On its face, it seems like an idea any enterprising editor could have come up with: Gather a group of veterans of the Iraq war who also have journalism experience, including some highly decorated soldiers. Then send them back to the areas of Iraq in which they served, this time as reporters embedded with the troops still fighting there, and get their assessment of the security situation and whether the surge is working.
Someone has organized just such an expedition, and this Monday eight veterans left for Iraq. But the "Back to Iraq" trip wasn't put together by the Washington Post or the New York Times; it's the brainchild of Vets for Freedom (VFF), a pro-war group. VFF is nominally nonpartisan, but it has a remarkable number of ties -- some previously unreported -- to Republicans generally and John McCain's campaign specifically. And it has run attack ads against Barack Obama.
It's unremarkable to send reporters with thin journalistic credentials to Iraq, or to promise that journalists with a known political bias will report "objectively." Conservative and liberal publications send their preferred reporters to Iraq all the time, and their representatives come home, unsurprisingly, with differing conclusions. But what about sending political activists and GOP operatives to Iraq in the guise of journalists, with the cooperation of the U.S. military and on the taxpayers' dime, so that the activists can come home and proselytize for the Republican presidential candidate's position on the war?