Bad News Buriers: Sweeping Bodies Under the White House Carpet

(Updated below.)

There is a recently-coined proverb in Britain that is imminently adaptable to the Bush Faction
mode of government. It springs from an email sent by a "spin doctor" in the Ministry of Transport to her boss regarding some bit of impolitic information their ministry was obliged to release at some point to the pain-in-the-neck public who are always sticking their noses into the government's business, as if they had a right to know what their betters were doing in their name, with their money.

It was some five years ago -- September 11, 2001, to be exact -- when said spinner, no doubt with an eye on the BBC's continual broadcast of the burning, collapsing towers in New York, dashed off her pensée, suggesting that "today would be a good day to bury bad news." (She actually survived the PR debacle after the email was leaked, but was fired a year later after being caught suggesting that the day of the funeral of Princess Margaret would be -- what else? -- a good day to bury bad news.)

Of course, the unfortunate message massager's only real crime was her admirable forthrightness. For she was merely articulating in plain speech a deeply-held principle practiced by every government,
and refined to the highest art by those nominally democratic states whose leaders "govern" almost entirely through the manipulation of public images and empty rhetoric in order to obscure their actual policies, which are almost always in blatant conflict with the desires of their people and the "consent of the governed."

In this, as in so much else, the Bush Administration far surpasses its little bitty buddy across the sea. No one buries bad news -- especially bad news about buried bodies -- better than the Bushists. The White House's "Friday Night dumps" have become so habitual and obvious that even the lazy-eyed Washington press corps has noticed it. Indeed, as the Apollonian-monikered "Smintheus" at Daily Kos notes, the Bushists have taken to moving their bad news dumps around to different evenings, hoping to catch the well-wadded Beltway press corps in an after-dinner doze, or out schmoozing with Administration bigwigs on the cocktail weenie-circuit, or yapping stentoriously (for a suitable fat fee) on a political gossip show, or doing anything other than holding those in power to account for their actions.

Smintheus knew that the swearing-in of Robert Gates as the new Pentagon overlord would naturally attract the rapt -- and entirely uncritical -- attention of the well-wadded ones, who have collectively decided that deeply compromised covert operator is a clean broom who will purge the mephtic air of Hell's Bottom. The White House knew this too, and so they smuggled out the Congressionally-required "quarterly report" on the never-ending victory in Iraq, where, as President Bush so wisely noted (and does not the "W" in his glorious name stand for "wisdom"?), the only real problem is that "we have not succeeded as fast as we wanted to succeed." As Smintheu
s notes, the release came only 19 days after its legal deadline, and seems purposely designed to prevent the public from extracting any actual information from it. Not only are its facts obscured by rhetorical tricks and outright omissions, the report has been produced as a huge PDF file that is difficult to download. But Richard Kastelein, our good webmaster here at Empire Burlesque, has solved that problem for you by recasting the report in easily-available HTML form, which you can see here.

In his Kos post yesterday, Smintheus did us yeoman service by teasing out nuggets of truth from the mountain of dross, including:

p. 27: Since January, sectarian executions have increased more than five-fold.
p. 25: Average weekly attacks are up more than 100% since summer 2005. Civilian casualties are nearly 3 times higher than they were a year ago. And as high as that rate was in the previous quarter, it continues to mount.
p. 45: The number of Iraqi battalions in combat dropped slightly during this quarter.
p. 42: Although the number of Iraqi security forces is said to have increased this quarter, the majority are Ministry of Interior forces, which have a phenomenally high (but unspecified) rate of absenteeism. Therefore the increased numbers are illusory.
p. 17-18: Since the start of the quarter, both oil production and electricity generation are down. Electricity is being generated at a slightly lower rate than in 2004, though unmet demand has greatly increased. Oil revenues are down since 2004.

The New York Times also bestirred itself hours later to note the most salient fact: that the carnage in Iraq are now at an all-time high, and that Shiite death squads closely allied and in many cases incorporated into the American-trained, American-backed Iraqi "security services" now account for a large proportion of the murderous violence. I will have more on this latter theme in a new piece that should be out shortly. Suffice it to say for now that the main strategy for "moving forward" in Iraq currently now being offered by the wise ones of both parties entails giving even more training, guns and money to the very forces now driving the sectarian war in Iraq to ever-greater levels of atrocity.

UPDATE: For all those who still think the appoinment of Gates will mean any "moderation" in the Bush Faction's policies, Robert Parry has more disillusionment on tap in his latest: Robert Gates Lines Up With Bush. Excerpts:

In early December, when Senate Democrats politely questioned Robert M. Gates and then voted unanimously to confirm him as Defense Secretary, they bought into the conventional wisdom that Gates was a closet dove who would help guide the United States out of George W. Bush's mess in Iraq.

The thinking was that Gates, a former member of the Iraq Study Group, would represent the views of James Baker and other "realists" from George H.W. Bush's administration. Hillary Clinton and other Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee praised Gates for his "candor" when he acknowledged the obvious, that the war in Iraq wasn't being won.

Since the Gates confirmation vote on Dec. 6, however, Bush and Gates have signaled that they have no intention of extricating the U.S. military from the Iraq quagmire. They still insist on nothing short of "victory" or "success," no matter how unlikely those ends and no matter how much blood must be spilled over the next two years to avert defeat.

At his swearing-in ceremony on Dec. 18, Gates endorsed Bush's contention that a U.S. military withdrawal without victory in Iraq and Afghanistan is unacceptable...

In his brief speech, Gates also went out of his way to echo Bush's call for a more aggressive U.S. military that can intervene quickly around the world.

"I was impressed by how deployable our military has become since I last served in government" as CIA director in 1991-93, Gates said. "The President said that one of his top priorities was to help our military become more agile, more lethal and more expeditionary. Much has been accomplished in this; much remains to be done. This remains a necessity and a priority."

So, Gates is onboard with Bush's "stay-until-victory" plan for Iraq and is enthusiastic about having a "more lethal and more expeditionary" U.S. military.

Though soft-spoken and mild-mannered – especially when compared to his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld – Gates sounds in substance more like a closet hawk than a closet dove.