Spinning members of Congress in Baghdad: Lobster tortellini, cheat sheets and children’s cartoons

The Bush administration has been in full campaign mode over the Iraq war since it started. They’ve put enormous time and resources into messaging the war, not so much into a strategy to extricate the U.S. from the quagmire. Over the past week, there have been several article demonstrating the public relations push the Bush team made with members of Congress visiting Iraq this summer:

On a Sunday morning in early August, just hours after Congress had recessed for the summer, Representative Jan Schakowsky and five of her colleagues boarded a military jet at Andrews Air Force Base. Three flights and a Black Hawk helicopter ride later, they were lunching on asparagus soup and lobster tortellini at the home of Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker in Baghdad.

Somehow, lobster tortellini isn’t the first thing I would expect in Baghdad. But, it’s all part of the show.

Today, the Washington Post reports that soldiers meeting with members of Congress were giving cheat sheets described as “a thumbnail biography, distributed before each of the congressmen’s meetings in Baghdad, which let meeting participants such as that soldier know where each of the lawmakers stands on the war.” Let’s face it. That’s the kind of info needed to lobby members of Congress. One more time, the Bush administration was using troops for their own political purposes. The Post piece gave insight into just how contrived the visits are:

Brief, choreographed and carefully controlled, the codels (short for congressional delegations) often have showed only what the Pentagon and the Bush administration have wanted the lawmakers to see. At one point, as Moran, Tauscher and Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) were heading to lunch in the fortified Green Zone, an American urgently tried to get their attention, apparently to voice concerns about the war effort, the participants said. Security whisked the man away before he could make his point.

Tauscher called it “the Green Zone fog.”

“Spin City,” Moran grumbled. “The Iraqis and the Americans were all singing from the same song sheet, and it was deliberately manipulated.”

But even such tight control could not always filter out the bizarre world inside the barricades. At one point, the three were trying to discuss the state of Iraqi security forces with Iraq’s national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, but the large, flat-panel television set facing the official proved to be a distraction. Rubaie was watching children’s cartoons.

When Moran asked him to turn it off, Rubaie protested with a laugh and said, “But this is my favorite television show,” Moran recalled.

Porter confirmed the incident, although he tried to paint the scene in the best light, noting that at least they had electricity.

You can’t make this stuff up, although the Bush administration makes stuff up about Iraq all the time.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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