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Now We Know Rest of the Story About the Extra Troops

Reported by Judy - March 16, 2006

Only yesterday, U.S. commanders in Iraq requested a "temporary" increase in American forces there, but on Thursday (March 16, 2006), officials at the Pentagon that the arrival of the extra troops freed up other soldiers for Operation Swarmer.

Fox News Pentagon reporter Bret Baier mentioned in a report on "Special Report with Brit Hume" on Wednesday (reported on here) that General George Casey was requesting the extra forces in advance of Muslim holy days later this month.

During Thursday's "Dayside" program, most of which was devoted to on-going coverage of Operation Swarmer taking place northeast of Samarrah, the chyron banner running at the bottom of the screen read: "DOD: Decision to Send 700 U.S. Soldiers Freed Up Forces" and immediately after that: "Troops Being Sent Back into Iraq from Neighboring Kuwait."

From Baghdad, Fox News reporter Andrew Stack also reported that "the extra U.S. forces that are being flown in from Kuwait are guading shrines" that are of similar importance to the golden-domed shrine blown up a few weeks ago in Samarrah.

In other words, the business about needing extra troops because of the Muslim holy days was a bunch of baloney. Lesson? Take anything you hear from the military with a grain of salt. It may have been a "necessary" deception, but it still was a deception.

It was a deception that got past Dayside co-hosts Mike Jerrick and Juliet Huddy, who were ga-ga over the biggest air assault since April 2003. They interviewed three retired military officials, none of whom was on the scene or knew anything more about the operation than what they were seeing on television.

U.S. Army Lt. General Tom McInerney, Marine Corps Lt. Col. BIll Cowan, and Army Major Bob Bevelacqua could only offer suppositions and generalizations in response to questions from both audience members and the co-hosts. Rather than conveying information or analysis, the major purpose of the military officers' presence was to allow Fox News to "wear the uniform."

All three officers, as well as Baier, stressed the role of the Iraqi army in the operation. "I think part of this was to show that the Iraqis are capable of this kind of air assault and we've seen that they've been training for this for a long time," said Baier. Cowan noted: "It's a good story for Iraqis" and "This helps build their confidence."

Beyond that, their comments were sometimes contradictory. Baier gave the impression that the Iraqis were rappeling down ropes from the helicopters into the area, while Cowan said only the 101st Airborne would do that and members of the Iraqi Army 1st Brigade were on the ground guarding the perimeter while the Americans landed. "This is all speculation on my part," he said. Gee, that's helpful.

Regardless of how the Iraqi soldiers got there, McInerney thought they were valuable because "they can start talking to people and they can tell right away whether he's an Iraqi, whether he's a Syrian, whether he's a Saudi. So that helps weed it out." Since 99 percent of the insurgents are Iraqis, not many people actually are being "weeded out" by this process, however.

McInerney though "they've got some high value targets out there that they're going after" but Bevelacqua thought if anyone truly high value was the target, such as Zarqawi, only a small group of elite troops would have gone in and the operation wouldn't have been televised.

Throughout the interviews, Fox News showed video, but the source of the video was not always labeled. Was it shot by Fox News' own cameras, by The Associated Press, or provided by the military? Was it footage of the actual operation or file footage? Some video of C-130 gunships in operation showed them firing, but Baier had reported that there was no resistance. So it must have been file footage And what was the point of showing them firing if they didn't fire in the actual operation? Only to keep things exciting for Fox viewers with short attention spans.

Huddy and Jerrick also brought in two politicians, who again offered conflicting information. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina, termed it a "big day" for Iraqis, not only because of the big air assault, but also because the Iraqi assembly was sworn in today. Leave it to Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tennessee, to point out that the assembly could only meet for a few minutes and then had to adjourn because of members' inability to agree on a speaker.

Is this what Fox News means by "fair and balanced" -- one guest utters a half-truth and the next one adds the context that undermines the statements of the first one?

That kind of balancing act leaves me dizzy.

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