Media largely ignored LA Times report of Bush administration plans to delay major Iraq combat until after presidential election

With a few noteworthy exceptions, the media remained largely silent regarding the Los Angeles Times' revelations, in an October 11 article, that the Bush administration plans to delay any major assaults on insurgent strongholds in Iraq -- where U.S. military casualties could be highest -- until after the U.S. presidential election on November 2. The Times also noted: “Any delay in pacifying Iraq's most troublesome cities, however, could alter the dynamics of a different election -- the one in January, when Iraqis are to elect members of a national assembly.”

So the Times report amounts to the following: Notwithstanding the possible harm to Iraq's scheduled election in January, the administration has decided to hold off on major combat in Iraq until after November 2 to avoid high casualties that could hurt Bush's chances for reelection. The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, and United Press International mentioned the report. No other major paper, none of the network news programs, nor the vast majority of primetime news shows on CNN, FOX News Channel, and MSNBC saw fit to address it.

From an October 12 Boston Globe article:

Admiral William Crowe, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who spoke to reporters on Kerry's behalf, blasted Bush over the troop request and a separate report, in the Los Angeles Times yesterday, that the administration plans to delay major attacks on Iraqi insurgent strongholds until after Election Day. Crowe said that plan, if true, would be “dangerous” and “unethical,” and added, “Senator Kerry will not make a distinction between casualties before an election and casualties after an election.”

From an October 11 United Press International report:

The Bush administration is avoiding major assaults on rebel-held cities in Iraq until after U.S. elections in November, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. White House spokesmen, however, said the story was not true. There are almost daily battles with the resistance in Iraq and nightly attacks on Fallujah and several other rebel strongholds. Administration and Pentagon officials told the newspaper they would not launch major ground offensives in Fallujah or Ramadi until after Nov. 2, when Americans vote in one of the closest presidential races in history.

MSNBC host Keith Olbermann and FOX News Channel co-host Alan Colmes did call attention to the importance of the Los Angeles Times report, with Colmes raising the question: “Do you really think that military planning and strategy should be based on a presidential election or what's the best way to prosecute a war based on what's safe for our troops?” FOX News Channel host and FOX News Radio host Tony Snow and his guest, conservative author Richard Miniter, downplayed it.

  • OLBERMANN: As to the current battles in Iraq -- what current battles in Iraq? The Los Angeles Times today quoting unidentified senior [Bush] administration officials who say that major assaults on Iraqi cities held by insurgents will be delayed until after the election here for domestic political reasons. Quote: “Once you're past the election,” said the individual, identified only as being involved in strategic planning, “it changes the political ramifications of hitting Fallujah or Ramadi. We're not on hold right now, we're just not as aggresive.” The same official telling the Los Angeles Times the administration is doing a balancing act. There are those other elections to consider as well, the ones scheduled in Iraq in January. [MSNBC, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, 10/11/04]
  • COLMES: [O]ne other thing I wanted to bring up, because there was a report over the weekend that the Bush administration is planning to delay major assaults on rebel-held cities in Iraq until after the U.S. elections. And the reason they're giving is they don't want to get involved in this while there is an election going on. Do you really think that military planning and strategy should be based on a presidential election or what's the best way to prosecute a war based on what's safe for our troops? [FOX News Channel, Hannity & Colmes, 10/11/04]

On the October 11 edition of FOX News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, substitute host Snow mused about “the psychological impact [of the report] on our enemies” and questioned whether this is “the sort of thing that actually helps us.” His guest Miniter responded, “I don't really believe that George [W.] Bush is going to play politics with the war.”

SNOW: The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Bush administration says it is not going to have any major attacks, perhaps on Fallujah, it doesn't quite specify, but within Iraq until after the election. Now somebody who is studying not only the war on terror, but the psychological impact on our enemies, whether they be Al Qaeda, Iran, or otherwise, is that the sort of thing that actually helps us?

MINITER: Well, I don't really believe that George [W.] Bush is going to play politics with the war, because if he was going to play politics with the war, he would be trumpeting many of the successes that I talk about in my book, Shadow War.

Miniter is the author of Shadow War and Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror, both published by conservative Regnery Publishing, Inc., the publisher of the discredited anti-Kerry book Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry.