Friday, January 14, 2005
Innoculating the public: The next spin on the Iraqi insurgency
Prime Minister Allawi and I believe terrorist violence may well escalate as the January elections draw near. The terrorists know that events in Iraq are reaching a decisive moment. If elections go forward, democracy in Iraq will put down permanent roots, and terrorists will suffer a dramatic defeat.
The implication is that if the American people will just "stay the course," January 30 will be the due date for victory, with terrorists suffering a "dramatic defeat."
As the date approaches, it is becoming increasingly evident that the administration will need some new excuse for insurgent violence come January 31. Never short on spin, the administration has sent out Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to lay the groundwork.
It is a lesson in media manipulation to watch how they do it. Powell appeared last night in the lead segment of the PBS NewsHour in a "Newsmaker" interview. Most of the interview focussed on the presumed-to-be-upcoming election. They had this exchange—
JIM LEHRER: Do you share the concern of former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and others that if the Sunni situation is not resolved, that this election could result, could slide toward a civil war, in other words, could cause more problems than it resolves?
SECRETARY POWELL: The one thing I'm sure of, and here is where I would agree with General Scowcroft, is that the insurgency is not going away as a result of this election. In fact, perhaps, the insurgents might become more emboldened if they see that they are not persuading the Iraqi people to participate in this new government.
Then comes Richard Armitage today on NPR's Morning Edition ["Armitage Details U.S. Dilemma in Iraq"]—
Clearly we don't see the election itself as a pivotal point. It's part of a process. In fact it's the beginning of a process....Most in government expect the violence to continue long after these elections. [my transcription]
Meanwhile, in case you read newspapers, the Washington Post showcased Robin Wright and Jim VandeHei's "U.S. Lowers Expectations On Iraq Vote" on Page 1—
With just over two weeks until the Iraqi elections, the United States is lowering its expectations for both the turnout and the results of the vote, increasingly emphasizing other steps over the next year as more important to Iraq's political transformation, according to U.S. officials.
A senior White House official said the administration's revised reflections on the Iraqi elections are not as much to lower expectations as to provide "education of the process going forward."
"Education of the process going forward"? The Post identifies the speaker as a "he," but this is the kind of nonsensical gabble that Condoleeza Rice normally utters. Perhaps Condi has been writing the talking points.
Bush, of course, is officially reflecting none of this—not yet. The LA Times was reporting on January 7 that—
President Bush today rejected a sharp warning that the election scheduled this month in Iraq could further inflame the conflict there and said it would be "such an incredibly hopeful experience for the Iraqi people."
It has been said that if the Iraqi people don't participate in the election, the insurgents will be emboldened by their success. On the other hand, if the Iraqi people turn out for the election, the insurgents may be emboldened by their failure to suppress the election. It's nice to have choices.
So stop whining that you weren't told what to expect. No matter what happens, the administration will declare that they've been "saying it all along" and that you—the public—should not in the least be surprised.
"Rethinking" tactics (updated) (1/8/05)
Leaders and supporters of the anti-U.S. insurgency say their attacks in recent weeks have a clear objective: The greater the violence, the greater the chances that President Bush will be defeated on Tuesday and the Americans will go home.[back]