MARKETING RULE #1: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE….Yet another WMD find turns out to be bogus. By itself, of course, this is perfectly understandable: you would expect that lots of places would be searched, preliminary analysis ? designed to be “better safe than sorry” ? would indicate some suspects, and that more thorough analysis would narrow it down even further. The fact that preliminary analysis is ultra cautious and doesn’t usually pan out is perfectly normal.

Given that this is normal, however, the real question is quite different: why is the Pentagon releasing these preliminary results every time one pops up? Take this latest one, for example:

The mobile labs were definitely “not labs,” Captain Cutchin said. The vehicles MET Bravo found were “probably for decontamination or some kind of fuel filling, consistent with the rockets found at the site,” he said.

This was the latest example of a recurring pattern in efforts to track down unconventional weapons in Iraq….By the time MET Bravo arrived at Bayji, for example, journalists who had already been briefed about the findings were already at the site.

(Emphasis mine.)

Why had reporters “already been briefed” before the MET team even showed up? Doesn’t the Pentagon realize that this is eroding their credibility daily?

Of course they do, but these reports aren’t aimed at journalists or news junkies like blog readers. Rather, they are designed to build up a vague impression among casual news consumers that we’ve been finding WMD all over the place. Say it often enough, and everyone starts to get foggy about which reports panned out and which didn’t ? or even whether any of them did. Most people are simply left with the idea that we have lots of busy teams spread out all over Iraq and they keep finding stuff.

Like any good marketing organization, the Pentagon knows its audience. And it isn’t anyone reading this blog.