Aarrgghh! False New Media Meme Claims That War Critics Across The Board See Progress In Iraq
August 9, 2007 -- 5:46 PM EST // //
Okay, this is getting serious. The media carnival about alleged war critics Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack "suddenly" expressing optimism about the surge is now threatening to balloon into something much larger than those two, a meme much more grotesque and Frankenstein-like. Call it a Franken-meme.
The new Franken-meme goes like this: War critics in general -- not just the Dynamic Duo from Brookings -- are now "conceding" that real, honest-to-God military progress is being made in Iraq.
I'm not kidding. Take a look at this piece by the Associated Press, which claims in its headline:
Iraq critics concede military progress
"Even some critics of President Bush's Iraq war policies are conceding there is evidence of recent improvements from a military standpoint," the piece tells us. But here's the funny thing, though: All the evidence offered in the article in support of this thesis -- with the possible exception of one very dubious piece of info -- is thoroughly bogus.
Let's get the easy one out of the way. With tedious and depressing predictability, the chief piece of evidence cited for the piece is -- yup -- the O'Hanlon and Pollack Op ed. You already know the drill on this one.
The second piece of evidence: "Leading anti-war Democrat Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania predicted that U.S. commanders will begin drawing down troop levels early next year and that Congress can be more flexible in setting a fixed deadline for ending the U.S. occupation."
But this prediction by Murtha simply isn't a concession of progress in any way. What Murtha has been saying is that commanders will be forced to draw down troops because the military's overstretched -- and as a result, there's less of a need for a fixed withdrawal timeline. Whether you agree with Murtha or not, this simply doesn't support the AP's thesis. Indeed, GOP House leader John Boehner recently attacked Murtha for not acknowledging progress in Iraq.
The only piece of evidence here that comes remotely close to supporting the AP's thesis is that Dem Senator Dick Durbin recently said that the troops were "making some measurable progress, but it's slow going" and that the troops were showing "some progress towards security."
But as Steve Benen argued the other day, even this isn't really an expression of confidence in any meaningful broader sense. As Benen says, Durbin is pointing to isolated pockets of progress that don't add up to progress on the broader mission in any way. But even if you count Durbin's tepid confidence in isolated bits of progress, that's only one person -- the other scattered voices in the piece aren't even described as war critics.
The AP isn't the only big news org that's playing this phony game, by the way. Today's Washington Post ran a piece on Anthony Cordesman's report demonstrating real pessimism about our prospects for success in Iraq. The piece strongly stressed Cordesman's view that we could conceivably succeed in Iraq if this, that or the other fluke took place -- without noting that Cordesman himself said he differed with O'Hanlon and Pollack's assessments of the situation in Iraq. Just a stunning omission. Even better, WaPo described Cordesman's "optimism about the war" -- even though he wrote: "From my perspective, the U.S. now has only uncertain, high risk options in Iraq." That strike you as optimistic?
Anyway, ladies and gents, you're watching a new and very ugly media Franken-meme grow before your very eyes. You've been warned...
Update: Think Progress advances the story, publishing this video of Cordesman saying that the surge is failing. Does this man sound optimistic to you, as WaPo described him today?
And Atrios says: "Sometimes it's enough to make one a conspiracy theorist." This really gets at exactly what's so damn dispiriting about this.