They Must Think We're Idiots

Oh, by the way, the White House will be writing Petraeus's report.

"Words convey ideas," the late, great John Bremner told me once and as I've now told you twice. Actually he told me that a thousand times. I'd like to add that words are particularly good for expressing harebrained ideas.

In addition to my own work, here are two Pentagon maps of Iraq. The black-and-white one is from August 2002, and the only reason we can even look at it is that the National Security Archive pried it out of the U.S. government. The nice color one is part of the Pentagon's slide-into-hell show, freely available at a May 31, 2007, press briefing.

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August 2002: Page 17 of "Tab K," the formerly secret map of Iraq from the U.S. military's August 2002 invasion plans.

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May 2007: A slide from the Pentagon's May 31, 2007 briefing. Nice job by the military on the colors, huh?

On the August 2002 map, I count four "exploits," three "protects," one "fix," one "isolate," two "seizes," one "gain control," and one "suppress." Oh, and one "shock and awe."

On the May 2007 map, we've got only one "protect," but we have three "disrupts," two "extremists," two "defeats," and two "transitions." Instead of "shock and awe," we've got an "expand progress."

Draw your own conclusions, but this is just dangerous and misleading wordplay, though I do like maps and I perversely like the way the Pentagon throws around words.

I can't wait for the wordplay in General David Petraeus's September report to Congress, which, as Bush Beat reader Frances Lynch points out, via this recent Los Angeles Times story, will be written by the White House — yes, you heard me:

Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report's data.

Those astounding paragraphs are the story's 28th and 29th. I know you didn't read that far down.

So much dirty laundry that the government needs an extra-long spin cycle, so the current plan is to reveal Petraeus's "report" on the anniversary of 9/11. Watch out for that government spin. But as is often the case, reporters and editors do enough of their own spinning: Waiting until way, way down in a story about Petraeus's upcoming report to mention that, oh by the way, Petraeus's upcoming report is actually going to be written by the White House is one example.

Maybe numbers are the best way to see the war, though they're likely to make you not just dizzy but sick. Here are only a few numbers — they're also freely available from the Pentagon, but you won't see these flashed on a screen for reporters:

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