October 18, 2005

Soldiers' Answers Weren't Scripted

Hatched by Sachi

When we wrote about the so-called "staged" teleconference between the president, ten American soldiers, and one Iraqi soldier, we introduced Sgt. Ron Long, who actually participated in the conference. We e-mailed Sgt. Long to ask if the soldiers themselves actually wrote their own answers, or if the answers were supplied by (or even edited by) the White House.

Sgt. Long did not respond personally, but he answered the same question in his blog. The blogpost quotes a fellow soldier from the 278th Regimental Combat Team, Lt. Gregg Murphy, who was interviewed by the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Murphy was chosen for the Tikrit teleconference because he had spent the last three months leading an Iraqi army training program near the Iranian border. The article is titled "Soldiers' questions weren't scripted, participant says," by Edward Lee Pitts.

"We wanted to give President Bush a no-kidding assessment of what we have all been working 14- (to) 18-hour days on for the last 11 months," said Lt. Gregg Murphy, of Chattanooga. "We gave him the God’s honest truth as we know it."

Although the soldiers themselves gathered before the teleconference to "brainstorm" what questions President Bush was likely to ask and how best and most accurately they could answer, there was no coercion, suggestion, or even editing by administration personnel.

[Lt. Murphy] said the only guidance the solders received was to avoid using military jargon that would confuse the general public and to write out bullet points to keep their comments concise and clear. Lt. Murphy said writing out key points kept the soldiers from being nervous.

"[Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Allison Barber] did not orchestrate the interview," Lt. Murphy said of the Defense Department employee. "We were nervous, and she put us at ease. Nothing more."

As for the reharsal, Lt. Murphy has this to say:

[T]he military rehearses all the time. "We do that so that when we actually have to execute, there isn’t any confusion," he said. "Rehearsing is why we are so good at what we do."

This should be the final refutation of the initial knee-jerk and entirely predictable -- scripted, if you will -- response by the Associated Press, reprinted in the Washington Post, that smarmily implied (without quite saying) that the soldiers were either too dumb or too intimidated by the president to give honest answers, and that the White House had scripted the entire event.

On the one hand, you can believe the nod-and-a-wink insinuations of a reporter whose only connection to the teleconference is that he saw some of the rehearsal inadvertently broadcast -- footage that does not show even one single reported instance of the White House altering a soldier's answer. Or you can believe the straightforward words of two of the actual participants in the teleconference, a lieutenant and a sergeant who have each spent many months fighting in Iraq (the latter as a combat medic) and are still there on the ground, dealing with Iraqi citizens, Coalition forces, and terrorists on a day-to-day basis.

It's your choice.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, October 18, 2005, at the time of 3:25 PM

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The following hissed in response by: RBMN

It's just sad that the purpose of the original story was never fact-finding, but rather Bush-bashing. Otherwise it might require some correction. But, since the follow-up can't make the Bush Administration look bad, then no correction needed. No advantage in correcting that.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 18, 2005 7:21 PM

The following hissed in response by: RedTory

I see you're still pounding away at this nail with about the same level of effectiveness as that which Bush haplessly demonstrated at that Habitat House the other week.

The above hissed in response by: RedTory [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 19, 2005 12:25 AM

The following hissed in response by: stackja1945

People in a democracy are free to say what they want to say, and how they say it is their business, and the MSM should get out of the way.

The above hissed in response by: stackja1945 [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 19, 2005 2:59 AM

The following hissed in response by: Steelhand

There was a bit of stir in conservative circles as to why Bush wasn't out front telling of the successes in Iraq. This is why. The desire to embarrass him overwhelms any interest in telling the truth. Even when he wins he loses.

Kinda like Florida.

The above hissed in response by: Steelhand [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 19, 2005 5:01 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Speaking of scripted stuff, I wonder how Ronnie Earle is feeling about his scripted prosecution of Tom Delay about now?
It is turning out his is a staged political prosecution lacking crime, law and evidence.
But for dems, those little issues never get in the way.
The teleconference with Bush was no different than any any President is going to make: planned as well as possible.
That the lefty losers need to pretend it was unusual and illegitimate is simply the MSM demonstrating once again their lack of integrity.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 19, 2005 6:19 AM

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