrat.
  2. As a Dem, he might even run for high office!
  3. Therefore, DeLay began to lie about Clark.
  4. Soon, Kondracke was sliming Clark too.
Sadly, Kondracke has become a bought-and sold man. Over at the Washington Times, James G. Lakely—a brave, bold man—knew who to lie about also.

TOMORROW: What did Wallace actually say? “Press critics” have been quite selective.

Lakely’s “report” can’t really be read without the use of Nexis. Like the Goldbergs and the Coulters before him, he has mastered the art of the misleading, deftly clipped “quote.” And note the way he slams Broadcast Scribes just for asking (utterly obvious) questions! But for readers of pseudo-con orgs like the Times, this kind of nonsense is now the norm. Let’s face it: We humans have always loved propaganda. As we’ll see later on in the week, the Lakelys are prepared to oblige.