Co-written with James Boyce.
According to numerous reports, in the next few days President Bush will announce an escalation that will send an additional 30,000 or more men and women to serve in Iraq. Some reports indicate that as many as 70,000 additional troops will be on the ground in Iraq by the middle of next year.
Shockingly, three years after the invasion, the total number of men and women in uniform in Iraq could now be 200,000 soldiers. As part of this escalation, President Bush will also seek to permanently increase the size of the United States Army and the Marine Corps reversing a trend to a smaller full time military that has been three decades in the making.
President Bush will call for these additional men and women to serve another tour in Iraq despite the fact that many will have already have served one or more tours of duty there. The rest will be new recruits, young men and women as young as eighteen years of age. Bush will say the need for this “surge” is urgent – and it is, to Bush. As we have learned time and time again over the past few years, Bush urgencies are often different from “reality-based” urgencies: Administration Official: Troop Escalation ‘More Of A Political Decision Than A Military One’
As he escalates the war, it will also absolutely clear and final that President Bush will not accept the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. Furthermore, he will not conduct direct talks with either Iran and Syria; he will not initiate mediation of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and the Generals in Iraq who still favor gradual transition to an independent Iraqi army and withdrawal will be replaced. President Bush is also repeating the mantra of an extended engagement in Iraq, saying the war will be long – it “is going to last for a while” – and his surrogates publicly agree.
In essence, President Bush will ignore the will of the American people, the newly-installed Congress, the recommendations of our military leaders both here at the Pentagon and and on the ground in Iraq, the conclusions of the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group and the rest of the world.
To make it even more shocking, early reports are that he will ask for us to support the escalation by saying that together we need to “sacrifice.” In many ways, when one considers who has profited by this war, asking the American public at large to sacrifice is as sick as his December 20 press conference when, to the shock of many, he asked the public to “go shopping more.”
But contrary to the strong first words from the new Democratic majority in Washington, we will not be surprised if the escalation takes place, in fact, we fully expect it to. There is the slight possibility of a combined effort between veteran groups, Democratic leaders and the progressive community online stopping the surge, but the chances are not good.
It is happening too fast – yet the timing of the decision to seek the surge squarely puts the responsibility for continuation in the hands of the incoming Democrats. It is close to a no-win situation. And it is clear what the rabid right thinks the Democrats will do.
The purpose of this post is to outline how the President will sell the surge, how we feel Democratic leadership will possibly be “rolled” into allowing it and why it is so critical that we stop it.
We already know that in his initial meetings at the Pentagon, no general or military leader recommended a surge. President Bush ordered Secretary of Defense Gates to bring a plan for escalation to him, not the other way around. With such a plan in hand, of course, the military leadership will fall into line after the Commander-in-Chief announces his strategy – as such is their code of service.
With the military following orders, the right wing strategy of “sell” and “smear” will go into full battle mode. If the past is any prelude, the coordinated effort will be so powerful and well constructed that some Democrats will end up supporting the escalation, falling into the same traps they did when they originally supported the war. Initial Republican grandstanding will fall away. They too will support their leader.
The American people understand this. That’s why they reacted so negatively and quickly to Harry Reid’s suggestion he might go along with a short term surge. Senator Reid quickly clarified his position.
However, other Senators are falling in line behind the President – bringing legitimacy to what shouldn’t even be a debate. Senator Joe Lieberman has already called for more troops. Others have already committed publicly to voting for more troops. Still more will fall in step, either because they don’t fully understand the administration’s passion for escalation or they still fail to realize the true goals of this administration – if they give this administration an inch, President Bush will be one mile closer to Iran.
The administration handles these things as marketing missions – we’re going to dissect it as such. It will be a study in right-wing marketing to watch the President sell his escalation of a strongly unpopular war.
Of course, the underlying methodology will be what it always is: sell and smear. (We discussed the conservative Sell and $mear strategy in our post titled How Long Will The Right Let Us Love Obama, describing how they have attacked our leaders.) Sell and $mear are the two most important words in the war on Iraq.
Despite Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post mocking our premise, saying “Boy, that must be one powerful machine”, and frankly with the mainstream media’s complicity in the process further enabling it, there is no question that the right wing machine is real, active and ready to sell the surge.
It’s sad but true, this is not a military effort, it’s a marketing program with 3,000 deaths attached to it. On to Step One.
Selling The Surge – Develop A New Slogan.
Just to show you how coordinated and Pravda-like this administration has become, we have had our new slogan for two months now “A new way forward.”
In fact, here’s the cover of The Iraq Study Group report – notice the sub-head “The Way Forward – A New Approach”
But the Study Group diverged from the administration game plan – they actually did their job and their proposals directly conflict with the goals of the administration. Having pushed the release of the report till after the mid-term election, the administration has officially dismissed their recommendations. In high irony, they were called both “unrealistic” and “impractical.”
This is what has caused this unfortunate interlude for the administration. They had the slogan – they needed the ISG to complete the mission and give them permission to escalate, but the ISG didn’t play the game, so now there’s been weeks of reflection.
This is window dressing nothing more, nothing less because the decision to escalate and double down was made some time ago – how do we know? We know because IN DECEMBER, PRESIDENT BUSH REQUESTED AN ADDITIONAL $100 BILLION IN SUPPLEMENTAL FUNDS FOR THE WAR.
The initial budget for Iraq and Afghanistan was $70 billion for this year – now they are adding $100 billion on top of that. That’s funding for a major escalation of the war – not a short term surge. That’s funding of almost $2,000,000,000 a week more than was already budgeted.
The Iraq Study Group was going to provide the air cover for the escalation. Think of it as a focus group that was completed with the hope that it would tell the executives what they wanted to hear. When it didn’t, it became bad research – something to be ignored.
The charade has continued.
Over the past few weeks, President Bush has held meetings, roundtables, conversations, consultations and so on, but again, the conclusion was made long ago, the interlude has been need to fine tune the sell of the escalation – not debate whether or not it is the right policy to follow, because clearly, it is not. In fact, it is now coming to light that the surge strategy has come from some of the original neoconservative thinkers who advocated the war in hte first place. So the ISG, the consultations, the debates, it’s all absolute crap – cover. The decider has decided, the escalation is in full force, and the budget for it has been submitted.
Of course, you won’t even hear the word escalation, instead we have a new term “surge” – a word that seems to be more of a marketing phrase than a military strategy. We can’t easily recall an historical example when “surge” was used to describe a military operation because it’s not a military term.
“Surge” puts you over the top. “Surge” says just a little more and we win and we come home. “Surge” sure sounds nice. That phrase must have tested well in the focus groups, but if you look a bit deeper, past the nice-sounding word, what does it mean?
What if the “surge” occurs but the fighting in Iraq stays at current levels – or increases? Will 20,000 troops really matter? Military experts say no. Then what? A second surge?
Will an administration that thinks “surging” is good strategy withdraw troops in the face of continued or increased violence? If not – and they won’t – this isn’t a “surge” at all. The likelihood is that no matter how the surge gets started, in practical terms, at the end of the day, it is not short term proposition, it’s not a “surge,” it is an escalation.
How can you sell that?
Create a core selling proposition and stick to it.
To sell an escalation disguised as a surge when Saddam is dead and there are no WMDS, there can be only one true perfect fall back position:
It’s for the troops.
“The troops.” It worked before, so try it again. Everyone supports the troops, we have to support our troops, we need more troops so the troops that are there have more support.
Our troops need more troops. They’re stretched thin. They need help. You do love our troops don’t you? (Of course, if they came HOME they wouldn’t be “stretched thin” at all…)
They’ve sacrificed for us. We need to sacrifice for them and support the surge.
Who can argue with victory? Everybody wants to win right? Precisely the point – you can’t argue.
But what is “victory?” Was it defeating the Iraqi army, removing Saddam from power and declaring “Mission Accomplished?” Apparently not.
Was it fighting “foreign fighters?” That was the mission – until it was pointed out there were few foreign fighters.
Was it to capture or kill Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Queda in Iraq? He’s been dead since June.
Was it fighting against Sunni insurgents? For a while.
Was it to bring a Constitution and elections? Iraq has a constitution and has had elections.
Was it hanging Saddam as punishment for his crimes against humanity? The world watched it happen.
So we can’t define victory but we need to have it. In fact, now we’re told we’re not losing, we’re not winning, but there is one unwavering fact – we’re still fighting.
So after months of being told, absolutely we’re winning, now we’re told that we’re going to lose because we don’t have enough troops. But surging the troops means victory. Those who oppose more troops oppose victory. And aren’t supporting the troops who are already there.
So now the count is three pretty good traps laid for the Democrats. It’s just a “surge” to clean up the mess, bring “victory” which everyone wants and “it’s for the troops.”
If anyone opposes the “surge” they will be denying the American People the moment of victory, “we’ve fought so hard that we need just a little bit more and it’ll put us over the top and we’ll surge to victory.”
If the Democrats oppose, well, then yet again, the Democrats will be against “the troops.” Our troops have made this sacrifice and they need help, damn it.
But just as the Democrats have fallen before for the marketing phrase “support the troops” when supporting the troops really meant leaving them in Iraq, so too might many of them now be tricked into rationalizing giving the administration its escalation.
Because not only is President Bush selling the surge, he is selling the victory that has been so elusive in Iraq – elusive, by the way, because it doesn’t exist. Victory means defeating the enemy – but who is the enemy? Which brings us to another important part of the sell and smear proposition.
If the facts are against you, ignore the facts.
The “surge” is supposed to fight “the enemy.” But the troops will be moved there to fight … who?
Who are we fighting in Iraq? While previously we were fighting “Sunni / Saddamist insurgents” and “al-Queda” the “surge” was – at least originally – said to be needed in order to fight the “Sadrist” militias and death squads of Moqtada al-Sadr.
Yet the Da’wa party of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is allied with Moqtada al-Sadr – recently demonstrated when the execution of Saddam Hussein was carried out by Sadrist Shiites chanting “Moqtada, Moqtada.”
Last week, Republican Senator Richard Lugar made this same point,
“The administration needs to identify precisely where the battle lines are — who is it we combat. I haven’t seen such lines,” Lugar said.
The chanting at Saddam’s execution was critical important proof of a core fact – Iraq is in a civil war. This leaves it unclear who our forces are with or against.
Some people will stand up and say this. And that originally people thought the occupation of Iraq would take many more than 200,000 soldiers and they were relieved from their jobs. Or that three years ago, President Bush declared “Mission Accomplished.” Or that Senator Lieberman said earlier this year, that by now, we would be reducing troops.
Some people, more now than before, will speak up. How does this marketing plan deal with them?
Smear and ridicule the truth-tellers
The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group was widely smeared and ridiculed by Bush-supporters/surrogates across the country as the “Iraq Surrender Group” and “The Appeasement Caucus.” This follows the pattern on their attacks on anyone who has questioned the war, from John Kerry to Jack Murtha.
It’s petty, high-school, taunting and intimidation from bullies. And it is the policy and practice of this administration.
Because rather than ask these surrogates to tone down the vitriol the Bush White House instead contributed to it, remarking after receiving the report that Baker could “go back to his day job now.”
Asked if Baker would help implement the report, a spokesman for Mr. Bush said, “Jim Baker can go back to his day job.”
The Bush-supporting NY Post printed a front-page graphic of the Baker and Hamilton as ‘surrender monkeys’ on front page.
The graphic mocking the ISG report was also used across the right’s websites, like this one repeatedly re-posted on the conservative Redstate blog over several days.
And at YouTube you can view the Sing-Along: Baker/Hamilton Surrender Monkey
In an insane world, the sane people look crazy. Because if you think about it, we couldn’t surrender or receive a surrender even if we wanted to because we’re not at war with anyone. Again we’re sitting in the middle of a civil war between two factions and we’re getting kids killed in the process. We can leave but there can never be a surrender.
The surge is coming. Can we stop it?
Given the slogan, the selling proposition and the coordinated effort that will take place to support the selling proposition, the answer is more than likely, no, we can not stop it.
The Democratic leadership in Washington will lose much of its first day bravado in the face of the machine. They are intent on holding hearings on Iraq and will become increasingly fixated on using legislative powers to investigate the war, and as they do so, possibly losing site of the goal – not to mention the immediate issue – President Bush will send more troops to Iraq next week.
Anyway, frankly, at the hearings they’re going to be “hearing” what everyone already knows. They may also tie themselves up in all the politics of the matter – a sure fire way to lose track of right and wrong.
If they waver, a second factor of complicity comes into play. With no draft or real sacrifice, the vast majority of the general public has not been greatly affected by the situation. And Americans certainly don’t want to “lose” the “war.” The coordinated machine’s selling of the initial invasion (40% of Americans still believe that Saddam had something to do with 9/11) is still with us so the general outcry needed to stop the surge might not exist. In fact, the right’s use of the very word “war” is part of the sell. It’s an occupation, not a war.
Until the situation in Iraq becomes painful for every American, either through loss or financial pain, such as an emergency gas tax to fund it, it could well continue.
There’s only one problem.
Of those 200,000 men and women in uniform, how many will not come home . Of those that do, how many will not come home whole?
That’s why the time to end this is now. No more hearings. No more discussions. No more meetings. And under no circumstances, can we compromise and accept the “surge.”
Because, as we said, if we give an inch, President Bush will be one mile closer to Iran.
We were fooled once. If that happens again, shame on each and every one of us.
Our men and women in uniform dedicate their lives to protecting us. Now, it’s our turn to dedicate our lives to protecting them.
So please, join us in supporting leaders like Jack Murtha and others, who are going to stand up and try to:
Stop the surge.