TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES. We learn in today's Washington Post that the military is running a covert propaganda campaign aimed at exaggerating the importance of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in particular and al Qaeda in general in Iraq. In theory this is supposed to be aimed at Iraqis (which is legal), but in practice it seems to have been partially aimed at Americans (which is illegal), and as we saw with the last covert propaganda story, the distinction is pretty meaningless in the contemporary world.

There's a lot that could be said about this issue, but how about this one for starters -- information operations are always a part of war, but it should give you some pause when your main information operations are aimed at misleading people as to the fundamental nature of the conflict you're dealing with. Basically, the administration is trying to create an entirely fictional war in which the USA has over 100,000 troops stationed in Iraq because they're fighting al Qaeda. That simply isn't what they're doing. A policy that's only publicly justifiable in the context of massive deception is almost certainly going to be a bad policy.

--Matthew Yglesias

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