Bush Launches New Flack Attack

U.S. public shelled today from Iraq by weapon of mass distraction

Flack attack from Iraq: Bush talks to the troops this morning. Arrow denotes flack.

George W. Bush — what a newsmaker. In the true sense of the word. This morning, he made it up.

The videoconference his handlers set up with U.S. soldiers in Iraq was staged, as the AP's Deb Reichmann just pointed out.

But here's another part of the flack attack you may not know: The soldier on the left side of the front row was actually a flack herself, though she didn't reveal it during the regime's 24-minute infomercial.

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Her name is Corine Lombardo, and I hope she stays safe in Iraq. It's a dangerous place even for flacks. But the fact is, as my sharp-eyed colleague David Axe tipped me, Lombardo probably sees more action watching CNN than action. (For a sample of her work, click here.)

I'm glad Lombardo is safe, and I mean her no harm, and it's nothing personal, but I don't believe a fucking word she says, because her job is to make the Bush regime look good. So what great insights did she have? Here's a portion of her conversation with the POTUS — who moronically stepped on her lines and couldn't even get her rank straight. Bush started by asking her this:

    Is it possible to give us a sense, kind of a calibration of what life was like when you first got there, and what it's like today?

Here's what ensued in this "conversation":

    SERGEANT LOMBARDO: I can tell you over the past 10 months we've seen a tremendous increase in the capabilities and the confidences of our Iraqi security force partners. We've been working side-by-side, training and equipping 18 Iraqi army battalions. Since we began our partnership, they have improved greatly, and they continue to develop and grow into sustainable forces. Over the next month, we anticipate seeing at least one-third of those Iraqi forces conducting independent operations.

    THE PRESIDENT: That's important. The American people have got to know — and I appreciate you bringing that up, Sergeant Major, about how — what the progress is like. In other words, we've got a measurement system —

    SERGEANT LOMBARDO: Well, together —

    THE PRESIDENT: I'm sorry, go ahead.

Gee, Sergeant, tell me more! Sorry, I couldn't resist. Anyway, the phony bullshit continued:

    SERGEANT LOMBARDO: I'm sorry, just, together with our coalition forces, we've captured over 50 terrorists, as well as detained thousands of others that have ties to the insurgency. And I believe it is these accomplishments and the numerous accomplishments from our task force that will provide a safe and secure environment for the referendum vote.

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that. There's no question that we need to stay on the offense, and we need to stay on the offense with well-trained Iraqi forces, side-by-side the finest military ever — ever to exist, and that's the United States military.

    SERGEANT LOMBARDO: That it is, Mr. President. Thank you.

There's no reason to believe what she says. Axe, who has talked with hundreds and hundreds of U.S. and British soldiers, not to mention Iraqis, tells me:

    There are tens of thousands of training officers and NCOs in Iraq who work with Iraqi forces on a daily basis; Lombardo is not one of them.

Bush could have told the American people that he had at least one public-affairs person flacking them this morning. I mean, a public-relations person spouting the regime's line back at us? Instead, he pretended that they were all combat soldiers, not spokespeople.

It's bad enough that the videoconference itself was shamelessly an infomercial. The AP's Reichmann writes:

    It was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops, but the questions President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were choreographed to match his goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution.

    "This is an important time," Allison Barber, deputy assistant defense secretary, said, coaching the soldiers before Bush arrived. "The president is looking forward to having just a conversation with you."

Reichmann covered all the bases by asking Bush's officially recognized flack about today's subterfuge:

    White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Thursday's event was coordinated with the Defense Department but that the troops were expressing their own thoughts. With satellite feeds, coordination often is needed to overcome technological challenges, such as delays, he said.

    "I think all they were doing was talking to the troops and letting them know what to expect," he said, adding that the president wanted to talk with troops on the ground who have firsthand knowledge about the situation.

    The soldiers all gave Bush an upbeat view of the situation.

What a shock that they were upbeat. David Axe, who's made several forays into Iraq for the Voice — read his latest, "Powerless," a dispatch from southern Iraq — knows Corine Lombardo from having spent time in Tikrit. He tells me:

    Her job when I was with the 42nd Infantry Division included taking reporters to lunch.

    She lives in a fortified compound in Tikrit and rarely leaves.

    Many public-affairs types in Iraq never leave their bases, and they're speaking for those who do the fighting and dying.

As long as Bush was going to talk with soldiers from the 42nd, I wish he would have focused on the fragging, not the flacking.

If you recall, Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez killed two of his commanding officers in the 42nd at the base in Tikrit (Saddam Hussein's hometown), according to military prosecutors. Check out the New York Times story about this from June 19 (posted here by the excellent Australian paper The Age). The piece, co-authored by Kareem Fahim (an ex-colleague of mine), notes that the alleged fragging on June 7 is the second such case known to have happened.

Meanwhile, the flacking by the Bush regime continues, even after they should have been shamed by the Armstrong Williams embarrassment. For more on that sorry-ass waste of our tax money just so the Bush regime could lie to us, see the GAO's latest report, from September 30. And take a look at Timothy Karr's fresh piece on that, "Our Snake Oil President."

That Bush. What an oozemaker.

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