How much of a network newscast depends on anonymous sources? And isn't it more suspicious when the anonymous sources all agree on the liberal-media thesis (actually, the John Kerry thesis) that the best we can hope for in Iraq is a stable dictatorship? Friday night's NBC Nightly News led with a British general saying all is lost, and notice how Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski presents Pentagon opinion constantly through anonymous sources (and a couple of prominent and regular Bush war critics). Apparently, all the finest military minds are unanimous, and a debate is unnecessary:
Brian Williams, beginning the show: "It was the shot heard around the world, and it came from the commander of the British Army. He is on the record as saying British troops have no business in Iraq and should come home. While he has since changed his stance a bit, his words sent shock waves through British forces. It wasn't what American forces needed to hear, either, as they are already facing an unraveling and violent situation on the ground, counter to their goal of democracy taking hold. We begin here tonight at the Pentagon with our Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski. Jim, good evening."
Miklaszewski: "Good evening, Brian.The general's remarks also sent political shock waves through both the British and US governments, but what the British general had to say publicly is what many US generals are saying privately.General Sir Richard Dannatt dropped the bombshell when he told a London newspaper that British troops must pull out of Iraq soon because their very presence leads to more violence. After setting off a political firestorm, Dannatt today backed off, but only slightly."
General Richard Dannatt (British Army Chief): "We will see it through to the end, but we can't allow it to go on indefinitely."
Miklaszewski: "But the general stuck to his guns about the presence of British troops increasing the violence."
Gen. Dannatt: "We're exacerbating it in the sense that because we are there, we provide a target, and we are attacked. Ergo, if we are not there, we wouldn't be attacked, and this situation would be calmer."
Miklaszewski: "It may sound surprising, but that's not far off the position of U.S. military commanders. Despite a recent spike in deadly sectarian violence, senior U.S. military officials fear that throwing many more American troops into the fight would only intensify the problem and increase US casualties. More troubling, senior U.S. military officials tell NBC News, quote, 'The fabric of law in Iraq is unraveling,' and fear that Prime Minister Maliki will not deliver on his pledge to take on sectarian militias."
General Barry McCaffrey, Retired, United States Army [and ahem, drug czar in the Clinton administration]: "Baghdad is a disaster. It's moving in the wrong direction. The politics of consensus is disappearing in Iraq. We're in trouble."
Miklaszewski: "In fact, British General Dannatt also claimed that it is naive to think that a liberal democracy can ever be established in Iraq. Senior U.S. military officials agree, saying there appears little hope that Iraq will become a full-fledged democracy, but appears instead headed toward a theocracy where religion would dominate all aspects of government. Some foreign policy experts believe that may be the best outcome the Bush administration can get."
Michael O'Hanlon, Brookings Institution Military Analyst [and ahem, pro-Clinton Democrat]: "There's no doubt that a theocracy or any kind of a strongman rule would fall short of our original goals, but I think most Americans are pragmatic enough that if we could get that kind of an outcome, with stability, we would take it."
Miklaszewski: "And some military officials agree, saying that the Bush administration will have to lower its expectations for Iraq before it can start bringing U.S. troops home. Brian?"
Williams: "Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon tonight. Jim, thanks for that."
How do we know that Miklaszewski isn't channeling the views of U.S. military officials that dearly want to embarrass President Bush, or get Donald Rumsfeld sacked? We don't. They're anonymous.