2007/09/12

The Petraeus-Crocker Presentation

Starting off on 9 September, 54% of the American public said the presentation on the "Surge" in Iraq by General David Petraeus and Ambassador-to-Iraq Ryan Crocker would not change their minds. A majority of them said so because they didn't believe that the General would be allowed to honestly present his real views on the matter, which are presumably more pessimistic than what the Bush Administration would like to have him say.

As blogger Glenn Greenwald points out, if the "Petraeus Report" is not a PR success, it won't be because the Bush Administration and General Petraeus didn't given it "the old college try." Greenwald compares the later presentation Petraeus gives for Fox News to an interview given to Pravda by a Soviet general, a production by "North Korean state television" and "...a direct examination at a trial, where a friendly lawyer gently leads his own witness to present claims in the most persuasive manner possible, with the lawyer interrupting only to clarify the witness' statements and to provide helpful suggestions as to how the witness can make his case even more effectively."

Media Matters notes that conservative commentators outnumbered progressive commentators eight to one on Fox News' coverage of the Congressional testimony, and the progressive appeared directly opposite a conservative. If one adds in the six Fox News people, that's 14 to one. Coverage of Petraeus' testimony wasn't much better the next day. NBC and the Wall St Journal both simply reported the statistics that Petraeus & Crocker cited without presenting any challenging or skeptical views on them. "These media outlets did not note that Petraeus' statistics regarding civilian casualties and sectarian violence differ from the findings in two recent congressionally mandated reports."

One of the very serious problems with Petraeus' figures is that he never presented any comprehensive definition of "sectarian" versus "ethno-religious" violence. As late as the 12th, Petraeus and Crocker were still presenting explanations as to which was which. Petraeus has claimed that "two US intelligence agencies" have reviewed and confirmed his figures, but both the CIA and DIA have denied being the agencies. Also, one of the problems with that is that no one in the Bush Administration appears to be entirely clear as to exactly who it is that US forces are fighting in Iraq.

Firedoglake did live-blogging for the Petraeus-Crocker presentation. Of course, on the 10th, traditional media outlets were complaining that the "sea of statistics" being presented was just a hopelessly confusing mess and just couldn't be understood. Obviously, they just weren't using the right sources.

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