Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Arms and the Man I Sing 

Why do stories like this exist? From the AP wire, "White House Won't Say If Troops Sought":
The White House refused to say Tuesday whether the top U.S. civilian official in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's ouster had asked the president for more troops to deal with the rapid descent of postwar Iraq into chaos.

In remarks published Tuesday, the official, L. Paul Bremer, said he arrived in Iraq on May 6, 2003 to find "horrid" looting and a very unstable situation throwing new fuel onto the presidential campaign issue of whether the United States had sufficiently planned for the post-war situation in Iraq.

"We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness," Bremer said during an address to an insurance group in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. The group released a summary of his remarks in Washington.

"We never had enough troops on the ground," Bremer said, while insisting that he was "more convinced than ever that regime change was the right thing to do."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan refused to say whether Bremer had pleaded with Bush for more troops. "We never get into reading out all the conversations they had," McClellan said.
Unfortunately for Scott, we do not live in an oral culture. Unlike, say, Homer, we don't have to cast our epics in verse so that we can remember them by the campfire. We write stuff down. If we forget what we wrote, we can go back and check it later. (It was by mastering this trick that Virgil avoided being extensively rewritten.)

That was the plan as we understood it. Now it turns out that everything from the invention of cuneiform on has been a waste.

We understand that money is tight; perhaps the AP couldn't afford to renew its subscription to Lexis-Nexis. But Google is free -- and we're betting our distinguished colleague Hesiod needed maybe fifteen minutes, twenty maximum, to come up with this, from July of 2003 --
The top American administrator in Iraq, confronting growing anti-U.S. anger and guerrilla-style attacks, is asking for more American troops and dozens of U.S. officials to help speed up the restoration of order and public services.
-- and this from August 2003, and this from last month, etc., etc. Scroll down to the bottom of Hesiod's post if you'd like to know why Gen. Abizaid "has been repeatedly discouraged from asking for more soldiers."

So even if the White House "refuses to say" whether Bremer asked for troops, it would be the work of minutes for any real news organization to establish that yes, he did. But the administration wants Bremer to take the fall for Iraq, which means pretending that no one really knows whether he asked for more troops, despite the wealth of documentation above. And they know how easy it is to chump the press because they've done it so often in the past. They have no reason to think they won't get away with it this time.

And they undoubtedly will.

And that's the real story, and that's why we're writing it down. For posterity.

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