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Myths and Falsehoods About "Progress"- in Iraq

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Summary

Supporters of the Iraq war -- rather than waiting for testimony by Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker on the effect of President Bush's troop increase in Iraq -- have engaged in a campaign to convince the media and public that progress is being made in Iraq and that the "surge" is "working." Media Matters has compiled some of the most pervasive myths and falsehoods advanced by opponents of withdrawal in service of the "surge is working" message, which many in the media have been complicit in perpetuating. Myths debunked in this memo include:

· Myth: "The Surge is Working"

· Myth: "The Surge has Reduced Violence in Iraq"

· Myth: "U.S. Military Deaths are Down this Summer"

· Myth: Democrats Agree the "Surge" is "Working"

· Myth: Democrats are Calling for a "Precipitous Withdrawal" from Iraq

· Myth: If We Withdraw Troops from Iraq, the Enemy Will "Follow Us Home"

Introduction

The week of September 10, Gen. David Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq, and U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker are expected to testify before Congress on the effect of President Bush's troop increase in Iraq, to be followed by a written report submitted by the White House. Bush announced on January 10 that he was sending "more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq." Since then, the Bush administration and the congressional Republican leadership have thwarted efforts by Democrats and other proponents of legislating a timeline for withdrawal to enact legislation to begin withdrawing U.S. troops, arguing that no action should be taken until Congress hears from Petraeus and Crocker.

But supporters of the war have not simply bided their time awaiting Petraeus' and Crocker's appearances before Congress. Rather, they have engaged in a campaign starting midsummer to convince the media and public that progress is being made in Iraq. President Bush, members of the administration, Republicans, and other advocates of the president's escalation policy have been laying the groundwork for the case that the "surge" is "working" and it is premature to commence withdrawal. Many in the media have been complicit in the administration's PR offensive: ignoring that a crucial criterion for the success of the administration's strategy -- political progress in Iraq -- has in the assessment of people inside and outside the administration not occurred; repeating administration claims of military progress while ignoring evidence to the contrary; repeating distortions of comments by Democrats to claim that they acknowledge the surge is working; characterizing proponents of a withdrawal timeline as calling for a "precipitous" withdrawal; and uncritically repeating the widely dismissed claim by Bush and administration supporters that the terrorists will follow us home if the U.S. withdraws from Iraq.

Some of the most pervasive myths and falsehoods that many in the media have been complicit in perpetuating are set out below:

Myth: "The Surge is Working"

In recent weeks, the media have essentially allowed advocates of the president's "surge" policy to redefine the criteria on which the strategy's success would be evaluated, ignoring the Bush administration's own acknowledgment of the importance of national political progress to the overall success of its strategy. Bush specifically cited the need for political progress back in January, and the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act of 2007 passed in May provides the benchmarks with which progress is to be measured.

On the August 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume said that "evidence mounts that the troop surge is working as planned." An August 16 editorial in Investor's Business Daily was headlined, "A Surge of Success." And on the August 21 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, U.S. News & World Report editor-in-chief Mortimer B. Zuckerman asserted: "[T]he fact is that, by far, the consensus is that the surge is working." However, by the administration's own standards, the national political reconciliation that the Bush administration identified as essential for the success of its escalation strategy has not occurred.

As Media Matters has noted, when announcing his so-called surge strategy in January, Bush specifically stated that success had to be measured in terms of military progress and political progress by the Iraqi government on the benchmarks established by the United States. Bush declared that "[a] successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations" and will include a political component: "hold[ing] the Iraqi government to the benchmarks [America] has announced." Furthermore, when appearing on the August 5 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told host Tim Russert that "a successful outcome in Iraq requires political reconciliation. There's no question about that," and that "[a]t some point there has to be reconciliation at the national level." On the February 25 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice argued, "The president's been clear with [the Iraqi leaders] that these political reconciliation measures are at the core of success for Iraq." Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, while testifying before a July 31 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on his nomination to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated, "I still maintain that if we aren't making progress in [the Iraqi political] realm the prospects for movement in a positive direction are not very good."

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Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.
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