The 75% Solution and The Propaganda Offensive

(With all due apologies to Sir A.C. Doyle, justly famed biographer of Sherlock Homes…)

A propaganda offensive has begun in earnest. As to the title, the first shot I really noticed was a ballistic meme from the WH and Baghdad: violence reduced 75%!

(It was like one of those crawling banner marquees, extending all around the Ministry of Truth…BATBOY IN GAY SEX SCANDAL…VIOLENCE IN IRAQ REDUCED 75%…O.J. SAYS KATO REAL KILLER…)

It seemed to burst out of nowhere, suddenly everywhere. And so astonishing, so abrupt! What the fuck? *How *the fuck? When the fuck did this happen! Yesterday its a class five shitstorm, today…VIOLENCE REDUCED 75%!..

For instance, Mr. O’Hanlon, who is, you will recall, a “fierce critic of the war”, in much the same way that the Cushy Chair is an instrument of torture. On CNN he says:

He goes on to suggest that, in the light of this marvelous statistic, this flash of actinic glory the black gloom of Custerfuck…he suggests that the woefully sombre GAO report be altered accordingly…

Well, gosh! Well, golly gee! Well, what the fuck? Did he? General Petreaus, I mean, the Ol’ Straight Shooter.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070831/pl_nm/iraq_petraeus_dc

Well, mirable goddam* dictu!*. Hey, Tony? Mr. Snow? What about this?

http://www6.lexisnexis.com/publisher/EndUser?Action=UserDisplayFullDocument&orgId=574&topicId=25188&docId=l:663227113&start=7

So. He doesn’t know where the Commander of Candor gets his facts. Hmmm. Isn’t that just tiniest bit, well, odd? Wonderful news, the kind of news you think they would shout from the rooftops if it were true. And Mr. Snow don’t know. I would have thought, you know, that comes to his attention, he leaps into action, gathers the facts, the cites, grids his lions for the press conference, going loaded for bear with these superlative statistics!

And yet…he doesn’t know. But he will “defer” to the Good General on that.

And it disappeared. Not another word, save for off handed reference on wing-nut radio. It was there, and then it was gone.

“Lies, damnable lies, and statistics”

  • attributed to B. Disraeli by certain corrupt and effeminate pedants, when everybody knows it was Mark Twain

And then we have the spectacle of The Leader doing the Sabre Rattling Dance at Iran (which subject we have exhausted in a concurrent thread…)

And the stealth photo op, the Leader bravely flies to Anbar Province, to greet our newest allies, tribal leaders who ask only for guns and money to stand shoulder to shoulder and defeat AlQ in Iraq, which could lead to the defeat of AlQ in Iraq. Why the direct personal meeting? Probably so he could look them in the eye, take their measure, peer into thier souls, like he did Putin. And Chalabi.

Connect the dots, only connect. The pattern is a propaganda offensive. Time and again, the Bushiviks have convinced themselves that their problem is communication, they haven’t stated their case clearly enough, once we hear all the good news we’ll be united, once again, behind the Man Who Fell Up.

And there will be more, pals and gals, much, much more. I want you to get up now, all of you, both of you, I want you to get up and open your windows and yell “CITE!”

The bolded part immediately raises my suspicion. Why qualify it? What significant other types of killing are going on, and have they had a parallel rise? Are killings of, or by, al Qaeda counted as religious or not?

We have been consistently told over the last 3 months or so that the surge is just starting to have effect now. If so why has there been a HUGE 75% drop … since last year, that is 9 months ago? I smell some very very careful selection of statistics, and/or a re-classification of motives for a large proportion of deaths.

We know US military casualties are significantly up this year compared to the same period last year; if our deaths are going up and theirs going down, as claimed, how does that mean we’re winning?

Woe unto the person who looks towards the Bush administration (or any administration covering its own war, for that matter) for accurate statistics, especially when they don’t want to share. Even the Iraq Study Group – remember them? – criticized the Pentagon for chronically underreporting Iraqi violence to the American public.

It’s simple, though, why they claim violence is dropping, although how they do it with a straight face is beyond me – they don’t even count suicide or car bombings. I’d recommend reading the entire thing, it’s pretty short and informative if you didn’t know about it, but it does has a fun Bush quote I’d like to look at:

I agree. If we don’t acknowledge the widespread bombings, it means we don’t lose. Does someone have that “we make our own reality now” quote? Clap your hands…

I am to understand the administration considers “sectarian violence” the number of tortured bodies dumped in the streets. This is one of those things that’s always chilled me – the Shia like to kidnap hundreds of people every month (presumably Sunnis who are in the wrong neighborhood), torture them with power drills all night, shoot them in the head, and then dump them in large piles for the morgue workers to collect the next morning. Lovely, ain’t it? So those count as sectarian deaths. So a Sunni car bomb in a Shia market doesn’t count. Shia on Shia gun battles wouldn’t count either.

For example, take a look at this recent LA Times article (bolding mine):

The article also gives its own estimates of civilian deaths per month (1773 August, 1753 July, 1227 June). I look at other sites and some are higher, in the 2000 range. Whatever. If you look at, say, 2006, the numbers also go up and down each month, fluctuating for whatever strange reasons they do. The only reliable predictor is that after the peak a Bush official will claim violence is dropping. Of course it is, genius, it’s going from the peak back to normal. But the bottom line is, it doesn’t even matter – what if it were only 1000 a month? Or 0? It’s not like it makes a practical difference on the ground or in Washington D.C., because we’re not leaving no matter what happens.

Well, if that actually were happening it would be (potentially) good news because we don’t want scores of Iraqi civilians dying. Iraqi civilians are not supposed to be the enemy. We’re not supposed to be trying to kill as many of them as possible, even if some large portion of them are trying to kill us. It’s a counter insurgency, so we have to, among other things, convince them to 1) stop killing each other 2) cooperate with each other and us and least importantly 3) stop killing us. It does no good to kill 10 insurgents and also kill 30 people who were nearby…even if they were kinda helping the insurgents out. Paradoxically to the thinking of a conventional war, it’d be better to have your own men killed, let the insurgents go, and let the 30 civilians live.

Of course, in the scenario you outlined it could also be a fact that the Iraqis have joined hands to just kill us, which would be bad…but if our numbers kept going up but most Iraqis were cooperating, working on infrastructure, fighting against the insurgents instead of helping them, and making a strong government etc., that would show serious signs of of success.

Now there’s a principle just begging for wider application!

For instance, the murder rate in your city, town, county, or whatever. “If the standard of success is no murders, we have just handed murderers a huge victory.” Yeppers! We’ve got to make sure that murder stats aren’t made public.

This whole BS about “we can’t do anything that would give the terrorists a psychological victory, no matter how much sense it might otherwise make” is a straitjacket, pure and simple. Of course, that’s the idea - it allows Bush to frame the discussion in a way that seemingly makes it repugnant to go against his proposed course of action.

Can we just call bullshit on this meme, once and for all?

While I expect the Bush spinmeisters to be out in force this month, I wouldn’t make too much of this “75%” news story. A few news sources are saying that another news source said something, without quoting that news source directly. I fished around on the SkyNews web site, and I couldn’t find any mention of it. Unless we can see the original article, and see exactly what Petreaus said, then maybe the reason it disappeared so quickly is that it couldn’t be verified properly.

Well, for one thing, there’s some measure of killing over plain ol’ money.

Not sure I quite take your point here, John. What sort of “verification” are you talking about? Did he say it? Well, I have linked to the original story in Australia, no? More to the point, Mr. Snow discussed the article openly, without any suggestion that the story is false, no inference that Gen. Petreaus didn’t say it.

As to verification in terms of the truth of Gen. Petreaus’ claim, clearly, there is none, or Mr. Snow would have been only too happy to provide it, no? Have you noticed any such reluctance on their part so far?

If you mean that you are reluctant to accept unverified happy talk, well, clearly, you are on very safe ground there.

I only saw two links in the OP (yahoo reporting about the Australian news story and lexisnexis text of Snow’s press conference), and neither were to SkyNews. Did I miss something? That’s why I got on their web site and tried to find the original-- to see exactly what Patreaus said and in what context.

I don’t know if “discussed” is what he did. When asked by a reporter he said he had heard that Petreaus said it, quite possibly the same way you did-- 2nd hand. And he immediately followed it by saying let’s wait and see what the report actually says. It sounded very reactive to me, not like he was putting it out there.

I don’t know. I’d just like to see the original source is all. Maybe he said that ethnic violence was down 75% in those areas where we stationed more US troops or something like that. The idea that any type of violence is down 75% is so absurd that it begs the question of what actually was said and how it was measured.

Well, like I said, I’m sure the spinmiesters are ratcheting up the spin. I think most of Congress has already made up their minds and won’t be paying much attention to the report. I don’t blame them-- I feel the same way.

(deleted from stupid)

My stooges over at Think Progress have provided the following update, in a timely fashion. Must write them another check soonest.

http://thinkprogress.org/2007/09/04/hiding-stats-from-gao/

GAO Chief Suggests Administration Is Cooking The Books On Levels Of Sectarian Violence In Iraq

Emphasis added to protect operational information from falling into the wrong hands…

And our very own Norm!

Go. Read.

Following the link from ThinkProgress gets us to what appears to be an original source story:

“Ethno-sectarian” deaths. Hmmm. Sounds like he’s talking about the number of death squad killings, and only in Baghdad, which is certainly not the whole picture (that would exclude car bombings, I presume, as well as violence elsewhere in Iraq).

The military does love its TLAs. Going into the war we had WMD. Once the war was dragging on we learned what an IED was. Now we learn that the real measure of violence in Iraq is ESDs.

Makes one want to just take some LSD and get the HOH (hell outta here).

Of course it’s entirely possible that the reduction is because the city’s neighborhoods have become either Shia or Sunni as people have fled danger. ThisLos Angeles Times story points out that the overall situation in Iraq hasn’t improved all that much.

Even in Al Anbar province which, is proudly pointed to, things aren’t all they might appear to be. For one thing the province is pretty much all one flavor of Sunni which tends to cut down on ethnic and religious strife. For another, the Sunnis are a minority in Iraq and who can blame them for cozying up to the US in order to try to get as good a deal as possible?

Perhaps it might not be clear to US readers that the source is listed within the original piece. When referring to its publication in the Australian newspaper that needs to be read as “The Australian” newspaper. Very easy to find with that in mind, anyway here it is from their website:

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22337285-31477,00.html

“The Australian” is pretty much the voice of neo-cons in Australia and were prominent supporters of the war in Iraq.

Along with the rewriting history theme:

Either I dreamed this or saw it on Hardball. Political news has become so bizarre that those of us who are medicated are never certain anymore:

Has Bush really had someone write and release some of his “memoirs”? According to the written word that is circulating, he doesn’t remember that he was responsible for making the decision to disband Sadam’s army.

Now back to our glorious victory in Iraq…(nudge, nudge)

We accept this hard fought triumph over evil and welcome home our honorable troops. May this be a lasting peace from generation unto generation.

It gets better.

http://www.nytimes.com/ref/washington/04bremer-text1.html

**Letter from L. Paul Bremer to George W. Bush, May 22, 2003 **

(Ahem. Must clear keyboard in order to enunciate with sufficient glee…)

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/090407N.shtml

I’m not sure how that’s “better”. Bush said he doesn’t remember that he was responsible for making the decision, and that letter indicates that Bremmer made the decision. So, if you say that he’s responsible for making any decision that people who work for him make, then I guess that proves him wrong. But since we know that the decision was made, and had to have been made by someone under Bush, that letter doesn’t add any needed information.

Well, if you are told about a decision by an underling to do something that wasn’t specifically planned and you do nothing to stop it you have ratified that decisiion. It then becomes yours and to claim that you do not remember having done so is either disingenuous, if not dishonest, or it indicates a certain casual and careless approach to crucial details.

(Emphasis added with appropriate scorn)