Friday, August 31, 2007

Military Authorities in Iraq Give Troops Cheat Sheets To Identify Visiting Lawmakers' Positions on the War

Now the military is handing out rap sheets on congressional visitors to Iraq, identifying each member of Congress according to their (supposed) position on the war:

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.) -- "TAU (rhymes with 'now')-sher," the bio helpfully relates -- was no less pointed, even if she once supported the war and has taken heat from liberal Bay Area constituents who remain wary of her position. "Our forces are caught in the middle of an escalating sectarian conflict in Iraq, with no end in sight," the bio quotes.

"This is beyond parsing. This is being slimed in the Green Zone," Tauscher said of her bio.
"I had never seen that in the past. That's new," said Porter [Rep. Jon Porter, R-NV], who was on his fourth trip to Iraq. "Now I want to see what they're saying about me," he added, when he learned of the contents of his travel companions' rap sheets.

For one, the quotations appeared to be selected to divide the visitors into those who are with the war effort and those who are against. For another, they were not exactly accurate. Under "latest Iraq vote," Tauscher's bio noted that she had voted in favor of legislation requiring the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq within 120 days of the bill's enactment.

She did vote that way -- in May. On Aug. 2, Tauscher voted in favor of her own bill, which mandates that troops be granted a leave from combat at least as long as their last combat deployment before being shipped back to Iraq. That vote might have been a little too popular with the soldiers she was meeting, Tauscher said.

I don't think that "slimed" is the right word to describe this little stunt. At least, not unless you believe that it's "slimy" to say that Iraq is a "foreign policy fiasco" and an "escalating sectarian conflict with no end in sight." I personally don't think such statements are slimy at all. I think they are honest and true.

The question is, Why do Green Zone officials think it so important that the troops know each senator's or representative's position on the war before meeting them? The question kind of answers itself, doesn't it?

Steve Benen has a few more questions:
* Who’s writing up these bio sheets? As of now, the source is unclear.

* Who’s distributing them? And under whose authority? (U.S. Central Command reportedly doesn’t want to talk about it.)

* And where’s the information within the bios coming from? ThinkProgress posted a couple of examples of the distributed sheets, which include noteworthy quotes from each member on their war-related opinions. I suspect the typical soldier probably doesn’t have access to Nexis, and probably doesn’t have the free time necessary to compile detailed quote histories on two dozen members of Congress, in addition to keeping up on specific roll-call votes. That suggests to me that, perhaps, an officer higher up in the food chain is putting this information together, which would be a fairly dramatic breach of protocol.

John Cole writes that VIP visitor procedures have apparently changed from when he was an active-duty soldier:
When we had VIP visits, there were several things that were always the same:

1.) We stopped doing things the way we did them, and instead did them the way we are ‘supposed’ to do them.

2.) VIP visits were generally disruptive, a pain in the ass, and meant more work.

3.) No one ever knew who the VIP was. Ever. It was always somebody important from somewhere, but we didn’t know and we generally didn’t care and it generally didn’t matter. Unless it was a General. THEY matter. Generals and Sergeant Majors (or is it Sergeants Major- I forget) are forces to be reckoned with (think Hurricane Katrina in camo).

The idea that soldiers would be given bio sheets of VIPS, thus separating the “sympathetic” VIPs and the “hostile” VIPs is not an experience I ever had, and only reinforces my perception that everything we get from Iraq is being massaged. It probably goes without saying that this is a colossal waste of military manpower when they should be doing more important things.

That's the problem: To the partisan hacks in the Green Zone, this IS "more important things." Anyone who doubts that simply isn't paying attention [bolds in original]:
... Not only is Petraeus or Crocker or someone distributing leaflets on visiting Congresspersons, but they are ONLY shown what the Bush Administration wants them to see:
Brief, choreographed and carefully controlled, the codels (short for congressional delegations) often have showed only what the Pentagon and the Bush administration have wanted the lawmakers to see. At one point, as Moran, Tauscher and Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) were heading to lunch in the fortified Green Zone, an American urgently tried to get their attention, apparently to voice concerns about the war effort, the participants said. Security whisked the man away before he could make his point.

Tauscher called it "the Green Zone fog."

"Spin City," Moran grumbled. "The Iraqis and the Americans were all singing from the same song sheet, and it was deliberately manipulated."

But even such tight control could not always filter out the bizarre world inside the barricades. At one point, the three were trying to discuss the state of Iraqi security forces with Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, but the large, flat-panel television set facing the official proved to be a distraction. Rubaie was watching children's cartoons.

When Moran asked him to turn it off, Rubaie protested with a laugh and said, "But this is my favorite television show," Moran recalled.

Porter confirmed the incident, although he tried to paint the scene in the best light, noting that at least they had electricity.

"I don't disagree it was an odd moment, but I did take a deep breath and say, 'Wait a minute, at least they are using the latest technology, and they are monitoring the world,' " Porter said. "But, yes, it was pretty annoying."

Now that's some spin out of Porter, a Republican naturally (yesterday he claimed he was told by Green Zone Bosses that if we leave Iraq gas would be $9 a gallon). Iraq's National Security Adviser is watching CARTOONS and to him it is "monitoring the world".

Obviously Porter is familiar with ongoing operations in the Oval Office.

Explains a hell of a lot.

By the way, I'm pretty sure that no matter how little electricity the rest of Baghdad has, somehow the GREEN FUCKING ZONE always finds a way to have it 24/7. But nice try at extrapolating Congressman Porter.

Military authorities, of course, just cannot begin to imagine who is responsible for these extracurricular handouts -- it certainly isn't coming from them:
ThinkProgress spoke with one of the delegation’s military escorts, Maj. Toby Patterson, who said that he didn’t know who made the bios or why they were created in the first place. He added that his office, the Marine Corps liaison for the U.S. House of Representatives, usually just uses lawmakers’ readily-available bios off of

Chicago Dyke calls bullshit:
The only way this is true is if Maj. Patterson is admitting things are so out of control in the Green Zone, they can’t even provide reasonable security for a Congressional visit. Or does he expect me to believe anyone can just run around posting flyers and giving them to troops in the Green Zone without notice?

Big Tent Democrat thinks this is the last straw for Gen. Petraeus's credibility as an honest broker:
I have been extremely careful in not labelling General David Petraeus as essentially becoming a political hack for the Bush Administration's Iraq policy. I have argued that he will deliver a soldier's report, one intent on shoring up support for a mission he believes in and feels he can accomplish. I have always argued he can not be, by definition, an honest evaluator of his own strategy and performance. That just seems common sense to me. But it is becoming increasingly clear, for even someone like me that really does not want to believe it, that General Petraeus and his operation have chosen to become political hacks doing the bidding of the Bush Administration and Republicans. [But the WaPo article] provides damning proof of what Petraeus has become[.]
It is impossible to believe that this was done without General Petraeus' approval. He is now a full fledged political hack. Frankly, there seems no point to his even testifying now. Might as well let some BushCo flunkie deliver the Bush Report. Petraeus has no credibility whatsoever. The big September Report is now a meaningless Bush Administration photo op.

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