Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Oscar Nominees Announced

If you want to see the complete list of Oscar nominees, here it is. At first glance, I'd say it's pretty good... I'm very glad that Amy Adams got her deserved nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The one glaring omission is the failure to nominate Werner Herzog's Grizzy Man for Best Documentary Feature, since it was easily one of the best films, period, of the year (the bounce occured earlier than this round, though). It's heartening that more documentaries actually get domestic American distribution these days, and the field always tends to be deep... but the Herzog omission recalls the 1994 snub of Hoop Dreams. Still, for the Academy, this is pretty damn good list. This year, without a runaway, traditional Hollywood blockbuster, the pickings for the major awards contain more indies and semi-indies/mini-majors. 2005 featured some quiet, fine work... and in several categories I'd be pleased with any of the nominees winning.

Monday, January 16, 2006


Rather than writing about the obvious importance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I thought it best to post his most famous speech, from August 28th, 1963. It still gives me chills. You can hear and see it at the following excellent site , but the text is below:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

In Defense of Propaganda?

Last Tuesday, The Washington Post ran an op-ed by on the value of propaganda by Reuel Marc Gerecht of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. He raises some interesting points, but to my mind, avoids some key factors and essentially dodges the central questions raised by the use of propaganda in Iraq. He starts off:

Once again we are confronted with stories about how the Pentagon and its ubiquitous private contractors are undermining free inquiry in Iraq. "Muslim Scholars Were Paid to Aid U.S. Propaganda," reports the New York Times. Journalists, intellectuals or clerics taking money from Uncle Sam or, in this case, a Washington-based public relations company, is seen as morally troubling and counterproductive. Sensible Muslims obviously would not want to listen to the advice of an American-paid consultant; anti-insurgent Sunni clerics can now all be slurred as corrupt stooges.

There is one big problem with this baleful version of events. Historically, it doesn't make much sense...

The main substance for Gerecht’s argument is the use of covert operations by the CIA in the Soviet Union during the Cold War (but his short op-ed deserves a full read before reading this post). He was scheduled for an online chat that day, so after reading his op-ed, I dashed off a quick question for him. As it so happens, he picked mine to run with first. You can read the transcript of the entire online chat here. My question/comment to him was:

Your op-ed conflates several issues, thus obfuscating and dodging the real ethical questions raised by the Pentagon's use of propaganda in Iraq. As the LA Times initially reported on 11/30/05, the U.S. military was "secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops" and presenting them as "unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists." This is far different from helping to support a newspaper without its editors' knowledge and certainly a far cry from translating a pre-existing book and distributing it (you fail to disclose the book or the leader). Parse the specifics if you wish, but for instance, when I hear Robert Novak speak, I expect a particular political slant but I do not expect to hear that he was paid money by an outside entity to espouse a specific view, as was the case this for Armstrong Williams, several thinktank writers (for Abramoff), and apparently, those that wrote for the Pentagon. Advocacy is far different than propaganda… but I'm sure you know this. You touch on this briefly when you state that in past programs the CIA had not "manipulated the final product." This cannot realistically be said of the Pentagon.

While I (and other readers, I'm sure) appreciate a thoughtful, contrarian piece, as of yet you've only provided an interesting sidebar to the real issues. The use of propaganda raises profound ethical issues, especially given our stated goal of spreading democracy in Iraq. The other key issue is, is it effective? You write that one can't gauge the full effective of covert operations, but you suggest they have been highly useful in the past. Have you read *any* (independent) source in Iraq in the Middle East that has praised or defended this use of propaganda? It makes us look, very, very bad, and further undercuts our credibility. Your chief objection to the current operation is that it was botched. Do you really think an Iraqi family still without steady electricity, clean water, or income is going to be swayed by reading an upbeat newspaper article? Do you really think, even *before* the propaganda revelation, such articles were not suspect to Iraqis, who are accustomed to state-controlled news? (Read Morley's world news blog.) If we really want to win "hearts and minds," our energy would be better served focussed on performance, not PR.

While I’m avid reader of the Post’s online chats, this is only the second time I’ve submitted a question, and the first time I’ve had one published. Reading over my quickly-penned question, I’d say it’s pointed, perhaps even slightly hostile, but still attempts to be relatively civil in tone. I felt Gerecht was being somewhat disingenuous in his op-ed, but I wanted to focus on his actual argument (which ducked the central questions).

Gerecht’s response was:

Reuel Marc Gerecht: You bring up several questions. I'll just answer a few. First, I don't think it is ethically or professionally wise for US officials to masquerade as journalists, if that is in fact what happened. I have no problem at all with the US government paying Iraqis, overtly or covertly, to start newspapers that promote democracy. I have no problem with the US government paying Iraqi intellectuals and scholars to write about post-Saddam Iraq and the merits of an open society. I don't see US covert sponsorship as necessarily corrupting---if so, then you have damned an amazing number of the best Western minds of the twentieth century. An examination of Cold War history I think leads one to the opposite conclusion: that covert US aid helped Europeans to establish a free and vigorous civil society. Is this work effective? This is an excellent question. When looking at the enormous range of CA projects in the Cold War, I certainly can't answer that question case by case. These things are cumulative. The evil of Soviet communism certainly by itself was the best teacher, but if we recall, the number of people, particuarly on the left, who did not see this evil, who recoiled from appending the word to the USSR and its satellites, was astonishing. Even in the 1980s, when the nature of the regimes should have been evident to the blind, deaf, and dumb. The debates that the CIA helped provoke--the platforms that it covertly funded--unquestionably, I think, helped to expose this villany and the weaknesses in the arguments on the other side---particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. Best, RMG

I have to give Gerecht credit for a fairly thoughtful response. I wrote him a quick follow-up question which he may have read but with limited time did not get a chance to reply to. I forgot to save a copy of it, but it roughly said:

Thank you for a thoughtful response to my question. I briefly studied in Russia and heard many firsthand accounts of the perils of honest discussion and dissent in the Soviet era (and the Stalinist era is particularly well documented in Conquest’s The Great Terror). I have no problem with funding scholars, which I view as different from propaganda, but the point’s well taken this gets into grey areas. An essential difference emerges, however. We were not the ruling, occupying force in the Soviet Union. We are exactly that in Iraq. Thus, when we use propaganda and the practice is discovered, it’s the not the credibility and support of our opponents we’ve undermining, it’s our own.

This point relates the argument Gerecht poses in his first paragraph, which is something a straw man. Okay, it might not be great if The New York Times readership thinks ill of the Pentagon’s tactics. But the key issue has always been what Iraqis think of them. Gerecht’s main objection to the Pentagon propaganda is that it’s been incompetently handled. He does not have an ethical problem with it (I do). However, in his response to me he also ducks the real issue of effectiveness somewhat by using a faulty Soviet Union analogy and by ignoring the reaction of Iraqis to the propaganda news (everything I’ve read to date suggests it has not been positive!).

Another questioner made one of my key points much better than I did:

Wichita Falls, Tex.: I don't think you addressed the main criticism of the Lincoln Group program: that its anti-free press nature damages our efforts to create a democratic society. When we don't practice what we preach, we look like hypocrites with ulterior motives. All of the CIA programs you mention--RFE/RL, book distribution, and funding of opposition press--were rooted in the idea of and worked to spread free speech. Covert or not, they were honest. The Lincoln Group program, however, puts a false name on our own content. It tells Iraqis that we're willing to lie to them to win them over. Doesn't this run counter to our goals to establish democracy in Iraq?

Reuel Marc Gerecht: The vast majority of CIA programs during the Cold War were covert and in that sense falsely labelled. The historical case for these programs aiding the growth of free speech and free inquiry in post-war Europe is pretty strong. I don't ethically or professionally see why the case should be different in Iraq. I would, however, stop using the Lincoln Group and force Langlety to again develop the expertise necessary to conduct covert operations in Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East. Best, RMG

The most authoritative question/comment, however, was the following:

Washington, D.C.: I'd like to ensure that the discussion clearly delineates between the typical purveyors of propaganda, i.e., psyops or special forces, which is fully expected, and the newer practice of using the news media to spread propaganda. As a former Army public affairs officer and the former director of public affairs for all U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, I am fully against the use of the news media to spread propaganda. The U.S. government, and as an extension its military, must maintain a credible and truthful relationship with the news media. People must continue to believe that when a commander or public affairs officer speaks through the media, he/she is telling the truth.

And in our global information society, using the excuse that only local media are being used for propaganda purposes is no longer valid. Anything published in the news media can find its way to U.S. media, thereby serving to "propagandize" Americans, which is clearly forbidden by U.S. law and DOD regulations.

Reuel Marc Gerecht: I don't think the US military should be involved with founding newspapers or academic foundations or funding journalists. It isn't wise. Best, RMG

Gerecht essentially contradicts the thesis of his op-ed here. You will not find this very reasonable view, one that he decries in his first paragraphs, anywhere expressed in the op-ed itself. Was the op-ed primarily an intellectual exercise in arguing a contrarian view? Is his only objection that the CIA, not the military, should handle propaganda? I would like to account Gerecht a higher standing that apologist for the Bush administration, but I have to wonder. The Soviet analogy simply does not hold up (nor does comparison with Germany or Japan after WWII), nor do virtually any of his points. If one believes that “lies for the public good” are told primarily to benefit the public versus those who choose to withhold information, then one will likely agree with Gerecht. If one believes that the CIA and other government agencies almost always exercise fine judgment and should be allowed great discretion to do most of what they please, then one will agree with Gerecht. However, his argument on its merits is weak.

As another interesting sidebar, George Packer wrote in The Assassin’s Gate that the Bush administration asked the American Enterprise Institute to help draw up postwar plans. He reports:

In October 2002, Leslie Gelb, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, had approached Rice and Hadley with an offer of help. The council and two other think tanks, the Heritage Foundation and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, would form a consortium that would gather a panel of experts to provide facts and options for the postwar. Their work would be politically palatable, coming from across the ideological spectrum, not insisting on a single plan that would corner the administration. “This is just what we need,” Rice said. “We’ll be too busy to do it ourselves.” But she didn’t want the involvement of Heritage, which has been critical of the idea of an Iraq war. “Do AEI.”

Chris DeMuth, president of the American Enterprise Institute, where the administration’s neoconservatives drew their support and many of their personnel, neither consented or refused when Gelb broached the possibility. On November 15th, the representatives of the think tanks met with Rice and Hadley in Rice’s office at the White House. John Hamre of CSIS went in expecting to pitch the idea to Rice, but the meeting was odd from the start: Rice seemed attentive only to DeMuth, and it was as if the White House was trying to sell something to the American Enterprise Institute rather than the other way around. When Gelb, on speakerphone from New York, began to describe his concept, DeMuth cut him off. “Wait a minute. What’s all this planning and thinking about postwar Iraq?” He turned to Rice. “This is nation-building, and you said you were against that. In the campaign you said it, the president has said it. Does he know you’re doing this? Does Karl Rove know?”

Without AEI, Rice couldn’t sign on. Two weeks later, Hadley called Gelb to tell him what Gelb already knew: “we’re not going to go ahead with it,” Gelb later explained, “They thought all those things would get in the way of going to war.” (pp. 111-2)

Now to be fair to AEI, the Bush administration jettisoned several offers to help plan for the postwar as well as several already existing postwar plans from significant sources such as, oh, the State Department. Still, DeMuth’s apparent idea that one can invade a country and not do any reconstruction is astonishing. Flying in the face of history (Germany and Japan after WWII, among others), it seems he is more concerned about a perceived ideology purity than dealing with the realities of the situation. The most appalling aspect of the entire Iraq war remains the adminstration's utter disdain for any real sort of postwar plan, with a complete failure to have a substantive plan A, let alone a plan B for the worst-case scenario.

Along these lines, the final contention of my initial question to Gerecht was that a successful reconstruction (essentially, good performance) was the most persuasive tool we had, and that any PR or propaganda attempts would be useless if Iraqis did not notice improvements in the realities of their lives. I have to give Gerecht credit for entering into a dialogue, however flawed his contribution may be. Not every think tank is monolithic and not every member is of the same mind. Still, I find it interesting that Gerecht works for the same organization that poo-pooed postwar plans. I find it interesting that Gerecht’s op-ed avoids discussion of how the reconstruction is going and instead focuses on perception. I find it interesting that he addresses domestic critics but does not focus on how Iraqis perceive the revealed use of propaganda.

Expanding literacy and making great books and thought available is revolutionary. But the use of propaganda is both unethical and, at least in Iraq, ineffective.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Benefits of Online Chats

Every weekday The Washington Post hosts several online chats, from the serious to the silly. Apparently, The Post leads the field by far in terms of the sheer hours of chats it hosts (something like 60 hours per week, likely more). Add in several excellent online-only columns, and you have a nice model for what the modern newspaper can be. No paper is perfect. The Post was the most prominent paper I know of to botch coverage of the West Virginia miners, printing that they had been found alive when in fact most had died (the perils of a midnight deadline). Still, The Post’s own media critic Howard Kurtz skewered The Post for this (in his online column and his weekly chat), and surely it’s a healthy sign that this is possible (personally, I do not completely blame The Post on this, but they should have made their sources of information clear in the article itself and issued a brief front page apology/explanation the next day).

Similarly, many of The Post’s columnists and reporters host chats, and this allows for frequent interchanges with readers. This builds on and in some cases improves on the letters-to-the-editor and ombudsman mechanisms in place at major papers. Reporters will clarify points in articles, admit mistakes, and offer new insights. Comments raging in the blogosphere about a given issue — or a journalist’s latest piece — will often actually get a response. The Post also gives a Technorati link so that online readers can see what registered blogs have linked to a given article and read what they’re saying. The chats with filmmakers and authors are very welcome, but the chats with journalists really adds to, and improves, the dialogue occurring online in newspapers, magazines, and blogs.

One of the best chats I’ve read was Editor-in-Chief Len Downie responding to readers about Bob Woodward’s belated disclosure that Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity had been revealed to him as well. Woodward, Downie and The Post kept credibility in my eyes for several reasons (whereas Judy Miller and Viveca Novak do not). The first is that Woodward admitted his mistakes and apologized. The second is that Downie publicly scolded Woodward for his actions but also expressed his overall support for him as a journalist, and spoke of steps both men agreed to to avoid a repeat performance. Finally, Downie held the chat and addressed reader concerns directly, including correcting himself about a mistake he made earlier in the chat.

The chats can also be revealing in other ways. The Post’s polling editor, Richard Morin, got inexplicably mad in a chat because many, many readers wanted him to ask a poll question about public support for impeaching Bush. As he correctly stated, with a Republican Congress, the chances of Bush being impeached are highly unlikely. Still, that has little to do with the public’s feelings on the matter. I remember reading the chat and being taken aback by his anger — what was the big deal? If at least twenty people wrote in asking about the same issue, what was wrong with a poll question on the topic, especially when impeachment polls on Clinton were widespread immediately after the Lewinksy scandal broke? I liked the fact that other Post columnists later questioned the Morin's reaction as well.

Meanwhile, most revealingly, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales refused to define torture in a chat (following up his op-ed on the Patriot Act) and also stressed how renewing the Patriot Act would respect civil liberties because one could not get a wiretap without a warrant. The very next day, Friday 12/16, The New York Times published its story on illegal NSA wiretaps. On Monday 12/19, Gonzales was on TV defending President Bush and the illegal wiretaps. The irony was almost as thick as the bullshit, but not quite.

UPDATED slightly on 1/12, mainly to add links.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Orwell Watch: Iraqi Newspapers

It's hard to keep up the scandals these days. I’m revisiting the Iraqi newspaper propaganda scandal for two reasons. The most immediate one is that another, more timely post directly relates to it. The more important issue is that we’ve yet to hear much more detail about the whole thing, despite Pentagon promises to investigate it (I find it hard to believe they didn’t know what went on).

Really, it’s sadly unsurprising that Iraqi newspapers were paid to run pro-American articles crafted by the U.S. military but supposedly written by independent journalists. Sigh. Given the illegal NSA wiretaps, the Pentagon’s illegal collection, retention, and sharing of domestic spying material, the FBI’s rampant use of national security letters and the CIA’s secret black op prisons, I’m not sure even the most ardent conspiracy theorist could keep up with all the very real abuses.

The Los Angeles Times first broke the story about the Iraqi newspapers in this article Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi. You can hear NPR's initial report here, complete with a nauseating conservative apologist who assures us propaganda is really no big deal.

The use of propaganda in Iraq is both stupid and ineffective. If you want to build credibility, the last thing you do is something like this… it's likely the truth will come out at some point, and then no one will believe you anymore.

It's hard to shake the feeling that for the Bush administration, Freedom of the Press ideally means playing uncritical stenographer for the latest talking points. After all, we've had Jeff Gannon/Guckart, a plant in the White House Briefing Room, Armstrong Williams, one of several columnists illegally paid to shill a dubious Bush policy, and an unrelenting array of staged photo ops and town halls... Not that we should forget to mention the Miller maneuver, in which the administration leaks specific misinformation to a prominent reporter, her paper prints it, and then the administration holds up the paper saying, 'See? It's not just us! The New York Times says so too!' ...with the deliberately misleading implication that the admittedly sloppy and credulous Times independently confirmed the information... (this did not happen just once, or only with Judy Miller, although Tom Tomorrow captures the process nicely here.)

Meanwhile, Scott McClellan has (at least) twice accused journalists, including veteran journalist Helen Thomas, of being terrorist sympathizers for not buying the party line he's selling.

And in the last few weeks, at least two conservative think tank members have admitted to accepting money from Jack Abramoff to write columns favorable to his clients...

By the way, if you missed the footage of troops being coached in their responses to Bush bak in October, The Daily Show has the funniest coverage of it here. The White House transcript can be read here. I also find it particularly telling that the soldier who specifically brings up 9/11 to Bush was not just a coached soldier, but an army PR flack. Gotta keep hammering home "9/11"!!! Bush will always invoke 9/11, the only question is how long it will take him. Sometimes it takes as long as seven minutes, while other times he does in under 30 seconds.)