The President's Political Puppets

The movie Rocky 6 is now in the works. This film project is clearly a publicity stunt intended to boost Sylvester Stallone’s slumping movie career. Yesterday, the White House manufactured an even greater publicity stunt with a live teleconference featuring 10 soldiers in Iraq. Clearly, the event was designed to bolster the President’s sliding political career. You can view the video by clicking here

This thing was not just staged, it was superstaged. In a disgusting display, the President again used our troops as political props in an event so scripted that it basically turned into a conversation with himself. I wish the White House had put this much effort into post-war planning when my platoon hit Baghdad.

Not only were the teleconference troops told what to say by Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Allison Barber, they were also prevented from speaking freely by the looming threat of their ground commanders. Undoubtedly there was a PAO (Public Affairs Officer—likely someone ranking Major or higher) standing directly off-camera making sure the soldiers spoke in line with White House directives. Every troop presented an upbeat view of the situation on the ground in Iraq. There was no talk of armor issues or mortars attacks. A token Iraqi soldier in the group at one point gushed to President Bush, “Thank you very much for everything. I like you!”

When I was an Infantry Platoon leader in Iraq, I was interviewed by CBS 60 Minutes. As the tape was rolling, my commanding officer stood behind the camera carefully listening to my every word with his arms crossed. I knew it wouldn’t be fun for me if I strayed from the prescribed talking points. That incident was one of the motivating factors that led me to create Operation Truth--an organization that truly represents the candid voice of our troops and Veterans. The voices we heard today were neither candid nor representative.

The makeup of this group at the teleconference was not an accurate reflection of our forces on the ground in Iraq. Let’s look into the composition of the 10 troops who spoke with the President. 5 of the 10 were officers. 0 were black. In actuality, officers constitute 15% of the overall military. 20% of that force is black. No wonder the President’s approval rating among African Americans is so low.

This teleconference did not present the real voice of the troops. It was a shameful and misguided use of our military. The Commander in Chief has no right to use America’s sons and daughters as a defibrillator for his ailing Presidency.