Like all astroturf orgs, Freedom's Watch claims to represent the people, despite the fact that there's no big public groundswell for their effort. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, FW "is a new White House front group of prominent conservatives mascarading as a grassroots movement (i.e. astroturf) which began a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign on August 22, 2007 'to urge members of Congress who may be wavering in their support for the war in Iraq not to "cut and run".'"
The group, led by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, plans to spend $15 million on an ad campaign to keep wavering congress critters on board. Don't expect a lot of progress on that front. In a stunning display of the group's lack of political clout, Sen. John Warner -- who the Washington Post calls "one of the most influential Republican voices in Congress on national security" -- is now calling on President Bush to begin withdrawal from Iraq by September 15th. This just days after FW announced the launch of its campaign.
It's a demonstration of just how much grassroots power the White House has lost. The campaign was widely ridiculed when it was announced and that initial reaction wasn't helped any when Fleischer proved that he really didn't give a crap about the veterans he was supposedly representing. Asked on MSNBC's Hardball to name the veteran featured in their big ad campaign, Fleischer admitted he didn't know (he's John Kriesel). Way to admit to using vets as interchangeable cardboard cutouts, Ari.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Paul Rieckhoff reacted to the ad on the same program:
People on both sides of the aisle, but especially the president and this administration, have continued to use troops as a political prop. As a backdrop for political rhetoric. It's why the president gave such an impassionate speech today in front of the VFW. It's why this ad carries so much weight on a visceral level. And it really bothers me because our troops are not political props and they're not chew toys.
Also not helpful to FW's argument is that the ad is complete BS. It features Ari's unknown soldier saying [text courtesy of Center for Media and Democracy and emphasis mine], "Congress was right to vote to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. I re-enlisted after Sept. 11 because I don't want my sons to see what I saw. I want them to be free and safe. I know what I lost. I also know that if we pull out now, everything Iive given and the sacrifices will mean nothing. They attacked us, and they will again. [Image of World Trade Towers being struck by a jet on 9/11.] They won't stop in Iraq. We are winning on the ground and making real progress. It's no time to quit. It's no time for politics."
Wait a second, Iraq attacked us on 9/11? That'd be news to President Bush, who said in 2003, "We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the 11 September attacks." You really wish these guys would keep their stories straight.
What bothers me most is that Bush and his phony front group are using veterans as a political crutch, while ignoring their needs at every turn. It was just a few days ago that I wrote about how the Army's suicide rate is the highest in 26 years and that Bush has blown off recommendations to fix problems in the Veterans Administration's health care system. On top of that, many vets are suffering from PTSD and depression, telling researchers they felt like "guests in their own homes" when they came back from war and that "their children did not respond warmly to them, or were even afraid of them." Veterans need help and leadership from the White House would be a real good start.
What they get from the neocons is a $15 million ad campaign to convince us to keep throwing these people back into the meat grinder -- as if war and death and the fates of nations were no more important than deciding which clown to buy your next burger from. That's all these men and women are to them, ingredients in a product they're marketing. They mean nothing to the White House and, veteran or not, neither do you. They have no respect for the intelligence of any of us. They'll use veterans to convince you to convince your local congress critter to support the war and it's the war they care about. Not you and not the veterans they've used.
Freedom's Watch is watching out for your freedom in the same way that Burger King is watching out for your cholesterol levels.
Technorati tags: politics; military; Iraq; propaganda; White House; neocons; Bush; If this new public relations campaign doesn't work, Ari Fleischer will start handing out coupons for war