tv Tough Sell CSPAN September 10, 2017 9:01am-10:01am EDT
>> members and guests appear and guests. tonight i have the honor of introducing a friend an academic colleague who also happens to be a best-selling author, columnist, speaker, commentator and senior level management strategist peter guest speaker has worked with presidents and popes from here at home to south asia to iraq. for more than 20 years, our speaker has provided strategic and crisis communication counsel to companies, policy organizations, government agencies, not for profits, advocacy campaigns and grassroots groups. he served in many roles including executive director of republican party in new york date, adviser to the u.s. chief of protocol at the vatican, planner for the department of state visits for former president bush and clinton to
this tsunami ravaged south asia and director of communications for the environmental protection agency. our speaker is currently an adjunct professor at the university graduate school of arts and sciences. a charter member of the board of advisors at hofstra college of liberal rights and sciences and opinion contributor to "forbes" and the host is sunday in america unserious xm radio. for seven months in 2004, he served as the senior press advisor to the coalition provisional authority in iraq. we're at the department of defense from the joint civil service commendation. his experiences and his gene during a seven-month form the basis of this book, "tough sell: fighting the media war in iraq." please help me give a warm welcome to best-selling author tom basile.
[applause] >> thank you very much. i really appreciate the warm introduction. this is a wonderful turnout and i'm honored to be here with all of you given the state of new york city's subways and train i said i don't know if anyone will be able to make it tonight, but we've got a great room and again it is a great privilege. as you know, ron is a pretty quiet guy, very modest. but for those of you who don't know, and he has some of the most complex facing new york during his career particularly and is a great public servant and truly committed to keeping the city safe. thank you for everything that you do. [applause] and i would just like to take a
minute if all of our veterans and those who served in the united states armed forces would just stand and be recognized. [applause] thank you very much for your service to the country. it would be remiss at this point if i did not also think ambassador john bolton to the united nations who honored me with a wonderful foreword for the book and i'd really appreciate his support for the book and for this important message. it is a great privilege to be here at this wonderful institutions. 15 presidents have been members of this memorable institution since its founding in 1863. members have played an important role in the national discourse on a wide range of issues and they also managed to construct the statue of liberty,
metropolitan museum of art. it's a great privilege to be here and it is fitting that we are in this historic room to talk about "tough sell: fighting the media war in iraq" because this book is about history. how we make history and how that history is shaped and perceived not only by ordinary people, but by people who have the great fortune in many respects of being thrust into extraordinary circumstances on behalf of our country. but also increasingly the business of journalism, technology and politics. how we perceive the iraq war today was shaped by all of those things at a time in history when we are seeking several profound shift in the way people view the media, government and war itself. the most common question that i
get is why do you write it? why did you put it out? first, the shifts that may mention in the government ability or inability to counter them has ensured that the great work of thousands of americans who went over to iraq, who sacrificed much and took great risks to help create a better future for that country in many respects have all been lost to history. second, if policy makers in today's day and age did not effectively articulate policy, and manage their message and counter the editorial filter, they will soon find themselves unable to execute and sustain them. in the case of our national security policy in my opinion that faces america and the rest of the world at great risk. certainly what was lost in the wall-to-wall media coverage of the worst of the war was the
very best of people. the real story about what happens during the critical first year after the fall of saddam hussein gives us a glimpse into the glory and imperfection of humanity as well as the very real evil that exists in the world in the face of god that can be seen even in our darkest moments. third, over these last number of years, and i've watched as they have been lambasted by the media, so-called opinion leaders and politicians on both sides of the aisle in my view very unfairly. the civilian story and the story about civilian coalition in that first year has largely never been a great focus of attention. would have been behind the in the palace has really been discussed. my perspective is a civilian bush appointee being thrust into
the middle of the site for the peace in the fight to communicate about the war is willing to work with so many hundreds of my colleagues at this time. after all, here is in uniform are you the folks who participated in the iraq mission. civilians inheres often like. their uniforms convictions and it is my hope that by fairly evaluating the successes and the failures of the iraq mission, history would ultimately record the unbending purposive many coalition civilian is a triumph of american spirit and sacrifice. the book is chronological and it's also very personal compass that tells the story from the day i got my phone call sitting in my office on pennsylvania avenue and 10 days later sitting
on my luggage and 130-degree heat awaiting the c-130 to go windbag had for some indeterminate amount of time in a made up the fact i would only be gone for a four-month increments make them like this to be an okay supporter. but it is very personal and i thought about writing a street policy book about public diplomacy, how you communicate about war in the age of 24 hour news, social media, but it just seemed too impersonal, and almost seemed inappropriate given the work that was done. they were all so personally in what we were doing and the environment for so many of us do not inject in a heavy dose of what it was like for me personally and going through that experience. i also wanted the book in
audiences so i write it in such a way that it told the story is chronological and very conversational. so there are plenty of stories when you read the book there are plenty of stories about this guy who with no training on 10 days notice from himself and died died with no flak last to know weapons training, trying to craft a message from middle eastern and western media about the works that thousands of americans were doing to rebuild the country in the opposite of the bombed out buildings and increasingly dangerous environment. we talk about the brightly clad children running in the dirt like so many, being told by special forces a member of our special forces to remember to roll down the car window throwing out the grenade. middle-age contractors dancing in the infamous disco, the children and the victims of the attacks.
the women draped in black as they are clutching the picture is some of their family, dealing with the bad, dealing with rocket attacks, feeling real fear and of course seeing glimpses of hope. those are all part of the experience. but in the pages is also a running commentary and for the first time the analysis of not just the news media. this is not just about the beefs up on the bias but the political institutional and philosophical challenges that hampered the ability to deliver a more balanced, more realistic view of what was really going on in iraq against the demands of the business of journalism and genuine media bias. fighting are in our time of
social media and fake news, cable wars and the president at war with the press in a press at war with the president. the indisputable truth in all this of course is that the government still has to make policy. our communications change. technology changes, the way that we talk to each other, the way that are influencers try to influence policy all changes. at the end of the day, the government still has to make that policy executed and sustained and that requires public support. but we experienced in iraq was in hiroshima bats support because of a failure to effectively fight and win the homefront war in the price. policymaking is now more than ever about our willingness to push back, to participate in the daily block and tackle on every
media, not just whether against the business of journalism and an increasing number of sources of eerie degrees of credibility. when we do this analysis, what we learn that iraq was really a war within a war within a war. what we witnessed in the rise of al qaeda and decision-making at the united states in the aftermath of 9/11 was a departure from the usual warmaking. as it relates to way they handled their diplomatic strategy to account for this. the administration of george w. bush was the first such administration to have to deal with this paradigm shift. the challenges were philosophical, operational and compounded by this body and mind share at home.
attention they just have so made it even tougher. there is the philosophical war with a great deal of time over the last number of years debating whether or not we should have gone into iraq. the more relevant conversation for all of us and our country moving forward remains one should make the decision to go to war, what is the purpose for the desired outcome and how do you get there? you have several choices in the case of iraq. you could remove saddam hussein and leave, which i believe would've been a false choice. do you believe the leadership and grabs an expatriate in you and expose of absolute authority, basically trading one dictator for another or three come you attempt to secure the country that would support not what some people have suggested some american-style democracy, but a more participatory
tolerate governing search. the coalition provisional authority in iraq was developed to execute the third option. they tackle this extraordinary task with sacrificing much going largely unnoticed as the security situation worsens due to the rise of al qaeda in iraq in sectarian violence. unfortunately, a government that has the mission went on often failed to aggressively defend its own policy. the issue of competing philosophies was apparent virtually every day. secretary rumsfeld with this vision of a high-tech military, which is fine, but that happened to be incompatible with the mission we had at the time and the civil affairs operation that
needed to be done at the same time. my first day in iraq i got off the plane and put him a helmet. i got on the bus and they said by the way, the road between that international airport in the palace's clothes because there have been too many ied attacks on it. i said great, this is exactly what i want to see. they called it the road of death and it wasn't the original name, but it got the point across that we had a problem even secure the road between the airport and where headquarters were. one of the ambassadors first conversation in the book was posing the ominous but astute question how do we get the u.s. military to start shooting the looters? because we needed to demonstrate that we were going to use force in order to ensure the country would be secure and restore some sense of lawful behavior.
you also clearly had philosophical differences between the military and the state department whose foreign service officers while they clearly have their own important priorities often didn't play well in the sandbox with the folks from the department of defense and certainly also the bush administration appointees from the white house. there was an operational bureaucratic wars well. the cpa is a unique combination of the department of defense, department of state, nsc, white house, cia, intelligence agencies all operating under our feet at all times. it is a textbook lesson in building in a very short amount of time a bureaucracy. by the way, no one is really done this before. this impacted what i did everyday because part of being able to craft a coherent and
credible outbound communications strategy requires for planning purposes you have good internal communication as well. let me give you an example. the establishment of iraqi security forces is one of the most important thing is we tried to do during that first year. the price were rightly interested in our progress. they obsessed over it. of course they didn't understand or seem interested in the complexities of trying to put cops on the street and build an army and build these very security forces. but getting the facts from the different operations was so difficult that in one week the secretary of defense and ambassador were all going on tv using different numbers. you have to have message consistency or damage your credibility. the military also didn't have a tight rein on its people. i was shocked one day to learn
that it was military -- it was the military policy that if the soldier got asked a question, as a member of the press they could answer it, which proposed a very significant problem when you see a field commander doing an interview on tv and they are giving incomplete information. young enlisted soldiers for a particular object them of the press who love to ask questions about dungeness home? don't you wish you were back with your family? be pretty disgraceful on the media, that they wanted to get these guys to say of course they missed home. when the soldier stops missing hallman stops complaining about conditions, you know you may have a problem on your hands. they're supposed to do that. nobody wants to be in the desert. we were all there to put
ourselves out of a job. and then of course you have the report themselves who have long decided the administration and the military really have no credibility so they crafted the story they wanted with regard to the facts of the sources. organizations also compete for resources and ownership. i'm sure you see this in your organizations and businesses every day. we doubt but that position in iraq and it definitely impacted our ability to communicate about the war. having the credibility to say i was there in all it with my own eyes was critical to being able to deliver the message back in the states in that very rarely happened. 2003 come in 2004 worked on developing a national surrogate operation in a hometown media project that looked soldiers and civilians both here and goes overseas on local television and
radio stations around the country's smaller markets to try and get the message out about what they experienced about their commitment to the mission of what was actually going on. we even used the military production attachment in the country to shoot footage of these folks doing their jobs, building the schools, working together with the district advisory council. working on governance issues or just out fighting the terrorists. we package them up and send them off for distribution at the television station. the white house and department of defense couldn't figure out who would take ownership of the mechanics. nobody wanted to own it. would it be somebody at the defense department? maybe someone in the office of public affairs they should be doing this. no one could quite figure it out until the program failed. so the operational war was impacting our ability to
articulate a better, fairer, more aggressive during the year. it was also impacting the quality of the journalism. by the end of 2003, the press corps in baghdad had pretty much been stripped. we had a saying in the office but the one thing that all of the reporters was he never heard of any of them. they have stripped the bureaus be the normally a token presence in those bureaus and those personnel were then told they were not permitted to travel around the country. that meant that they sat in hotels as they waited for the daily car bomb to go off. they sent the crew out, victor footage on 24 hour cable news and that became the story that we started seeing them we started seeing that as early as the summer of 2003.
then there was this larger war to shape perceptions. of course the white house over reliance on the wmd issue as a justification for war ultimately hurt our credibility with the public from the start. but you have to couple that with newsroom so the executives and editors who came from the vietnam era and the sad part of human nature. i don't know if this is developed because of our technology but the sad part of human nature always more interested in what went wrong and what went right and who died as opposed to who lived in the achieved. and then you see how these battlelines come into specific relief pretty quickly. we were dealing with the media that simply didn't leave the thing that we said. it was hostile to the president and they would report rumors on
the street over the government explanation for virtually anything. to make matters worse, there were no senior staff members from the white house for department of defense public affairs operation to spend any amount of time in baghdad while i was there. as public opinion soured the administration strategy was to limit the number of people talking about expanding the universe and that's a very important lesson that we can take into the air, that we can take into whatever fight we happen to be fighting for different organizations that when the going gets tough, recoiling back isn't necessarily the answer to the problem, that you want to find ways to push through the filter. of course, lost in this complex set of relationships in this war within a war within a war was that the members of the
coalition authority, together with our men and women in uniform did in those first 18 months. a functioning, pluralistic government albeit adolescence, in its infancy, a written and ratified transitioning law, a framework for free elections. the establishment of political parties. reopening of the central bank. a stabilizing unified currency. introduction of a vastly improved health care system today. a framework for the return of a strong judiciary reestablished diplomatic relations with countries that used to be enemies growing into economy, training of a new iraqi security force to begin within weeks of the cba. hundreds of schools regarding hospitals and health care centers and by the time president bush left office in the middle east have been
developed with shia, sunni, kurd at the table. systems have been created with an incredibly challenging security environment they saw participation by more than 8 million people. the economy of iraq has increased several times over from time under saddam hussein. per capita income has increased between four and six times and security forces much to the surprise i'm sure as many people in this country have actually secured much of iraq with ongoing assistance in the united states. perhaps most important, al qaeda in iraq beginning in 2008 in 2000 had been decimated. our failure to win the home front communications were to this day still imperils iraq were that many missteps that occurred. the erosion of support almost
exclusively bad news and the strategy from the white house that it became politically untenable for president bush and politically inconvenient for president obama. that inconvenience unfortunately extended to be upon administration administration dealt with isis to the detriment of more than a dozen countries dealing with isis across the middle east and africa. information is power and perceptions created by the effect of these of information become reality. those are inextricably linked to our ability to implement policy when that policy will require significant time, resources. our nation needs a new focus on public diplomacy and fixing education and policy. i will be critical towards pushing back on the right and on the left. intellectually dishonest reporting, fake news and
uninformed opinions to ensure what we do vis-à-vis the rest of the world is more accurately contextualized for americans. lessons learned in iraq are critical to ensuring his nations we will maintain the will to engage around the world. not just militarily, but diplomatic way in economically as well coming using all the great tools this country has at its disposal to exert influence and values. when america engages, we see greater freedom, better security, reader wealth and the underpinning of peace. it was an honor to serve alongside so many brave americans in uniform. it was an honor to serve alongside so many iraqis who made the ultimate sacrifice as well and of course the civilians
who continue to be unsung heroes and they cause that at its core has the most noble intention of giving people the ability to determine their own destiny. thank you for your support of this book, this important message and i'm happy to take your questions. thank you very much. [applause] >> members and guests, this is being worked or did so if you do have a question for tom basile, please go from there. are you ready? >> kathy here. i just received a and i am very, very much looking forward to
reading it. it is a very important topic right now in so many different ways. so thank you for being here. on the cover of your book, i think you had donald rumsfeld. this made the simple -- i simple aspect of the. but when the war's first began, donald rumsfeld said this war is going to take a very, very long time. and this war is going to cause a lot of money. what the media said from not because he was admitting that it is an unknown. we don't know. we need to go add and invest the time and the money. but what the media constantly repeated was the administration doesn't know how much it's going to cost. the administration doesn't know how long this war is going to take.
it was such a distortion with such a simple version of some of the difficulty that we experience that we have to turn out. >> thank you for questioning. i always use the president's speech on the aircraft carrier at the end of major combat operations. you all know now what was the famous part of that speech. what was in that speech? mission accomplished. it wasn't in that speech. it was in the photos. if you read hersh's speech, bush understood this. he got it. he said if you are going to struggle against radical islamic extremists, you have to address the middle east spirit in order for you to do that, that is a generations long type of struggle. it is not clean. it doesn't happen right away and it is something that he believes
was worth investing. did they know how much it would cost ultimately? of course not. everyone was clear right from the very beginning that this was going to be a long fight. the media loves to conveniently ignore that and suggest to people that wish and rumsfeld sorted duke everyone into thinking we would go in and would be like 1991 and it was going to be over in a few months. one of the things that after the mission accomplished beach, we started getting in the office with a lot of reporters to call you up and say why is it taking so long to build the military? mind you, this is august 2003. we don't take any prisoners. the military collapsed and we do basically had a poorly trained, poorly funded construct army that had no office report because it completely dissipated
. but by august they were singing what is taking so long to get the judiciary up and running? why is it taking so long to get the sewage system fixed in baghdad? why is it taking so long to get the lights back on? there is this sense of impatience and you're laughing i'm assuming because of how ridiculous it was. what i was featured reporter was like okay, well, take this out of baghdad. take this out of bad data and put in columbus, ohio. how long would it take you to build a power plant in columbus, ohio under the best circumstances imaginable? five years on the low end? we are in new york city tonight. there are projects that you invest in nature the developers investing in that started investing 10 years ago and they
are still not done. according to the mainstream press, we were supposed to have everything finished and they want to try and drive and they did very successfully. the white house for its part after what happened with the mission accomplished banner really needed to redouble its efforts to explain to people in every way that occurred that this was going to be messy, long and low, did they anticipate insurgency? or have not. do they know how corrupted it was when we got there, perhaps not. with the data country the works that belgium. we don't have to worry about half of this stuff.
but is that level, that level of unknowns is very significant and i do believe we made a mistake in not having as many troops as they needed to. the civilian leadership during that first year was very adamant that we needed more troops and this is sort of the war within the war. the civilian leadership and the military leadership across purposes on strategy. another question? >> i just have a question relative if it was discussed or do you have an opinion, early on in the war, how many seemed to be keeping the army in place and
working with tribal leaders that the good old yankee dollar and we had been alluding. we had in the breakup when they said mr. bremmer breaks at the armory, it seems like everything went to in the situation worsened relative to decisions and not defense. do you have any relative to that? >> i do have a comment and this is one of the things we are going to debate for a long time. the fact of the matter is in the first gulf war and i don't have numbers in front of me, but we took an enormous number of iraqi pows. we were taking whole battalions of iraqi soldiers. that didn't happen this time around.
after the looting was allowed to happen and you didn't have any mechanism. you couldn't find people. you had no officer corps. the entire top echelon of the army, saddam hussein has 300 generals and they were all basically like political patrons jobs. all of those folks went away. you cannot run an army with just infantrymen, particularly conscripts. so what happened in addition obviously you had no resource is in order to train them, it in order to equip them. it was all gone. what we did, what remer did within the first two months that he was there was to graduate the
first battalion of the new iraqi army. so the process of rebuilding the military and ultimately most of the people that are subject to the pacification under the rank of colonel all were able to come back and folks that were part of the iraqi civil service because you had to be about this number basically in order to have a job. most of those people were ultimately rehired. i'm not talking about a year or two years later. the process move quickly to evaluate these folks and put them back in jobs. we had functioning agencies, departments of the iraqi government and functioning, we had a functioning reality in baghdad within four months after the fall of the statue. so the process didn't move
fairly quickly and that is something people never really realized. the other problem we had in baghdad of course was you didn't have police officers. so when we went into iraq, the police department in baghdad, the bag that police department collapsed. we had to re-recruit people and then retrain folks in a very short period of time. so while we were trying to do the military end of that, we also had to do the civilian security services as well and we were putting thousands of cops on the street by september or october and taking some of the burden off of our soldiers who didn't need traffic cops. they needed to go out and hunt and kill terrorists. there's a lot of information about both the pacification and
the disbanding of the iraqi military but i am one that you can't dispense something that didn't exist in the first place by the time we got to it. other questions? >> to the bush administration fully understand the sanctions between the sunnis and shia in iraq with the decisions going? >> that is one of the things that we had to deal with as we were bringing obviously ex-patriot than to help with the negotiation process. from the administration standpoint, during the time of the coalition i can't speak to the decision-making process before hand. i can speak to what happened when i was there. the appointment of the governing council, which was a diverse group of men and women who are
brought together to work with the coalition in july. the statue fell in april. the resort of it. where general garner was there and they were trying to put together a reconstruction effort. you have the looting and once bremmer got into country, they immediately started working out issues and a much greater speed and they were able to put together this governing council. there were obvious disagreements. we had some very experienced diplomats working to try and bring these different factions together to help create the transitional administrative law and ultimately the constitution. the set. issues that exist in iraq have existed for centuries and they only got worse after the british came in and basically carved up the middle east.
a lot of people realize that the map was drawn by a foreign power that came in. so there is to one degree or another sort of a nonnatural union to all of this. the one thing that brought everyone together was the fact of oil resources. and that is something we deal with today. discussion about iraqi kurdistan with the sticky wicket with all of that is the idea of who gets which oilfield in one amount of revenue and what forms it would take is suppose to a new united iraq. i think when it comes to set. issues, it's hard for us to understand them here. the iraqis than anyone in the middle east and this is one of
the reasons when we talk about islamic extremism, there is come and there is a sense of history in the middle east that they have very long memories and they look very far into the future about how to take your society that once sat with the gentleman who openly became the chief justice in this building and we were getting ready to reappoint some justices to the iraqi supreme court who had been thrown off the bench. they're almost executed by saddam but he didn't execute, threw them out the bench because he basically wants to dictate to them what the ruling should be that impacted his son. these men in their 70s, they all came together and i was talking to this gentleman.
his name is mark mode and i think you know, there's a lot of work to be done to rebuild the judiciary here. the iraqis were writing laws long before the invention of the mechanical clock. he looked across the table through thick glasses and he said to me in a new era as a lawyer, to. he said we have been here before and he was very striking because he wasn't talking about priests. he was reaching back to this great history that they have, this great legal history that they had. there was a sense of confidence in his voice because he was looking at the future with this wonderful foundation of their past as painful as in many
respects they can be and that is the way these folks approached their relationships. in some respects that could be a good thing because it gave them stamina. the media loves to sit just that not only where americans losing confidence in the iraq mission that the iraqis didn't want us there to begin with. not wanting your country to be occupied with different than not the need for having troops there and not having a vision for what the country could be. i had a conversation, the mayor of baghdad who went down to divide the time and came back and said how was your trip and he said i am so angry. of course i'm staying to be angry with us is to be angry with me.
he said i'm not angry with you. i am angry with the idea that we allowed this world now. i've been to europe now and have seen what other countries in the middle east is made of themselves and i am angry at us for allowing this to go on for so long. that sentiment pervades the iraq use that adult with the sunni, shia enteric. some things to remember about iraq and set. to submit iraq, iraq was not a dry country. iraq was a very liberal country where they had separation between mosque and state. they had intermarriage of the different stacks of islam. you could be shia in living next door to a sunni. saddam hussein's foreign
minister was a christian, a coptic christian. so the idea of this overtaking the sectarianism is something that has always been present, but has been amplified a think by the influence of outsiders like iran and it has been influenced from al qaeda acting that way, found the world of islam did they wait us out
>> thank you very much. [applause] and also on behalf of the military affairs committee or would like to present you with their military affairs challenge coin. [applause] >> thank you. thank you very much. >> i think everyone of you for attending tonight, but it would be a military affairs event without continuing plugs or next event. so here is paying the bill so to speak. skydiving on august 18th. we have a bunch of skydivers in the audience wearing their wings. i see people looking at their feet not trying to make eye contact right now. join us to jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.
that will give you immense bragging rights at the main bar downstairs. on september 11th, a special day for our city's special to you. we are going to have a very special guest tonight is army lieutenant general campolo, the armies all special forces and air the units that are really taking it to the enemy at this point with the war on terror. september 11. after that, we have another special guest, special different type of plane. we are going to have the united states air force commander of the space command here, four-star general was going to talk to us about stuff we usually don't talk about, which includes plans and how they are getting to mars. when i say that, we had a conversation in florida and he looked at yuri.
[inaudible conversations] neil: death of the author is recently featured on booktv from a weekly author interview program. talk radio host mark levin and federal government expansion. "wall street journal" writer and former editorial page editor george malone offered his thoughts on the publication's influence. former breitbart news editor explored the limits of free speech. in the coming weeks on afterwards, the policy institute senior fellow david osborne will examine the charter school movement and offer his outlook on the future of public education. journalist suzy hansen will travel abroad and reflect on the global standing. investigative journalist art levine will report on the health industry. this weekend on afterwards, danielle allen will discuss how
mass incarceration has impact to our family. >> you can see that to the degree of difficulty issue in the amount of luck involved in the relationship with the adolescents unless you put yourself back in each of those years and think about what did your bedroom look like? what were the dangerous choices you are considering? like put those things side-by-side. >> is a personal responsibility your style? what is serious when people people ask you that? >> you cannot separate those things. collectively we build the world we live in. we build the opportunity pattern. we are building it. it doesn't just fall out of nowhere and in the world we live in, and they are very different degrees of difficulty depending