Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Wednesday, May 12, 2004


Pentagon PR Lesson

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a “communications” officer for the US Central Command. Imagine that you have a potentially explosive scandal on your hands, complete with vivid photographic evidence. Then imagine your dilemma: you know you’re screwed, sooner or later, if you say nothing at all; yet you also know that the less you say, the better the odds are that the problem will simply slip away unnoticed.

So what would you do?

Simple: you’d put out a very short, very dull press release. Ideally, you’d make it as brief and uninteresting as possible. You'd just want to put something out, in order to get it on record, so that if (or when) it becomes a problem -- you can always go back and say, not completely untruthfully, that you “did the right thing” and “went out and told the world.”

It might read a lot like this one, the one that Rumsfeld keeps citing, which I quote here in its entirety:
January 16, 2004
Release Number: 04-01-43



BAGHDAD, Iraq – An investigation has been initiated into reported incidents of detainee abuse at a Coalition Forces detention facility. The release of specific information concerning the incidents could hinder the investigation, which is in its early stages. The investigation will be conducted in a thorough and professional manner. The Coalition is committed to treating all persons under its control with dignity, respect and humanity. Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the Commanding General, has reiterated this requirement to all members of CJTF-7.

Deft work, you must admit. Short, clichéd, and not only lacking in specifics -- but complete with a convenient explanation for why the specifics cannot be released. If you wanted it to be ignored, it would be hard to improve on.


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