Wednesday, April 16, 2008

We're going to pump you up

Via Kevin Drum, an article by attorney Phillip Carter, who spent time in Iraq with the U.S. Army, discussing the president's most recent comments about the war:
If security conditions improve, we'll stay longer in order to consolidate those gains and facilitate political progress. And if security conditions deteriorate, we'll stay in order to restore order and prevent chaos. How exactly does this translate into anything other than an indefinite stay in Iraq?
Carter goes on to quote Bush from a Friday interview with Martha Raddatz of ABC:

RADDATZ: But the overall thing -- when you say, "We're winning," you know what the American people hear. You know how that will play.

BUSH: Well, yes. I think we -- and I wanted -- that's as much trying to bolster the spirits of the people in the field as well as -- look, you can't have the commander in chief say to a bunch of kids who are sacrificing either, "It's not worth it," or, "You're losing." I mean, what does that do for morale? I'm the commander in chief of the military as well, obviously, as, you know, somebody who speaks to the country. And if you look at my remarks, they were balanced. They weren't Pollyannaish.

Carter has a problem with this:
The dissonance between the rhetoric from Washington and our experience in Iraq was stark. We knew the ground truth. Being deceived by our senior political leaders certainly didn't change that, nor did it help morale at all. If anything, it hurt morale by undermining confidence in the chain of command. Put bluntly, if you can't trust your generals and political leaders to tell you and your families the truth, how can you trust them at all?

It's disappointing to hear now, two years after the fact, that the president was knowingly bull----ing us the whole time. And that he justified such dishonesty in the name of supporting the troops and protecting their morale. That's an insult to America's men and women in uniform (and their families), who deserve to be told the truth by their political leaders about what's going on. It's also an insult to us, as voters, who deserve the truth so we can make the right decisions in the voting booth.
But, of course, this is the spirit of the times. People in power, across all walks of life, tell the people what they think they want to hear, especially if it lets them get out of the room without having to answer tough questions. I worked in a company in which the CEO would conduct these town hall meetings, where he or another executive would speak about something, usually very positively, then take questions from the employees. Invariably, as this company slid down into the post-tech boom abyss, real events would contradict the rosy picture within a week or two of the town hall meeting.

One time, the CEO said that he had seen no plans for future layoffs. That may have been true, but the plans must have been put in the limo for his trip back to HQ, because they came pretty soon after that statement.

Look, "morale" is a smokescreen. Everyone in that company knew fully well how poorly things were going, and, if they had missed it, they got it after the first round of layoffs. Morale was lousy, but we didn't have a lot of alternatives as to where we might go.

If you have a brain, you realize that your "leadership" is either lying to you, or very, very stupid (and you can never rule out both). And these lies aren't strategic, they aren't part of a plan to maintain the spirit of the workforce. They're simply ways of avoiding an unpleasant subject.

We're hearing the same rhetoric about the current economic difficulties. If we'd just stay positive, spend those rebate checks on consumer goods, and keep in that mellow mood, everything will turn out OK.

Except that it won't, and no amount of cheerleading will change those fundamental realities.

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