Research compiled by ThinkProgress shows that when “surge” was first adopted by the mainstream media in November 2006, the term was specifically defined as a “temporary,” “short-term” increase in U.S. forces. In fact, we now know that the Bush administration and the most prominent advocates of escalation all reject a short-term increase in U.S. forces. Rather, they advocate a long-term increase of forces lasting at least 18 months.
The media, in other words, has continued to use the term “surge” even though its definition has fundamentally changed.
The choice of words is not an academic point. A CBS poll released Monday found that only 18 percent of Americans support an escalation of forces in Iraq. However, when asked whether they support a “short-term troop increase,” the number jumps to 45 percent approval (48 percent disapproval).
Every time the media repeats the word “surge,” they are helping to mislead the American people about the long-term escalation being proposed. Reporters and news organizations have a responsibility to stop using the term to describe President Bush’s policy.
‘SURGE’ ORIGINALLY DEFINED AS ‘TEMPORARY,’ ‘SHORT-TERM’ INCREASE IN TROOP LEVELS:
NOVEMBER 20: NEW YORK TIMES REPORTS MCCAIN WANTS ‘SHORT-TERM SURGE’: “In Washington, a leading Republican supporter of the war, Senator John McCain of Arizona, said American troops in Iraq were ‘fighting and dying for a failed policy.’ But Mr. McCain continued to argue vigorously for a short-term surge in American forces, and he gained a vocal ally in Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina…” [New York Times, Brian Knowlton, 11/19/06]
NOVEMBER 20: CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR REPORTS ON ‘TEMPORARY SURGE’: “Speculation over a temporary surge in troops has been fueled in part by sources close to administration deliberations on Iraq strategy.” [Christian Science Monitor, Howard LaFranchi, 11/20/06]
NOVEMBER 20: WASHINGTON POST REPORTS ON ‘SHORT’ ‘TEMPORARY’ TROOP INCREASE: “Under this mixture of options, which is gaining favor inside the military, the U.S. presence in Iraq, currently about 140,000 troops, would be boosted by 20,000 to 30,000 for a short period, the officials said. The purpose of the temporary but notable increase, they said, would be twofold…” [Washington Post, Thomas Ricks, 11/20/06]
NOVEMBER 21: NEW YORK TIMES REPORTS SENIOR BUSH OFFICIALS BACK ‘SHORT-TERM’ ‘TEMPORARY’ SURGE: “Pentagon officials conducting a review of Iraq strategy are considering a substantial but temporary increase in American troop levels and the addition of several thousand more trainers to work with Iraqi forces, a senior Defense Department official said Monday. The idea, dubbed the ‘surge option’ by some officials, would involve increasing American forces by 20,000 troops or more for several months… ‘There are people who believe that a short-term surge would have a beneficial impact, but there isn’t universal agreement on that yet,’ said the senior official.” [New York Times, David Cloud, 11/21/06]
NOVEMBER 21: NBC NEWS REPORTS ON ‘SHORT-TERM SURGE’ OPTION: Let’s talk a bit about some of the plans that the Pentagon is supposedly considering. First of all, sending 20,000 more troops into Iraq, a short-term surge in an effort to try to stabilize Baghdad. [Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC, 11/21/06]
NOVEMBER 22: FOX NEWS REPORTS ON ‘TEMPORARY’ SURGE: “The new Marine Corps commandant General James Conway…said the idea some people are now suggesting of creating a temporary surge of U.S. forces in Iraq could be accomplished with the current force of about 180,000 Marines, but would have an undesirable impact later on.” [Brit Hume, Fox News, 11/22/06, available on Lexis]
NOVEMBER 22: ABC NEWS REPORTS ON ‘TEMPORARY’ SURGE: “A temporary increase in US force levels in Iraq. And what General Conway said is that the Marine Corps could facilitate a temporary surge of no more than 60 days, really. He said that’s about the limit.” [ABC News, Jonathan Karl, 11/22/06, available on Lexis]
IN FACT, WHITE HOUSE IS PLANNING LONG-TERM ESCALATION OF U.S. FORCES:
TIME REPORTS BUSH PLANNING ESCALATION FOR ‘UP TO TWO YEARS’: “Sometime next week the President is expected to propose a surge in the number of U.S. forces in Iraq for a period of up to two years.” [Time, 1/4/07]
DECEMBER 27: ARCHITECTS OF THE ESCALATION PLAN ADMIT IT WILL NOT BE SHORT-TERM: In a joint Washington Post op-ed, retired Gen. Jack Keane and right-wing scholar Fred Kagan said they needed to “cut through the confusion” and admitted a troop increase would require “at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.” [Washington Post joint op-ed, 12/27/06]
JANUARY 8: NEW U.S. GROUND COMMANDER IN IRAQ ANTICIPATES ESCALATION FOR ‘TWO OR THREE YEARS’: The New York Times reported on Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno. “The new American operational commander in Iraq said Sunday that even with the additional American troops likely to be deployed in Baghdad under President Bush’s new war strategy it might take another ‘two or three years’ for American and Iraqi forces to gain the upper hand in the war. [New York Times, 1/8/07]
JANUARY 9: MCCAIN SAYS 6 MONTHS IS TOO SHORT & ‘THE WORST OF ALL WORLDS WOULD BE A SMALL, SHORT SURGE’: “There are two keys to any increase in U.S. force levels: It must be substantial, and it must be sustained…The worst of all worlds would be a small, short surge of U.S. forces.” [Sen. John McCain, Sacramento Bee op-ed, 1/9/07]