I've dug further into the history of First Lieutenant Gregg Murphy of the 278th Regimental Combat Team and found that there's more to Murphy than meets the lens. His pro-Bush rhetoric is sprinkled throughout the media in articles dating back a year.
This begs the question: how could one soldier get so much face time?
Was Murphy like other soldiers, giving Americans a "sincere" assesment from the field -- as Scott McClellan claimed at his White House press briefing Thursday? Or could he be part of a larger scheme -- involving already outed Seargent-cum-shill Corine Lombardo -- to covertly stack the media deck with pro-war, pro-Bush voices?
Let's review the evidence.
For his part in Thursday's PR charade, Lt. Murphy told the president:
Sir, we are prepared to do whatever it takes to make this thing a success... Back in January, when we were preparing for that election, we had to lead the way. We set up the coordination, we made the plan. We're really happy to see, during the preparation for this one, sir, they're doing everything.Publicity officer Corine Lombardo -- who helped choreograph Thursday's show -- likely knew from earlier articles that Murphy would praise Bush's war effort. In a June article in the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, Murphy rushed to Bush's defense:
"President Bush is absolutely right in staying the course here," said Lt. Gregg Murphy, of Chattanooga, in an e-mail. "Who is going to preserve human rights and protect the huge investment for peace that we have already made if not the U.S. military?"Murphy waves the flag in several other Times-Free Press stories. Most come from the pen of Edward Lee Pitts, the journalist who last December prompted a soldier to ask Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about the lack of armor for U.S. military vehicles in Iraq -- an exchange that became a global embarrassment for the administration.
Here's Murphy in action in a 2004 Lee Pitts story:
Recruiters said their biggest promotional tools are combat veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, who are helping bolster the ranks by tapping into the South's tradition of patriotism.After the Bush-op, Lt. Murphy told Channel 3 in Burlington that "it was real honor to talk to the man. It's been a great day." Murphy added that he had no idea why he was selected to speak with the President. I suspect the Lieutenant wasn't being entirely honest on that score. His next statement to the newscast gives some indication:
Lt. Gregg Murphy, of Chattanooga, is one of about 4,000 soldiers with the 278th Regimental Combat Team now in Iraq. He said in an e-mail that he would jump at the chance to "set the record straight about Iraq" by telling "the real story of soldiers, not the blood, guts and carnage."
He said returning soldiers could counter the media's focus on the losses in Iraq by talking about ongoing humanitarian work there such as new schools, libraries and water projects."
Working closely with the Iraqi army has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I've worked hand in hand with these guys daily, both at the platoon and company level. These guys they are prepared, they're already operating independently, they're doing their own thing.Publicity officer Lombardo couldn't have written a better script. To her dismay, though, all soldiers aren't parroting Murphy's line for the media. [10-19: Murphy writes to explain] There's more dissent in the rank and file than Bush's team would like to be known.
Lebkuchen also found a series of letters published in the soldiers' newspaper "Stars and Stripes," which paint a more accurate picture -- not so much of an “Army of One” but a military that is deeply divided over this war. Here's an example from Army Maj. William E. Bailey:
The longer we stay, the harder it will be to leave because of the resources wasted on this sad desert land. The longer we stay, the more hated we will become. It is time for us to go.There's much more at DemocraticUnderground. Lebkuchen writes that "these are the views Bush's handlers want to keep suppressed and why they must carefully screen and prep their military 'props.'"
To learn more about the war from honest soldiers, visit Paul Rieckhoff’s organization, Operation Truth. Paul -- who served for ten months in Iraq as an Infantry Platoon Leader in the 3rd Infantry and 1st Armored Divisions -- tells me that Operation Truth works on behalf of ordinary enlisted soldiers to amplify their voice in our nation’s decisions regarding the military. His Website is an outlet for many who see their efforts and concerns being misrepresented by mainstream media. About Thursday's media charade, Rieckhoff writes:
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.Operation Truth presents a more gritty view of Iraq regularly overlooked by the nightly news -- and feared by Bush’s propagandists. And for that, I don’t think we’ll be seeing Rieckhoff in any future photo-ops with the president.
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