WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2003
AUGUST HOBGOBBLIN: Here at THE HOWLER, were sleeping through August, wondering how long the press corps can go without pretending to explain the California state budget. (And they call Arnold a slacker on substance!) But because we simply love consistency, we couldnt help rousing when we read Dana Milbank in Tuesdays Washington Post. Milbank was quoting the commander in chief about current operations in Afghanistan:
MILBANK: Weve got about 10,000 troops there, which is down from, obviously, major combat operations, [Bush] said. And theyre there to provide security and theyre there to provide reconstruction help. But both those functions are being gradually replaced by other troops. Germany, for example, is now providing the troops for ISAF [International Security Assistance Force], which is the security force for Afghanistan, under NATO control. In other words, more and more coalition forces and friends are beginning to carry a lot of the burden in Afghanistan.Wow! It was reassuring to know that such a well-informed man was overseeing U.S. operations! But then Milbank pulled out the rug, rousing us hard from our slumbers:
MILBANK (continuing directly): In fact, the 10,000 troops in Afghanistan represent the highest number of U.S. soldiers in the country since the war there began. By the time the Taliban government had been vanquished in December 2001, U.S. troops numbered fewer than 3,000 in Afghanistan. And three months later, in March 2002, when the last major battle against remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda took place in eastern Afghanistan, about 5,000 U.S. troops were in the country.Say what? Could it be that Commander Bush had erred about the number of troops in Afghanistan? If so, well hear all about it from the press, because of the way they clobbered Howard Dean when he was asked about troops in Iraq. Surely you remember the episode. Among other major blunders, Dean said there were about 135,000 troops in Iraq when the actual number was 146,000. And that was such a troubling mistake that Official School-Marm Timothy Russert scolded Dean about his great responsibilities. After that, the usual gang of scripted flunkies pushed the theme hard for two weeks.
Now Bush may have made a similar error. Oh man! This will be good! We cant wait to watch Russert fly back from vacance to scold Bush about his major failings! Timothy! Buddy! Get it in gear! The flunkies cant wait to be led!