For the past several months, the Washington press corps has dutifully reported George W. Bush’s attack on Democrats as politicians who wish to impose their Iraq War judgments on the military commanders in the field.

According to Bush, the Democrats think that U.S. commanders in Iraq should “take fighting directions from politicians 6,000 miles away in Washington, D.C.,” while he by contrast is “a commander guy” who follows the advice of military men on the front lines.

Very few U.S. journalists have dared to contradict this presidential fiction, even though they watched in December and January as Bush spurned the advice of virtually all his top commanders before adopting recommendations of neoconservative theorists for a “surge” in U.S. forces. Bush then fired key commanders who opposed him.

Nothing new there, you might say. The U.S. press corps has played the role of handmaiden to Bush’s lies for the past seven years. But now, Washington journalists face a tricky dilemma.

One of their all-time favorite “wise men” – former Secretary of State Colin Powell – has belied Bush’s “commander guy” fiction, albeit in an understated way. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on June 10, host Tim Russert asked Powell why his prediction of a troop drawdown by early 2007 hadn’t come to pass.

“A different choice was made by the President,” Powell answered. “The President received advice from his military advisers last fall that said, do not send more troops.

“Gen. [John] Abizaid went before the Congress, the commander of Central Command, and said he had consulted with all his division commanders in Iraq and all of the senior commanders, and none of them wanted to send additional troops.

“They thought the strategy at that point should be to put the burden on the Iraqis to resolve what I call a civil war.”

Abizaid’s position was supported, too, by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and last fall even by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who sent the President a memo on Nov. 6 suggesting a redeployment of U.S. forces away from police functions, echoing earlier recommendations of Democratic Rep. John Murtha.

The Surge Purge

Two days after that memo, Bush fired Rumsfeld. The President then turned to the “surge” idea being promoted by neoconservative theorists, such as historian Frederick Kagan. As White House neocons embraced the notion of a troop escalation, Bush began purging dissident military officers.

Bush removed the two top generals overseeing the Iraq War, Abizaid and George Casey – and last week extended the purge to Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Peter Pace, who also had offended the neocons by resisting pressure for military action against Iran.

After Bush announced the “surge” plan in January and installed more compliant commanders to carry it out, such as Gen. David Petraeus, the President seamlessly shifted back to rhetoric about how he listens to the advice of the military experts on the ground.

When faced with Democratic positions that mirrored those of the experienced senior commanders – opposition to the “surge” and calls to pull U.S. troops out of policing a civil war – Bush said on May 2, “the question is, who ought to make that [military] decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear – I’m a commander guy.”

Given the track record of the U.S. press corps, Bush may have had sound reasons for his confidence in making a statement so clearly at variance from the truth.

No press uproar followed his “commander guy” comment just as there was no protest over the past four years whenever Bush insisted that Saddam Hussein didn’t let U.N. inspectors into Iraq before the invasion. [For details on that fib, see Consortiumnews.com’s “GOP/Media Rewrite Iraq War History.”]

But now on “Meet the Press,” a high-profile Washington news show, media darling Colin Powell has spelled out that Bush repudiated the counsel of virtually every senior commander in order to clear the way for a neoconservative scheme that has escalated the pace of U.S. military deaths in Iraq, which now exceed 3,500.

Many Americans, however, won’t be surprised if the U.S. press corps still manages to look the other way and leave the responsibility of pointing out these unpleasant facts to Internet sites and blogs.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

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