Midwest Heroes ad – comment

February 16, 2006

A commenter responds to my post on Progress for America’s "Midwest Heroes" ad:

Nick Coleman huh? How dare he "attack" an ad filled falsehoods? I guess
people outside of the republican twilight zone would call that being
"responsible".

Aside from the cheap shot on the "republican twilight zone," I thought this comment warranted a brief response:

I have no problem with someone criticizing falsehoods in this or any
other advertisement. Unfortunately, Coleman spends the majority of his
article questioning the ad’s motivations and funding rather than its
content. The few factual claims he makes don’t hold up, in my opinion:

Claim 1:
The war in Iraq is not against the terrorists of 9/11, given the fact that it was billed as a war against Saddam Hussein.

9/11 was conducted by Al Qaeda operatives. One of the groups of
terrorists we are now fighting is “Al Qaeda in Iraq.” Where is the
problem in suggesting that the two are connected, and what does the
“billing” of the war have to do with it? There were many reasons given
for why we should go to war with Iraq. In fact, a common liberal
complaint is that Bush “lied” us into war by connecting the War in Iraq
to the attacks of 9/11. Now Coleman wants to claim that the war was
billed solely as against Saddam Hussein? The ad does not argue that we
went to Iraq to fight Al Qaeda, only that we are doing so now. I don’t
see how the ad’s statements about the enemy in Iraq can be seen as
“falsehoods.”

Claim 2:
The war is not going “swimmingly,” as can be seen from the number of
troop deaths (2,267 – almost 1,800 since Bush said “Mission
Accomplished.”).

Strawman argument. No one in the ad is saying the war is going
“swimmingly.” “Making real progress” is a very different statement, and
cannot be contradicted by a count of troop deaths, even if that count
weren’t extremely low by historical standards. Incidentally, if you’re
looking for falsehoods, you may want to start with the “Mission
Accomplished” canard and read the actual text of Bush’s speech. Ending
major combat operations is not the same as declaring complete victory.

Claim 3:
Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the non-partisan Iraq and Afghanistan
Veterans of America (IAVA), says the troops “do not overwhelmingly
support the president in Iraq,” citing polls that put the troops
approval level in the low 50s.

IAVA may be non-partisan, but they certainly seem to have an ax to
grind. The specific polls to which Rieckhoff is referring aren’t
mentioned, but the way the statement is phrased (“support the president
in Iraq”), I would guess that they ask whether troops support President
Bush’s “strategy” in Iraq or if they believe the president sent enough
troops, or if we should have gone to war in the first place, etc. This
is a valid argument in general, but not against this particular ad,
since the ad does not claim that the troops support the “president,”
but rather that they overwhelmingly support the “mission,” which is a
very different thing.

I wouldn’t claim that the ad is completely free from spin. It
chooses its words very carefully and some statements are probably
stronger than I would be willing to make (e.g. the American media
doesn’t “only report the bad news;” this is hyperbole. Of course the
media reports some good news – like the elections – but they do seem to
dwell on the negative aspects of the war to the exclusion of more
positive stories). However, this is not the same as being “filled
[with] falsehoods.” I’d be willing to listen to arguments to the
contrary, but not to conspiracy theories like the ones on which Coleman
spends most of his time.

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