Operation PR
by mcjoan
17 Mar 2006 at 9:00pm

Operation Swarmer, that "massive hunt for insurgents," billed as a critical effort in which Iraqi forces would prove their mettle against the insurgents, saving the country from civil war, is a sham.

Via AMERICAblog, we get the goods from reporter Christopher Allbritton at his blog, Back to Iraq:

...Operation Swarmer included more than 1,500 troops from the Iraqi Army's 4th Division, the U.S. 101st Airborne Division and 101st Combat Aviation Brigade. The Soldiers isolated the objective area in a combined air and ground assault.

More than 50 Attack and assault aircraft and 200 tactical vehicles participated in the operation. Troops from the Iraqi Army's 4th Division, the "Rakkasans" from the 187th Infantry Regiment and the "Hunters" from the 9th Cavalry Regiment assaulted multiple objectives. Forces from the Iraqi 2nd Commando Brigade then completed a ground infiltration to secure numerous structures in the area.

Initial reports indicate a number of weapons caches were captured, containing artillery shells, IED-making materials and military uniforms. Iraqi and Coalition troops also detained 41 suspected insurgents.

That sounds exciting! But according to a colleague of mine from TIME who traveled up there today on a U.S. embassy-sponsored trip, there are no insurgents, no fighting and 17 of the 41 prisoners taken have already been released after just one day. The "number of weapons caches" equals six, which isn't unusual when you travel around Iraq. They're literally everywhere....

As noted, about 1,500 troops were involved, 700 American and 800 Iraqi. But get this: in the area they're scouring there are only about 1,500 residents. According to my colleague and other reporters who were there, not a single shot has been fired.

"Operation Swarmer" is really a media show. It was designed to show off the new Iraqi Army -- although there was no enemy for them to fight. Every American official I've heard has emphasized the role of the Iraqi forces just days before the third anniversary of the start of the war. That said, one Iraqi role the military will start highlighting in the next few days, I imagine, is that of Iraqi intelligence. It was intel from the Iraqi military intelligence and interior ministry that the U.S. says prompted this Potemkin operation. And it will be the Iraqi intel that provides the cover for American military commanders to throw up their hands and say, "well, we thought bad guys were there."

The TIME reporter referenced in the post filed this story today: "How Operation Swarmer Fizzled. Not a shot was fired, or a leader nabbed, in a major offensive that failed to live up to its advance billing."

Well, it sure made for some good TV, huh? That seems to be what counts most with these people. The very good news is that the potential death count an assault as large as the hype promised was averted.

So, once again, we get another staged, overly-hyped, empty gesture in place of actual accomplishment. If the administration was nearly as good at governing as it was at creating the facade of governing, we might not be in the mess that we are now. They honestly seem to believe that if you paint the pretty picture--the Mission Accomplished banner, the purple finger of democracy, the adoring crowd of senior citizens who love the new prescription drug benefit plan--if you pretend hard enough, if you lie hard enough, if you bluster hard enough, you can make all the bad go away. Or at least distract attention from it enough that eventually people will forget.

I don't think that's working anymore.