09/20/2007 06:47 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Petraeus, Pasta and Propaganda

General Played Key Role In Feeding Murky Rhetoric About Iraq To Congress

Of all the dust and dirt the right-wing has kicked up in the last week in all their whining about a newspaper ad, a basic fact about General David Petraeus has been swept under the rug:  the tortellini.  Lobster tortellini to be exact.

In the weeks leading up to his testimony about the 'surge' on Capital Hill, General Patraeus took part in an all out PR offensive that used fancy catered lunches and slick presentations to sell rhetoric about progress in Iraq to members of Congress. These fancy lunches took place in the green zone, were hosted by Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and featured Petraeus as the keynote presentation or star of the show.

In my mind, feeding members of Congress lobster tortellini in the middle of Iraq is a textbook example of--wait for it--politics.   It is the very image of a man engaged  in an effort to make things look better than they are.

This is not some obscure fact.  Petraeus and the lobster tortellini were widely reported in the press and discussed all over progressive blogs.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) was on one of these tortellini tours of Iraq and came back to say this about General David Petraeus (according to the NYT article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Damien Cave):

Three flights and a Black Hawk helicopter
ride later, they were lunching on asparagus soup and lobster tortellini
at the home of Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker in Baghdad.

"It was a lovely lunch, a nice-napkin lunch," said Ms. Schakowsky, a liberal Democrat and ardent war critic from Chicago. But it was also, she said, a lunch with a message.

featured guest was Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American military
commander in Iraq. With an array of charts and maps behind him, he told
the lawmakers President Bush's troop buildup had produced "tactical
momentum," a phrase that he would use repeatedly in Congressional
briefings and that lawmakers are now beginning to use as well.

So much for General Patraeus not engaging in politics.  It seems these tortellini tours were designed not just to persuade members of Congress into believing that the surge was running as smooth as a spoonful of Asparagus soup, but to stuff them with pasta and calculated rhetoric.  And who was the head waiter in all this?   General David Petraeus. 

Now, if you think for a second that the Ambassador to Iraq hosted these pasta and propaganda trips without first running the menu--and the manipulation--by the White House for approval--think again.  Of course, Dick Cheney has just announced that if you want to keep things a secret--don't write it down in a memo.  So we won't soon find the minutes to the meeting where someone in the White House said, '...and then, while they're dining on lobster tortellini, bring out Petraeus.'  But you can bet your frequent flier miles that somebody gave that order.   As the old saying goes, Generals  don't just show up to eat lunch--they follow orders.


But--and this is really the key to what has happened in the U.S. media over the past week--has anyone asked General Petraeus to explain why, if things are going so well in Iraq, it was necessary for him to soften up Congress in advance with gourmet lunches in the Green Zone?

Oh, no, no.  Of course not.  To ask a general up to his chin in politics a question about politics (gasp!)--that would what's that word again--journalism! (oh, yeah...that one).

What do we get instead?  We get The Washington Post awarding three Pinocchio symbols to MoveOn (see right).  And we get political windbags like John Cornyn (R-TX) waling and moaning about how horrible MoveOn made the general feel when they questioned his politics during his political visit to the center of American politics. 

Well, speaking of dishonest people with wood for makes no sense for The Washington Post to question the integrity of a citizen organization when what they should be doing is applying pressure to the very person in charge of prolonging the occupation of Iraq--and who was doing it by pushing stuffed pasta at members of Congress in the weeks before riding into town on a white elephant.

So, in response to the three Pinocchios, I hereby award The Washington Post three tortellini for paying too much attention to what Republicans are saying about MoveOn at the expense of  pressing General Petraeus to answer for all the gourmet politicking he did in the weeks leading up to his hearings in from of Congress.


For not sufficiently questioning General Petraeus on his involvement in the Bush administration PR offensive against Congress, I hereby award The Washington Post three tortellini.

Meanwhile, General Petraeus still has some pasta and politics to explain: Why, sir, were you taking part in these gourmet lunches prior to your trip to Congress if not to help sell the Bush administration party line?

It is time for the media to stop attacking MoveOn and start asking General Petraeus the questions he needs to answer. He may be a general, but that does not seem to have stopped him from sinking into George W. Bush's political soup.

(cross posted from Frameshop)