A fascinating interview with Josh Rushing who was featured in the documentary on Al Jazeera, Control Room, as a US military spokesperson. Now he reports for Al Jazeera. This is a terrific inside report on how the military spins news.
Democracy Now! | Ex-Marine Josh Rushing on his Journey from Military Mouthpiece to Al Jazeera Correspondent:
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the kind of information that was presented at CENTCOM and how you were feeling as someone in the Marines who was part of shaping that message, and how you changed along the way.
JOSH RUSHING: Yeah, no. This part was really rough for me, because as a military spokesperson, you don’t talk about policy. You talk about the way you’re going to conduct an action, not why you’re going to conduct an action. So if someone were to ask me before the war, “Why are you going to invade Iraq?” — and reporters did — the only honest answer I could give is, “We’ll invade Iraq if the President orders us to. And we won’t if he doesn’t. We don’t get to pick and choose our battles.” That way, it’s left to a politician in a suit behind a podium at the White House to explain why they made that decision.
But instead, what we did, we had a Republican operative who was put in charge of our office, displacing a colonel that had started doing media liaison when this Republican operative was about probably five years old. And what this guy knew how to do was run a campaign, and so we were run like a political campaign. And the first step in that political campaign was to sell the product, and that was sell the invasion. So they gave the reasons down to the young troops, guys like me, to go out to reporters and give the reasons we’re going to invade a sovereign nation.
Here’s the problem: the reporters in no way had the latitude to ask someone in uniform a critical question. I mean, on MSNBC their coverage was actually packaged with a banner that said, “Our hearts are with you.” So when I’m the young troop in uniform on screen, and the viewer sees “Our hearts are with you,” do you think the reporter’s going to ask me a critical question? Of course not. But I’m out there giving political answers. I’m out there saying, “We’re going to invade Iraq” — and this was the real catch: they would ask me before I would go on air live, “Are there any messages you want to get across today?” Well, yeah. My boss comes straight from the White House, and they have the messages of the day, and so they would give it to us. So I’d say, “Sure. WMD, regime change, ties with terrorism.” And they go, “OK. Well, I’ll ask you these questions, so we can get those answers out.” And they set it all up.
You can read Rushing’s book here:
“Mission Al Jazeera: Build a Bridge, Seek the Truth, Change the World” (Josh Rushing)