"What appears to be a wavering in American resolve is the smell of victory for al-Qaeda and the Taliban."
So score at least one for the military, because these words, spoken on the wildly popular Colbert Report on Oct. 6, came from none other than CBS chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan.
In fact, her three-minute interview with Stephen Colbert passed a succession of similar kidney stones, such as "in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda is so strong, it is the spiritual home of al-Qaeda," and "the time [Obama] is taking [to decide on a strategy] is so frightening, especially to the soldiers on the ground. Because in a way, we are lost right now."
After so much bald-faced propaganda in so little time, one fully expected Logan – like at the end of a half-hour Scooby Doo mystery – to rip off the mask and reveal none other than Kimberly Kagan herself inside.
These days, the U.S. military leadership, led by the indomitable Gen. David Petraeus and his equally indubitable ace Gen. Stanley McChrystal, needs all the civilian emissaries it can find – and they don’t get much better than Lara Logan. She almost makes up for all those pesky media stories last week about al-Qaeda being diminished and the administration thinking the Taliban is not so much of a threat to U.S. national security.
But in Logan, the military and their pro-war strategic communicants have an advocate so perfect one would think she was put together by the fictional hucksters on Mad Men. She’s a knockout. With that sexy, authoritative accent (think David Kilcullen meets Charlize Theron), one is strangely compelled to listen to what she has to say. She’s a ball-buster, but she’s just so charming about it. She can grandstand one minute about putting an "armor-piercing RPG in the face of the bureau chief" to get her story on the air, then purr the next in that low, intimate way about being the poor victim of a petty U.S. news cycle.
Called everything from an "ass-kicker" to a "bombshell in Baghdad," Logan has been an embedded correspondent in both Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. She’s infiltrated insurgencies, but she claims she never wants to leave her mascara and moisturizer behind. That sloppy mess about husband-stealing aside, she’s got cred, especially with a mainstream audience that puts such a high premium on good looks and barrier-breaking heroics.
That credibility (at least among the antiwar Left) was at its peak when she was dive-bombed back in January 2007 by none other than the 101st Fighting Keyboarder Brigade for what they charged was "passing along terrorist propaganda." (Logan had launched an e-mail appeal to force her bosses at CBS to air controversial footage of fighting along Haifa Street in Baghdad – footage critics later said was captured by al-Qaeda and not attributed as such by the network.) Right-wing doyenne Michelle Malkin called Logan a "correspondent-turned-activist," while progressive bloggers leaped instantly to Logan’s defense.
However, after three weeks on a more recent assignment to Afghanistan, CBS and its favorite foreign correspondent seem to be on the same sheet of music, and they are now carrying Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s tune. Beyond the shock and awe of the aforementioned Logan-Colbert exchange, a click through to the network’s war coverage displayed on its Web site, "Afghanistan: The Road Ahead," reveals first-rate access to the generals, the suits, and the battlefield. But one look at the final, odious product and you’re instantly compelled to ask, "At what price?"
First, there’s this useless interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in which super-anchor Katie Couric sounds like she is channeling Joe Lieberman and/or Lindsey Graham:
"Our stated objective in Afghanistan and Pakistan is to quote, ‘Disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al-Qaeda and prevent their return to Afghanistan.’ Can that goal be accomplished without providing stability to the country, in the form of security and economic opportunity for the people of Afghanistan?"
Key stories include "Cooperation Rises Between Iran and the Taliban" and "Afghan City’s Close Ties with Iran," both by Lara Logan. Fellow correspondent David Martin asks, "Not Enough Troops?" Logan gains access to Taliban fighters on the ground in "Taliban Gaining Firepower and Influence" and again surmises:
"The fight against the Taliban has become inseparable from the war against al-Qaeda. The momentum now is on the side of the insurgents and terrorists. They’re watching antiwar feeling in the U.S. grow, and they smell victory."
In fact, Logan does a lot of surmising, and CBS seems to assume we all want to hear it. The Oct. 8 interview with her own network (she does a lot of those) was spectacular in that it showed she has absolutely no shame in advocating for more war – in particular, a war that she and her husband (a federal contractor) have benefited from, both professionally and financially, since the beginning.
In this presentation, which a now appreciative HotAir.com refers to as "CBS’s Afghan Correspondent Tears Obama’s Taliban Strategy to Shreds," Logan says a proposed shift to a "counter-terrorism plan," as advocated by Vice President Joe Biden, is "just ludicrous" and "an absolute disaster," before leaping into apparatchik territory with McChrystal:
“‘You can’t do any of those things if you have no security in most of the country,’ Logan told moderator Bob Orr. ‘I don’t understand why no one will listen to the man you put your faith in and said he is the guy who is going to do this for us,’ she said referring to Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for more combat troops. …
"’Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are clearly at war with the U.S. They are not concerned with the counterinsurgency, counterrorism… They are at war and McChrystal has to fight that war,’ Logan said, reiterating the need for the Obama administration to give more combat troops to the effort."
Logan’s remarks left the normally cynical posters at Malkin’s HotAir.com a bit baffled, including "Mojave Mark," who enthused, "Maybe some at CBS have been listening to Rush on CBS affiliates."
In CBS’ desperate post-Rathergate quest for right-wing forgiveness, Logan unleashed could be a positive first step on the road to redemption. And this is more than McChrystal & Co. could hope for. Even combined, all of the academics and think-tankers the general has collected for his growing "brain trust" couldn’t equal the 100-proof appeal of Lara Logan. Contrary to conventional wisdom, most Americans still watch network TV to get their news, and the younger set increasingly considers The Daily Show and Colbert primary news sources. Logan and her Afghan epiphanies have been making the rounds with the force of a country preacher, hitting all the target audiences smack in the eyeballs.
In the end, the 101st (keyboarders, that is) may think they’ve gained a worthy accomplice. And maybe they have. It’s more important, however, to recognize that for the U.S. military, having its way – advancing COIN in Central Asia with the tens of thousands of U.S. troops and billions of dollars it demands – means engaging in high-stakes media hardball, Strategic Communications-USA, if you will. And Lara Logan is the Message Force Multiplier for today’s mission.