STUPID WAR TRICKS….Abu Aardvark writes today about the dismay of Tareq Alhomayed, editor of an influential pro-American Arab newspaper, over the news that the U.S. military has been paying to place sympathetic articles in the Iraqi press:

The payola scheme has immensely corrosive longer-term implications for media institutions, for American credibility, for building the institutions of pluralism and democracy. Most immediately it has devastaging implications for the credibility of pro-American voices in the region (hence Alhomayed’s dismay). Every pro-American voice in Iraq and in the region now comes under greater suspicion of having been on the take. Those voices already ? often unfairly ? risked being tarred as American puppets. Now their burden has become that much heavier.

That’s exactly right. My objection to this scheme isn’t so much that it’s morally wrong as that it’s stupid and counterproductive. It’s the kind of program that’s almost dead certain to be exposed eventually ? too many ordinary people are involved for it to stay secret forever ? and when it does, it damages your supporters, undermines their already strained credibility, and casts into doubt every pro-American piece that’s ever been written in the Arab or Iraqi press.

It’s almost a perfect metaphor for the way George Bush has run this war from the beginning. It’s never been about winning so much as it’s been about looking like we’re winning. And that’s why we aren’t.

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