If you haven't heard about this, for once it's not because the mainstream media didn't cover it. The fact that it was staged was given more airtime than the content of the event itself. The reason? The preparatory discussions were broadcast on-the-air.
Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Allison Barber was clearly seen and heard giving the troops a brief rundown on what questions W would be asking, and what their answers should roughly include. The back-and-forth between the troops and W then went on to sound an awful lot like the same answers, except more clearly rehearsed--except, of course, for the Iraqi soldier who couldn't speak a lick of English. Bush went to him expecting an answer ("You got somethin to say, Akil?") verging on a topical response, but instead got "Good morning, Mr. President. Thank you for everything. Thank you very much for everything," and then "I like yous." Now I'll grant, that's a lot more in English than I can speak in Iraqi, but it's not exactly great "conversation."
Which brings me to the title of this post. For something as meticulously scripted as this teleconference, don't you think Ms. Barber would have probed the depths of Akil's English proficiency? Wouldn't she have found a more fluent Iraqi soldier? Or, if advance planning still left a stumbling Akil on the panel, wouldn't she have told Bush to transition to him a little more smoothly?
Another theory is one that I heard proposed by a listener to the Ed Schultz Show. This theory states that the entire performance put on by the troops in the teleconference was what is known as a "white mutiny." Basically, a white mutiny is when you are given a self-defeating or poorly-considered order from an incompetent superior, and you follow it to the ridiculous end just to make your superior look like the jocko he is.
I like that theory, and I will support the troops by trusting that they're intelligent and honest enough to know when they're being used, and crafty enough to subtly point it out.
Oh, and speaking of Ms. Barber and the Ed Schultz Show, here's a nice post-script to the story. Ed was supposed to start airing on Armed Forces Radio on 10/17. On 10/14, the day after the teleconference, he opened his program with a lot of audio clips that made Ms. Barber look pretty foolish. Guess who was no longer scheduled to air on Armed Forces Radio by Monday morning?
That's right. Ed Schultz was pulled off of AFRN because he criticized the Defense Department, and Allison Barber in particular.
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