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'Operation Swarmer' Underwhelming So Far

Reported by Judy - March 17, 2006

The "Daywide" crew of Mike Jerrick and Juliet Huddy on Friday (March 17, 2006) continued to try to pump up "Operation Swarmer" near Samarra northeast of Baghdad, even as they avoided mentioning Fox News' own poll showing most Americans no longer believe the nation's involvement there will pay off in a stable government.

"Dayside" on Thursday tried to turn the 1,500-troop operation into the equivalent of D-Day. That was increasingly hard to do Friday, however, after Fox News reporter Bret Baier said from the Pentagon that no shots had been fired yet through the second day of the operation. So Huddy and Jerrick focused on, as Jerrick put it, "What does it mean for turning the war over to the Iraqis?"

Fox News Military Analyst retired Army Col. David Hunt insisted that the ability of the Iraqis to cooperate in a helicopter drop "is a very big step." "Iraqis doing an air mobile is excellent. It's a huge step. The most important thing about getting our guys back," he said.

Hunt insisted the operation was dangerous, even though no shots have been fired, because "there are a lot of moving parts [helicopters landing and taking off, etc.] The good news is that they have captured some and taken some weapons away. It could be either bad intelligence, which was all Iraqi-based intelligence, or some of the bad guys got away but the truth of this is it's more important almost that they got the operation going. We've been aggressive ... and the Iraqis are in helicopters, which never would have happened a year ago."

Hunt also claimed that the operation has been successful despite the meager results so far. "It's just not this giant end of war thing that a lot of people were putting out yesterday," he said.

Jerrick's question focusing the segment on turning the war over to the Iraqis is important in light of the fact that the number of troops there was just increased this week (temporarily, military officials say) as we come up on the beginning of the fourth year of the war. Meanwhile, opinion polls show American enthusiasm for the war on the wane.

Fox News has had its own poll up on its webside since Thursday, but the Daysiders never bothered to mention its results regarding Iraq during their segment.

According to the poll, 34 percent of those polled are "optimistic that there will eventually be a free, stable government in Iraq." But 55 percent disagree. Furthermore, only 44 percent think the U.S. has "the responsibility to stay until a democracy is in place" while 48 percent say the U.S. does not. In November 2003, 58 percent Americans said the U.S. should stay in Iraq until a stable government was set up and 34 percent said no.

Some people might say that Fox News takes polls to decide how to slant its coverage, not to present the polls as news. Or some people might ask, "Is Fox News taking polls to decide how to slant its coverage?" Or might some people ask whether Fox News is trying to make the operation look like a big deal in order to boost George Bush's popularity, which was at 39 percent in its recent poll?

Juan Cole, author of the "Informed Comment" blog and one of the most knowledgeable U.S. bloggers on the situation in the Middle East, has already noted that Operation Swarmer is probably more of a political exercise than anything else.

Cole writes that the Pentagon seems to have gone ahead with the operation without informing Bush ahead of time, adding:.

"It does make you wonder what Bush thinks he is doing. After the Samarra shrine bombing, which many Iraqis blamed on the US one way or another, Bush should have been going on Iraqi television and addressing them directly as to what would be done about it. Instead, he kept trying to tell the Americans that things were actually just wonderful in Iraq.

"This Samarra operation is probably mainly a political act. The US generals are attempting to demonstrate to their Shiite allies that they take seriously the terror attack on the Askari Shrine on Feb. 22. Presumably they are also attempting to ensure that if the shrine is rebuilt, it won't just be blown up again. Short of pulling a Fallujah on Samarra, however-- which would involve emptying the city and then destroying it-- it is difficult to see how the US/ Iraqi government forces can prevail. Even then, they would just face sullen suicide bombers thereafter, as has happened in Fallujah, where 2/3s of the buildings were damaged and a large part of the population permanently dispossessed.

"Frankly, the Samarra "Operation Swarm" is probably also meant to give the impression of progress or at least of activity in Iraq, where the political process is stalled and the guerrillas seem to strike at will, with increasing political success."

Cole makes a good point. If things are going so well in Iraq, why doesn't Bush appear on television there and tell the Iraqis that? Apparently, the only people who will believe Bush's big lie are Americans, and there are fewer and fewer of those willing to believe him.

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