The official news organization of the old Soviet Union was called Pravda - Truth.
When I first joined the military, at the height of the Cold War, we used to get the international edition of Pravda and I read it religiously each week. We used to laugh at how the Pravda editors could turn any disaster into a great victory. Chernobyl? Not a horrifying nuclear meltdown, but rather a demonstration of the heroic resolve of the Soviet people, who willingly gave their lives mopping up plutonium fallout with their bare hands while singing Gimn Sovetskogo Soyuza. Fifty years of failed collective agriculture? No worries, the next five-year plan would certainly leave the people with a surplus - Hero of the Soviet Union, Comrade Chairman Chernanko said so. Afghanistan? Not the disaster portrayed in the decadent western press, but rather a great victory for the Soviet military. Pravda always had great slogans too, things like Peace, Liberty, and Bread! or Brotherhood and Freedom! Hey, what better way to pass the time when you're standing in line for shoes, toilet paper, and bread than to chant inspiring slogans?
One thing I learned from reading Pravda, truth depends entirely on your point view.
It was a valuable lesson, and one I've never forgotten.
I was reminded of Pravda this morning. watching the President's speech on the war in Iraq.
A few highlights.
Surge, working. There's certainly a grain of truth to this and it would appear on the face of things that the surge has had at least some of its intended effects in Baghdad and Al Anbar province, elsewhere maybe not so much, especial Basrah (or Basra, depending on which translation you prefer).
Sectarian Violence, down. Hmmm, that would depend on whether or not you're a Kurd, or a Sunni, or a Shia, now wouldn't it? Or a member of the Sons of Iraq.
Iraqi and American Deaths, down. Again, it does appear that this is a largely true statement. Between January, 2007 and January, 2008 Iraqi civilian deaths have dropped steadily, from around 3500 per month to about 500 per month (according to the Brookings Institute). American troops casualties have also fallen from around 700 per month in January, 2007 to about 200 in March, 2008.
Al Qaeda in Iraq, on the ropes. Sorry, I've heard this one before, not buying it. We've made some progress against the riff-raff, but they're just the cannon fodder. Bankrolling, planning, intelligence, recruiting, and etc are all still in full operation and expanding. And the real brains and heart of the operation is still making TV broadcasts and free in the mountains of Pakistan, or Afghanistan, or the Congo, or wherever the CIA thinks he is this week.
The Iraqi economy, recovering and paying for the reconstruction. Sorry, I've also heard this one before, and the numbers simply don't support it. According to Senator Harry Reid (is that a porn star name or what?), the current price tag for Iraq alone is running about $5000 per second, and those dollars are buying less and less as each second passes due to our deflating economy.
The Iraqi Government, making real progress towards democracy. Well, I can sort of see this one. As a previous President once said, it depends on what your definition of 'it' is. Nouri Kamel Mohammed Hassan al-Maliki and his policies are hated almost as thoroughly by his people as George Bush and his policies are hated here in the United States. So, by that yardstick I guess it's safe to say that the Iraqi Government is making real progress towards an American style democracy.
American troops, coming home as promised fifteen months ago, just as soon as the surge ends. The President said that force levels in Iraq will be down by 25% come July. Then he mentioned that he had also ordered an indefinite halt to the troop returns after June, based on the recommendations of General Petraeus. He also said that deployments would be shortened from 15 months to 12 months. Then he he gave us the new Heroic Peoples Slogan - Return on Success!
And here we have a true Pravda moment, with slogans and everything. Things are good and getting better, but more heroic sacrifice is needed. Just a few more bushels of plutonium fallout, just one more five year plan, one more victory. Either the troops succeed as the President defines success, or stay indefinitely. And if you do the math, you find that there's only so many troops to go around, so while you may get a shorter deployment, you get more of them in order to maintain the number of boots on the ground that Petraeus needs for "success".