War Porn

In an Oct. 26 op-ed piece, David Ignatius of the Washington Post tells us everything we need to know about why mainstream media war coverage is so tainted. The article is 750 words worth of war pornography, verbal sex performed on Gen. David Petraeus, who gives Ignatius an aerial view of Baghdad aboard a Blackhawk helicopter (fly me to the moon and let me swing upon your stars…).

Ignatius gushes about Petraeus’ descriptions of how normal Baghdad looks now from the air. Except terrorists exploded two bombs at the Justice Ministry and the Baghdad provincial administration, killing more than 100 and wounding more that 500. ‘Tis but a flesh wound, eh, David?

My favorite line in the Ignatius piece: "Foreigners may forget that, when they see the endless Baghdad carnage on television, Iraqis are people just like everyone else; they love their spouses and children and grandparents just as much as you and I do."

Good God, Ignatius. How out of touch are you? Iraqis love their spouses and children and grandparents? Shock! Awe!

While Petraeus flitted off and visited "officials," Ignatius had lunch with two Iraqi "friends" at the al-Rashid Hotel. His pals, obviously not hoi polloi, have criticisms of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but hey, isn’t it great to be living in a democracy? (Squirt.) The last time Ignatius had been at the al-Rashid was in October 2003 when he was hanging out with his chum Paul Wolfowitz. That Ignatius would admit to being close to Wolfowitz tells you what kind of journalist he is: the access-poisoned kind, the slutty kind, the kind who are easily steered into echo-chambering propaganda, the kind we don’t need.

The point of this Ignatius piece was to reaffirm that David Petraeus had indeed "helped restore stability" in Iraq. It was timed to counter reports that reveal the truth about "King" David’s surge. The surge was nothing more than a public relations campaign. Petraeus armed everybody to the teeth and bribed them not to use the weapons he gave them. He caught a break when the Iranians brokered a peace deal between rival Shi’ite factions. But the truth is that he sacrificed long-term stability for short-term show. The real goal of the surge – political unification – is nowhere in sight, and things are as dangerous as ever, with the potential for getting worse.

Michael Massing of the Columbia Journalism Review wrote a suitably condemning review of the Ignatius piece: "What a delight it must be to be a columnist for a major American newspaper. When traveling to distant, war-torn lands, you can enlist America’s top generals to show you around." Indeed.

Neocon serpent Max Boot was also in Baghdad when the blast occurred. "I happened to be few miles away from the terrible bomb blasts that went off in central Baghdad on Sunday, but I first became aware of them when word spread around the conference room in the U.S. embassy, where I was being briefed," he wrote. "Life has returned to a semblance of normality in Baghdad and other areas. A few high-profile attacks – this one or the one in August – do not change the fundamental, day-to-day reality of life getting better."

A few high-profile attacks? Life getting better? Unbelievable, Max Boot.

Violence in Iraq has been on such an uptick that on Oct. 20, Gen. Ray Odierno said he may not be able to meet his scheduled withdrawal timeline. Odierno said the insurgency could go on for five, 10, or 15 years. I reckon that’s fine with Max Boot, as long as things keep getting "better."

No one in the fourth estate is covering our wars, or even trying to. The Pentagon’s truth ministry has insured that the only information that gets out is the company line. Up to now, the four-stars have kept a full bird-colonel public affairs officer by their sides. Stan McChrystal has a one-star admiral, Gregory J. Smith, as his personal publicity agent. Adm. Smith is a career public affairs officer. The mind reels.

Men and women who spend careers as line officers and enlisted noncoms take charge of actual troops and lead them into harm’s way. They acquire actual combat skills. They tend not to care much about politics. They tend to shun Washington, D.C. They make the military work, such as it does.

The likes of Gregory J. Smith are bull-feather merchants. That a guy like Smith can make admiral tells you that the military is more about show business than war business. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former chief of naval operations, is the son of a high-profile Hollywood publicity agent.

Thomas E. Ricks is the prototype of the sycophantic Pentagon beat reporter. He first met David Petraeus when Petraeus was a colonel or a light colonel (Ricks can’t remember which). Ricks began deifying Petraeus in Fiasco, his first book on Iraq. Fiasco was a scathing condemnation of the handling of Iraq after the fall of Baghdad. Ricks pilloried every major U.S. commander except Petraeus, whom he praised for the enlightened way he handled Mosul.

Ricks has said little about how Petraeus operates: he hands out a lot of guns and then bribes everybody not to use them. This produces short-term results that make Petraeus, the "Teflon General," look good, but results in long-term instability. Shortly after Petraeus left Mosul, it went up for grabs, and it is a major trouble spot to this day.

The Pentagon has managed to bring the mainstream media to heel. We may never get objective coverage of the military again.

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Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.