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Wag the Turkey


See: Madsen’s follow-up: Wagging the Media

Yes folks, we are now all bit players in a real-life version of the movie “Wag the Dog.” President Bush and his GOP advisers are ecstatic that the president made a secret trip to Baghdad to be with U.S. troops for a “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner. His polling numbers — which I contend are as fixed as a Florida election — will undoubtedly receive a huge boost.

I may be a bit naive, and it has been a while since I served on active duty, but I can’t recall ever sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner at 6:00 AM. Air Force One touched down at Baghdad International Airport, under cover of darkness, at 5:20 AM Baghdad time. Bush was on the ground for two and a half hours, his plane departing Baghdad at around 7:50 AM. Considering that it likely took some 30 minutes for Bush to disembark from Air Force One and travel by a heavily secured motorcade to the hangar where the troops were assembled, that means our military men and women were downing turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and non-alcoholic beer at a time when most people would be eating eggs, bacon, grits, home fries, and toast.

But there on national television, when most Americans were preparing to sit down to their own traditional Thanksgiving dinners, we saw a tape of President Bush serving mashed potatoes and corn to American troops at a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal in the early hours of the morning. What’s more, when a clearly exhausted Bush strode around a curtain — after a “What’s My Line” mystery guest routine by Iraq proconsul L. Paul Bremer — 600 American troops were said to be “shocked and awed” by Bush’s surprise appearance. I would have thought most of the troops, many of whom are support personnel who work relatively normal working hours, would have been more surprised when they were ordered to get up before sunrise to eat Thanksgiving dinner between 6:00 and 7:30 A.M.

And the abysmal and sycophantic Washington and New York press corps seems to have completely missed the Thanksgiving “breakfast dinner.” Chalk that up to the fact that most people in the media never saw a military chow line or experienced reveille in their lives. So it would certainly go over their heads that troops would be ordered out of bed to eat turkey and stuffing before the crack of dawn.

Democratic presidential candidates will be scurrying to regain ground from Bush’s surprise trip and previous indicators that the economy is on a rebound. Of course, economic indicators emanate from public and private institutions controlled by GOP political operatives. With an all time high of 4000 people in Washington, DC having their Thanksgiving dinners courtesy of DC’s Central Kitchen for the homeless, those economic indicators seem as phony as Florida’s vote totals. And you will never see Bush serving meals to the homeless. What would Bush’s handlers do? Have the homeless applaud him? Bush’s handlers could have propaganda signs in the background that proclaim: “Fighting homelessness through tax cuts for billionaires.”

We should not be surprised or even “shocked and awed” that the Bush administration would resort to yet another manipulation of the media to craft public opinion. We all remember Bush’s landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln with the banner “Mission Accomplished.” We were told Bush had to fly to the carrier because the ship was too far off shore for a helicopter trip. Yes, the Lincoln was so far off shore that if the camera angles were different, viewers could have seen the San Diego skyline and the top of the Coronado Bridge.

Then there was Bush’s State of the Union address in which he cited Iraq’s desire to purchase uranium from Africa. We now know that allegation was based on bogus documents laundered by the intelligence service of the Italian proto-fascist prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

As political handlers like Karl Rove continue to remold Bush like a lump of Playdough, first from a Texas rancher, then to a Navy fighter pilot complete with a corresponding action figure, and now to a globe hopping “James Bond,” let us not forget that the war against Iraq was a violation of international law. Even arch-neoconservative war hawk Richard Perle has conceded that point. Rove and company will be pulling more tricks out of their bags as the 2004 presidential campaign approaches. Intelligent Americans everywhere — and there are many of them — should pause and think about what they are hearing and seeing on television.

Meanwhile, anyone care for eggs and bacon with their turkey?

WAYNE MADSEN is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth. He is the co-author, with John Stanton, of “America’s Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II.

Madsen can be reached at:


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