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Gung Ho!

Reported by Nancy - December 22, 2004 -

Last night (12/21), Special Report was all military bravado & swagger, focusing mainly on the attack in Mosul & the controversies swirling around Rumsfeld. There was also an attempt by the "All-Star" panel to run Bush's immigration "plan" up the flagpole & see who salutes.

At 6:21pm (all times ET), following a clip of the aftermath of the attack in Mosul, Brit Hume interviewed (ret) Maj Gen Robert Scales (military historian & Fox military analyst) about the significance & implications of that attack. Scales said there were 2 main things to note about the attack itself: #1 after the fall of Fallujah, the enemy has "moved his center to Mosul", trying to "regenerate" & #2 this was a "classic cheap shot", the enemy is using very simple 50s Soviet technology in very creative/adaptive ways, not to win a battle but to kill Americans. Hume asked if it had more significane than a lucky hit, Scales said the "garrison is gonna have to hunker down". Hume asked whether we'd have to do the same kind of military operation as in Fallujah to "clean out" Mosul. Scales said the best defense is good offense, so we should "go to Mosul, find Sunni areas & clean them out." Hume switched topics a little, saying that Rumsfeld is "safe in his job" based on support from Bush, & asking Scales what he thought of all the issues swirling around Rumsfeld. Scales said the "emails are flying", & the consensus seems to be that we've "gotta keep the military team in place until after the [Iraqi] elections". Scales said that insurgent attacks will "blossom in late winter/early spring" because the "Sunnis will be marginalized by the elections." Hume asked Scales what he thought of Rumsfeld's "larger objectives", the "transformation of the military" into a "lighter more mobile force". Scales said that based on what Rumsfeld wrote in "USA Today" he's looking at "cold war big ticket programs" & watching "structure" carefully. He noted that "95% of the killing & dying" is being done by the Army & Marine Corps, so Rumsfeld will have to look at & "reshape" force structure. Hume asked whether Rumsfeld is on the "right track" & Scales said "not exactly", but "he's beginning to rethink" things.

General comment: Here we have 2 reasonably well-informed & knowledgeable adults, & all they do is wave the flag & trot out tired old Vietnam-era cliches. If they had devoted the entire interview to the last topic, "reshaping" the military, & had been willing to question whether any of the administration's strategies had worked over the past 4 years, this could have been an interesting & informative segment. But they didn't go there.

At 6:32pm, Hume did his "Grapevine" segment: 1) the premise of the infamous question to Rumsfeld about armor was "off base" because "according to senior army officers, 800 of 832" vehicles in the questioner's unit had been "up-armored" [comment: even if true, that doesn't make it an invalid question]; 2) ABC reported about Rumsfeld using a machine to sign letters to families of military killed, but both family members quoted in that report are "long-time critics of the Bush administration" [comment: so families who've lost a loved one in the war & happen to be critics of the Bush admin aren't entitled to be outraged by the way DoD treated them?; 3) electoral votes are in & Bush has won; 4) Bush is the first president to send out Christmas card with Bible verse, as he has done every year.

At 6:41om, Hume showed a clip of Bush speaking about the attack in Mosul, then asked the All-Star Panel (Fred Barnes, Mort Kondracke, Charles Krauthammer) to weigh in. Kondracke said the attack "doesn't help overall approval ratings", but it's a lucky break for the enemy, unlucky for us. He went off on a tangent about the military budget, noting that "a lot more money could be spent" on things like UAVs to spot potential attacks in advance, radar to track attacjers [comment: so much for "fiscal conservativism & budget deficits; Kondracke's a spend-&-spend reactionary]. He said the "procurement budget" is "skewed" towards the Air Force & Navy & "that should change." Krauthammer said it's "not the wrong weaponry but wrong strategy". He then went off on his own tangent, saying "Saddam Hussein expelled Kurds & moved in Arabs" & "Kurds have an extremely efficient militia but we have not unleashed it" because we have a "dream" of an Iraq where that wouldn't be necessary. After trashing the Iraqi army [comment: but without admitting that the reason it's in such dire straits is because of Bremer disbanding it], Krauthammer went on to say that "some" fear that if "you unleash the Kurds you'll have a civil war", but we already have one, so we should "allow the Kurds & Shia to organize". Barnes joined in with his own tangent, saying "we know the outcome, they're not gonna win" & "they're fighting a terrorist war because they can't fight a real war" [comment: he apparently has no sense of irony, because he failed to note that fighting "a real war" is how we're losing]. According to Barnes, there will be "no successor regime to Saddam Hussein" which is what "those people" want. He said the "next big test is January 30", threw in a gratuitous reference to El Salvador ("where guerillas threatened to kill voters") & said that if there's good voter turnout "our job will be wrapped up sooner than otherwise". Kondracke said that the danger is if enough "bad things" happen to discourage voters, because "they [insurgents] can only win if they break our will", & "if we can't train up an Iraqi army" so that "some time in the next year they can wage major battles." Krauthammer disagreed, saying that "turnout is not important in this election" because "Shia & Kurds" will vote & "if Sunnis don't vote -- well, they'll be shut out" because the Shia & Kurds will "control the govt" & "once they have a sense of ownership, they'll have an incentive to go out & fight." Barnes said the election would make the Iraqi govt "more legitimate" [comment: perhaps an inadvertent admission that no one recognizes the current govt as anything other than a US puppet?]. Hume noted that "most Sunnis don't want this insurgency" & Barnes agreed, saying the "UN can't protect them, it has to be us."

General comment: Neither in this segment nor in the interview with Scales (above) did anyone acknowledge that Mosul wasn't a mess until we started making a mess in Iraq. The Kurds in the north of Iraq had effective autonomy following Gulf War I, with the US & UK enforcing the no-fly zone. They ran the whole area quite well. There were no attacks on minority groups & no "insurgents", economically they were in pretty good shape, & for the first time in 80-odd years the Kurds had a real hope that eventually they would gain real autonomy & their own state. Hume's "All-Stars", like other GOP reactionaries, seem quite willing to sacrifice Kurdish live & aspirations in order to fulfill their own fantasies.]

At 6:51pm, following a clip of Bush's remarks on immigration at his "press conf" [comment: I use quotes because I don't consider his scripted events to be real press conferences], Hume asked the panel what they thought of Bush's "pitch" for his "immigration plan", & they were off to the races. Barnes dismissed immigration as "less important than" lots of stuff [comment: insert favorite reactionary proposal here] & said there are "flaws" in Bush's plan, it won't reduce the flow of illegals, Bush says it's "not amnesty" but "everybody knows they won't be sent back" & "what about all the people waiting in line?" Hume tried to reinforce one of Bush's points, asking "what about the reality that they do jobs Americans aren't willing or able to do?" The panel was greatly amused by the thought that any of them might favor raising the minimum wage, with Barnes explicitly stating that he is "certainly not in favor of raising" it. Krauthammer said there has "always been hysteria" about immigration, but immigration is the "glory & strength of our country", & "our problem is assimilation". He then proceeded to trash bilingual education, saying that speaking English should be a requirement. He feels that the "guest worker program" is a "good approach." Kondracke climbed onto the bashing bandwagon, saying "there may be pressure by elite liberals not to assimiliate but they [immigrants] WANT to assimilate". Krauthammer agreed, saying "liberals have targeted them" & "bilingual education has slowed assimilation." Hume tried to get back on topic, asking what the panel thought the chances were of Congress acting on Bush's plan. Kondracke thought the chances are "pretty good", saying that "restrictionists in Congress can't get the votes", "Bush is leading on this & can win". Barnes said "it's not popular" & Krauthammer ended by saying "anti-immigrant hysteria is not a good thing." [comment: anyone want to count all the GOP code words in this segment?]