View Full Version : Ooops, that glowing report from the former Iraq 'skeptics'...Pentagon orchestrated

08-13-2007, 07:00 PM
Call me shocked and awed...

KO reports on MSNBC tonight that Michael O'Hanlon has admitted the following:

1. he'd always supported the Iraq policy
2. he was taken to areas the Pentagon selected for his review
3. he spent less than two hours actually reviewing and inspecting the surge's 'success in the areas they visited. Most of the time was in briefings by US military officials.

ROFL Original article and thread on CP:



"The itinerary the D.O.D. developed"

But the far greater deceit involves the trip itself and the way it was represented -- both by Pollack/O'Hanlon as well as the excited media figures who touted its significance and meaning. From beginning to end, this trip was planned, shaped and controlled by the U.S. military -- a fact inexcusably concealed in both the Op-Ed itself and virtually every interview the two of them gave. With very few exceptions, what they saw was choreographed by the U.S. military and carefully selected for them. This is O'Hanlon's description of how the trip was conceived:

GG: I just want to ask you some questions about the trip that you just took. Whose idea was that trip? How did that trip arise and who planned it?

MO: Well, I have wanted to go back to Iraq for a long time. I feel itís- I've been there once in September 2003 - it behoves anybody who's working on this issue a lot of the time as I've been for a few years trying to get some on-the-ground experience and observations. And so I've been trying to get back for a couple of years and I started putting in these requests a little bit more assertively -

GG: Who did you put them in with?

MO: To the military, starting in about the spring.

GG: And then, at some point they accepted and said that they would organize a trip for you?

MO: Yeah. I think the trip was ultimately originally scheduled for other people as well. I think it's public knowledge that Tony Cordesman was also on our trip, and I think he had plans to go before Ken and I managed to get ourselves invited as well, but --

GG: Why did you need the permission of the U.S. military in order to go? Why couldn't you just go yourself?

MO: I suppose I could have, but I was hopeful that someone could help take care of my security, for one thing. I'm not going to try to sound more heroic than I am. And also I wanted to talk to a lot of military personnel and get their impressions.

The entire trip -- including where they went, what they saw, and with whom they spoke -- consisted almost entirely of them faithfully following what O'Hanlon described as "the itinerary the D.O.D. developed."

But to establish their credibility as first-hand witnesses, O'Hanlon and Pollack began their Op-Ed by claiming, in the very first sentence: "VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel. . . . " Yet the overwhelming majority of these "Iraqi military and civilian personnel" were ones hand-picked for them by the U.S. military:

GG: The first line of your Op-Ed said:"viewed from Iraq where we just spent the last eight days interviewing American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel..."

How did you arrange the meetings with the Iraqi military and civilian personnel?

MO: Well, a number of those -- and most of those were arranged by the U.S. military. So I'll be transparent about that as well. These were to some extent contacts of Ken and Tony, but that was a lesser number of people. The predominant majority were people who we came into contact with through the itinerary the D.O.D. developed.

I specifically asked O'Hanlon whether, as a result, he was concerned that he was getting an unrepresentative view of the situation in Iraq, and in response he said:

If someone wanted to argue that we were not getting a representative view of Iraqis because the ones we spoke with were provided by the military, I would agree that this would be a genuine concern. Certainly that might have influenced the impressions that we were presented, though by no means did all of the Iraqis agree with the view of progress in Iraq. The following exchange then occurred:
GG: Given that some of the claims in your Op-Ed are based upon your conversations with Iraqis, and that the Iraqis with whom you spoke were largely if not exclusively ones provided to you by the U.S. military, shouldn't that fact have been included in your Op-Ed?

MO: If the suggestion is that in a 1,400 word Op-Ed, we ought to have mentioned that, I can understand that criticism, and if we should have included that, I apologize for not having done so. But I want to stress that the focus here was on the perspective of the U.S. military, and I did a lot of probing of what I was told, and remain confident in the conclusions that we reached about the military successes which we highlighted. But if you're suggesting that some of our impressions might have been shaped by the military's selection of Iraqis, and that we might have disclosed that, that is, I think, fair enough.

Subsequently, I pressed him again on how they could possibly rely on what they were hearing given that virtually all of the vaunted "Iraqi military and civilian personnel" with whom they were speaking were hand-picked for them. O'Hanlon acknowledged:
I will take your point and I would agree with your point that we were certainly not getting a representative view of Iraqi opinion.
Indeed, the great bulk of the information on which this Op-Ed was based came from the U.S. military, either directly or through the Iraqi "sources" provided to Pollack and O'Hanlon, a fact which -- though concealed in their Op-Ed and in their interviews -- O'Hanlon defended this way:
Now you could say in one sense all this data ultimately, all this information ultimately is coming from the U.S. military. Yes, but there's an opportunity for a lot of probing, a lot of debate, a lot of conversations back and forth. . . .
Not only was this obviously critical fact --that "all this information ultimately is coming from the U.S. military" -- excluded from their Op-Ed, but, with one exception, neither they nor their numerous media interviewers saw fit to mention it. The only reference to it was a fleeting one as a result of this commendable question from Wolf Blitzer to Pollack during one of CNN's several segments devoted to their "findings":
BLITZER: Was this part, though, of a U.S. military tour, if you will, that they took you around, you were escorted from location to location to location and they were the ones that took you to specific places? Or did you have the freedom to say I want to go here, I want to go there? Who organized, in other words, the stopovers, the visits that you were having?

POLLACK: It was -- largely this was -- it was largely organized by the military. We felt that was important because right now the big story is the military story.

And that was it. In their Op-Ed and countless media appearances, where they constantly paraded around -- and were held up -- as first-hand witnesses who had seen the Truth in Iraq with their very own eyes, that was the only mention of this fact, a fact which rather obviously and profoundly impacts the credibility of what they claimed to have "discovered."

* * * * *

Sweeping conclusions from 2-hour visits

But this only begins to convey how ludicrous and misleading a spectacle this whole event was. O'Hanlon and Pollack were in Iraq for a total of 7 1/2 days. They spent every night ensconced in the Green Zone in Baghdad. They did not spend a single night in any other city. As O'Hanlon admitted, they spent no more than "between 2-4 hours" in every place they visited outside Baghdad, and much of that was taken up meeting U.S. military commanders, not inspecting the proverbial "conditions on the ground."

Yet in their Op-Ed, they purported to describe the encouraging conditions in four places other than Baghdad -- Ramadi, Tal Afar, Mosul, and the Anbar Province -- as though they could possibly have made any meaningful observations during their visits which were all roughly the duration of the average airport layover. Worse, both O'Hanlon and Pollack -- and especially Pollack -- in their interviews repeatedly described their optimistic observations about Iraqi cities in such a way as to create the misleading impression that these were based upon their first-hand observations.

Here, for instance, is Pollack on NPR purporting to describe the Great Progress in Mosul as though he is some grizzled war reporter who has witnessed the conditions "on the ground" there -- a place in which, O'Hanlon acknowledged to me by e-mail, they spent a grand total of 2 hours:

The most obvious change we saw was in the security sector, where in Northern, Central and Western Iraq, there was improvement. It varied very widely. It was uneven. But in some places, it was really striking.

My last trip to Iraq was at the end of 2005, and I was up by Mosul. And I gotta tell you, Mosul was a disaster. It was completely out of control, and we had tens of thousand of American troops up in Mosul trying desperately to keep that place together.

Well, this trip, we went up to Mosul, and found that there are only several hundred American troops up there. And the reason for that is we now finally have some Iraqi army divisions that are rising to the occasion. We got two divisions up there -- an Army Division and a Police Division -- which are both capable and reliable. And that's allowed the military to greatly scale back their commitment to Iraq's third largest city, to the point where they are simply providing advisory teams and fire support teams, and the Iraqis are doing the work . . . . That is such a dramatic change.

And here is what Pollack told Tucker Carlson on MSNBC:
In addition, what was most striking to me -- because the last time I was in Iraq was about 18 months ago in late 2005, and I was over there looking at Iraqi army formations -- and frankly, they were all awful [GG: that was the same exact time when Gen. Petraues was proclaiming "very substantial momentum" and "huge progress" in Iraqi troop readiness]. This time around, the Iraqi army formations are really starting to step up to the plate.

And we have a number -- I won't say the whole army, not even the majority of it -- but there are a number of divisions and brigades and battalions that are really proving to be able partners of the U.S., to the extent that in some parts of Iraq, particularly Mosul, Tal Afar, some other parts, areas south of Baghdad, the Iraqis really are taking the lead and the U.S. forces are really just supporting them.

Any reasonable person would conclude that Pollack is describing progress based upon first-hand observations made during his "visit to Mosul" -- a completely deceitful impression in light of the reality of this trip. Indeed, the overarching narrative for every interview was that they had "just returned from Iraq" and were excited by what they saw.

Yet they inspected virtually nothing in these cities, and everything with regard to "Iraqi troop readiness" -- which Pollack excitedly touted in hailing the "dramatic progress" in Mosul and elsewhere -- was all based on what they were told by the U.S. military or its hand-picked sources. As O'Hanlon said:

GG: What I'm trying to get at is if they told you, for instance, that there were certain army divisions in Mosul where the bad commanders were being weeded out and they were now capable of holding neighborhoods better, you wouldn't actually go to the neighborhoods and inspect whether or not what you were told was true. Your claims in that regard in the Op-Ed were based upon your belief that what the U.S. military commanders were telling you was accurate. Is that true?

MO: Yes, that's true. Based on that example, on that type of example, you're right.

The day before I interviewed O'Hanlon, The New Yorker's George Packer spoke with Pollack and reported that Pollack "spoke with very few Iraqis and could independently confirm very little of what he heard from American officials." To Packer, Pollack also confirmed that the flamboyant claims about Iraqi troops readiness "came from American military sources."

08-13-2007, 07:11 PM
If the suggestion is that in a 1,400 word Op-Ed, we ought to have mentioned that, I can understand that criticism, and if we should have included that, I apologize for not having done so. But I want to stress that the focus here was on the perspective of the U.S. military, and I did a lot of probing of what I was told, and remain confident in the conclusions that we reached about the military successes which we highlighted.


08-13-2007, 07:11 PM
Damn, I thought it might, just maybe, be possible that I was wrong and things were actually going the way GW expected. I really do harbor a spot deep in my heart that GW is a brilliant visionary and I am just unworthy of understanding it.

It's either that or go nuts with the frustration of the wreckage that man has made of my country. Maybe I'll just go spark a spliff and worry about where my next brownie is coming from.

08-13-2007, 07:13 PM

I have to agree with this article, that is not how I read the orginal article. It was much more aimed at how well things are going in general, not an article stating this was the view from the green zone.

08-14-2007, 06:24 AM
I have to agree with this article, that is not how I read the orginal article. It was much more aimed at how well things are going in general, not an article stating this was the view from the green zone.

But it wasn't from the Green Zone. It's the reporters from the NYTimes and the Washington Post who are reporting from the GZ, not these guys. The people who are getting out in the field are mostly those who are going there with the military. Now these guys weren't reporting from the battlefield like Michael Yon, but they were talking to the people who are directly interacting with Iraqis and facing off with insurgents. This is a situation where two people who have been skeptics of the Bush approach for the past couple of years went to Iraq with an open mind and had their minds changed to some degree by what they heard from our military, from our troops, and from the Iraqis they spoke with. Nothing in this interview refutes the things they reported.

Is it really very likely that two guys who have been criticizing the Bush administration for a couple of years suddenly decided that now is the time they should shill for them?

Chief Henry
08-14-2007, 07:12 AM
I guess we know who one of olberman's 3 viewers are don't we.