The U.S. military has gotten smart about Congressional delegations to Iraq. They realize such "codels" are more about publicity and propaganda than they are about seeking "truth." In fact,lawmakers are angry that their hosts have thumbnail sketches of their Iraq war statements, which help Iraqi and U.S. officials as well as low-level grunts know whose side these politicians are on.
The bio of Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.) -- "TAU (rhymes with 'now')-sher," the bio helpfully relates -- was no less pointed, even if she once supported the war and has taken heat from liberal Bay Area constituents who remain wary of her position. "Our forces are caught in the middle of an escalating sectarian conflict in Iraq, with no end in sight," the bio quotes.
"This is beyond parsing. This is being slimed in the Green Zone," Tauscher said of her bio.
More than two dozen House members and senators have used the August recess to travel to Iraq in the hope of getting a firsthand view of the war ahead of commanding Gen. David H. Petraeus's progress report in two weeks on Capitol Hill. But it appears that the trips have been as much about Iraqi and U.S. officials sizing up Congress as the members of Congress sizing up the war.
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."
Of course the cut-and-run crowd doesn't like being labelled that way. They want all the red carpet treatment afforded their status as members of Congress without the accountability associated with their hosts knowing their individual positions.
It's unsurprising that the trips are "choreographed and carefully controlled." It's a war zone, for crying out loud. What do they expect to happen?