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COLUMN ONE HUNDRED, DECEMBER 1, 2003
(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)

BY MAUREEN DOWD

1. EYES WIDE SHUT

Subject: NYTimes.com Article: Eyes Wide Shut
Date: Thu, 30 Oct 2003 15:17:37 -0500 (EST)
From: venire@znet.com
To info@blacklistedjournalist.com

October 30, 2003

Eyes Wide Shut

By MAUREEN DOWD

WASHINGTON " In the thick of the war with Iraq, President Bush used to pop out of meetings to catch the Iraqi information minister slipcovering grim reality with willful, idiotic optimism.

"He's my man," Mr. Bush laughingly told Tom Brokaw about the entertaining contortions of Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf, a k a "Comical Ali" and "Baghdad Bob," who assured reporters, even as American tanks rumbled in, "There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!" and, "We are winning this war, and we will win the war. . . . This is for sure."

Now Crawford George has morphed into Baghdad Bob.

Speaking to reporters this week, Mr. Bush made the bizarre argument that the worse things get in Iraq, the better news it is. "The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react," he said.

In the Panglossian Potomac, calamities happen for the best. One could almost hear the doubletalk echo of that American officer in Vietnam who said: "It was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it."

The war began with Bush illogic: false intelligence (from Niger to nuclear) used to bolster a false casus belli (imminent threat to our security) based on a quartet of false premises (that we could easily finish off Saddam and the Baathists, scare the terrorists and democratize Iraq without leeching our economy).

Now Bush illogic continues: The more Americans, Iraqis and aid workers who get killed and wounded, the more it is a sign of American progress. The more dangerous Iraq is, the safer the world is. The more troops we seem to need in Iraq, the less we need to send more troops.

The harder it is to find Saddam, Osama and W.M.D., the less they mattered anyhow. The more coordinated, intense and sophisticated the attacks on our soldiers grow, the more "desperate" the enemy is.

In a briefing piped into the Pentagon on Monday from Tikrit, Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno called the insurgents "desperate" eight times. But it is Bush officials who seem desperate when they curtain off reality. They don't even understand the political utility of truth.

After admitting recently that Saddam had no connection to 9/11, the president pounded his finger on his lectern on Tuesday, while vowing to stay in Iraq, and said, "We must never forget the lessons of Sept. 11."

Mr. Bush looked buck-passy when he denied that the White House, which throws up PowerPoint slogans behind his head on TV, was behind the "Mission Accomplished" banner. And Donald Rumsfeld looked duplicitous when he acknowledged in a private memo, after brusquely upbeat public briefings, that America was in for a "long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No juxtaposition is too absurd to stop Bush officials from insisting nothing is wrong. Car bombs and a blitz of air-to-ground missiles turned Iraq into a hideous tangle of ambulances, stretchers and dead bodies, just after Paul Wolfowitz arrived there to showcase successes.

But the fear of young American soldiers who don't speak the language or understand the culture, who don't know who's going to shoot at them, was captured in a front-page picture in yesterday's Times: two soldiers leaning down to search the pockets of one small Iraqi boy.

Mr. Bush, staring at the campaign hourglass, has ordered that the "Iraqification" of security be speeded up, so Iraqi cannon fodder can replace American sitting ducks. But Iraqification won't work any better than Vietnamization unless the Bush crowd stops spinning.

Neil Sheehan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "A Bright Shining Lie," recalls Robert McNamara making Wolfowitz-like trips to Vietnam, spotlighting good news, yearning to pretend insecure areas were secure.

"McNamara was in a jeep in the Mekong Delta with an old Army colonel from Texas named Dan Porter," Mr. Sheehan told me. "Porter told him, `Mr. Secretary, we've got serious problems here that you're not getting. You ought to know what they are.'

And McNamara replied: `I don't want to hear about your problems. I want to hear about your progress.' "

"If you want to be hoodwinked," Mr. Sheehan concludes, "it's easy." 

              Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company   ##

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2. DEATH BE NOT LOUD

Subject: NYTimes.com Article: Death Be Not Loud
Date: Thu, 06 Nov 2003 15:17:37 -0500 (EST)
From: venire@znet.com
To info@blacklistedjournalist.com

November 6, 2003

Death Be Not Loud

By MAUREEN DOWD

WASHINGTON

Who can blame poor President Bush? Look at his terrible dilemma.

There are those who say the chief executive should have come out of his Texas ranch house and articulated and assuaged the sorrow and outrage and anxiety the nation was feeling on Sunday after the deadliest day in Iraq in seven months. An attack on a Chinook helicopter had killed 15 American soldiers, 13 men and 2 women, and wounded 21.

There are those who say Mr. Bush should have emulated Rudy Giuliani's empathetic leadership after 9/11, or Dad's in the first gulf war, and attended some of the funerals of the 379 Americans killed in Iraq. Or one. Maybe the one for Specialist Darryl Dent, the 21-year-old National Guard officer from Washington who died outside Baghdad in late August when a bomb struck his truck while he was delivering mail to troops. His funeral was held at a Baptist church three miles from the White House.

But let's look at it from the president's point of view: if he grieves more publicly or concretely, if he addresses every instance of bad news, like the hideous specter of Iraqis' celebrating the downing of the Chinook, he will simply remind people of what's going on in Iraq.

So it's understandable why, going into his re-election campaign, Mr. Bush wouldn't want to underscore that young Americans keep getting whacked over there, and we don't know who is doing it or how to stop it.

The White House is cleverly trying to distance Mr. Bush from the messy problem of flesh-and-blood soldiers with real names dying nearly every day, while linking him to the heroic task of fighting global terror.

It's better to keep it vague, to talk about the "important cause" and the "brave defenders" of liberty.

If he gets more explicit, or allows the flag-draped coffins of fallen heroes to be photographed coming home, it will just remind people that the administration said this would be easy, and it's teeth-grindingly hard. And that the administration vowed to get Osama and Saddam and W.M.D., and hasn't. And that the Bush team that hyped the presence of Al Qaeda in Iraq has now created an Al Qaeda presence in Iraq. And that there was no decent plan for the occupation or for financing one, no plan for rotating or supporting troops stretched too thin to guard ammunition caches or police a fractious society, and no plan for getting out.

As the White House points out, Mr. Bush cannot fairly pick and choose which memorial services to go to, or which deaths to speak of.

"If a helicopter were hit an hour later, after he came out and spoke, should he come out again?" Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, told The Times's Elisabeth Bumiller, explaining Mr. Bush's silence after the Chinook crash. The public, he added, "wants the commander in chief to have proper perspective, and keep his eye on the big picture and the ball."

The ball for fall is fund-raising. President Bush has been going full throttle since summer, spending several days a week flying around the country, hitting up rich Republicans for $2,000 checks. He has raised $90 million so far out of the $175 million he plans to spend on a primary campaign in which he has no opponent.

At fund-raisers, Mr. Bush prefers to talk about the uptick in the economy, not the downtick in Iraq. On Monday, arriving for a fund-raiser in Birmingham, he was upbeat, not somber. As Mike Allen of The Washington Post reported in his pool report, "The president, who gave his usual salute as he stepped off Marine One, appeared to start the day in a fabulous mood. . . . An Alabama reporter who was under the wing shouted, `How long will U.S. troops be in Iraq?' The president gave him an unappreciative look."

Raising $1.8 million at lunch, he stuck to the line that "we are aggressively striking the terrorists in Iraq, defeating them there so we will not have to face them in our own country." He didn't want to depress the donors by mentioning the big news story, the loss of 15 American soldiers, or sour the mood by conceding the obvious, that the swelling horde of terrorists fighting us there will not prevent terrorists from coming after us here. Maybe we should all be like President Bush and not read the papers so we don't get worn down either.

Perhaps the solution to Mr. Bush's quandary is to coordinate his schedule so he can go to cities where he can attend both fund-raisers and funerals.

The law of averages suggests it shouldn't be hard. 

              Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company  ##

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