On Petraeus: The Manufacturing Of A Storyline

In an atrocious piece of reporting fueled by a rigged poll question, the New York Times "reports:"

Americans trust military commanders far more than the Bush administration or Congress to bring the war in Iraq to a successful end, and while most favor a withdrawal of American troops beginning next year, they suggested they were open to doing so at a measured pace, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll. . . . Asked to choose among the administration, Congress and military commanders, 21 percent said they would most trust Congress and 68 percent expressed most trust in military commanders.

There are many problems with this storyline. First and foremost, Americans do not get to choose who gets to "end the war." Perhaps the New York Times does not know this, but we are a country that has civilian control of the military. The military follows the orders of the civilian Commander in Chief, the President of the United States. Bruce Ackerman has written on this alarming view of military control apparently endorsed by the news pages of the New York Times.


As polling methodology, the phrasing of the question begins "[i]f you had to choose," a dead giveway of a setup question that simply is unsound. The results were not surprising. The trustworthiness of politicians versus the military has always been and always will be a mismatch. Indeed, the fact that the military only got a 68% finding, to 21% for a failed Congress, and 5% for the worst, most mendacious President in history, is actually quite a bad finding for General Petraeus specifically, and the military generally. The politicization of the military that such figures as Dick Meyers, Peter Pace and Petraeus have engaged in has greatly damaged their credibility. Consider previous trustworthiness findings. On general trustworthiness, in 2006, 72% of Americans said they would trust military officers while just 35% would trust members of Congress. But in a head to head now, the military does worse now against one of the least trusted groups of people in the country.

The lack of trust in General Petraeus in particular was underscored by, via Drum, a Washington Post poll that found that a majority of Americans do not believe that General Petraues will be completely forthright in his testimony and instead will try and defend his policy by fudging the facts.

In short, this is a shoddy piece of journalism that can not be explained innocently. I do not want to ascribe motives to the New York Times news pages, but either there is complete incompetence or some other explanation for this atrocious work.

< Late Night: Sister Morphine | Another Question for Petraeus >
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    NYT and the military (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by joejoejoe on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 08:08:45 AM EST
    The New York Times does a terrible job of reporting on the military and military affairs. It's all starry eyed fan boy coverage or stenography. They have almost zero detail in their reports on the effects that length of deployment and overall size of force has on the number of U.S. troops in Iraq.

    Michael Gordon/NYT just wrote on the possibility of a drawdown in the Spring of '08 and not once did he mention that almost all of the Joint Chiefs had such a drawdown was necessary BEFORE the surge. Gordon just said 'Gen. Petraeus thinks we can drawdown' even though as early as fall of 2006 the Boston Globe reported that the military was preparing to keep 140,000 troops in Iraq until 2010. You can surge beyond that for a short period but like the surf waves are followed by troughs.

    All of this is second nature to people like Tom Ricks, Robert Farley at Tapped, or McClatchy but the NYT is still printing press releases or hagiography of our great military men years into the war. The baseline of forces in Iraq is 138,000 an has been there +/- 30,000 troops since 2003.

    Typical fascist behavior (none / 0) (#2)
    by Bob In Pacifica on Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 08:54:20 AM EST
    I can imagine this kind of question being asked to people in Franco's Spain. It's not just about trying to muster support for a failed war by getting people to support the general and thus his tarted up report (not unlike the okey doke with the "Support Our Troops" magnets on the back of big trucks). It's the old "we need a strong man to lead us" routine that the fascists rely on when the lies begin to be exposed. People have noted that The Flight Suit is empty. So put in a general to lead the parade.

    Where's Smedley Butler when we need him?