On Tuesday, a day after an Ethiopian jet strafed the airport in Mogadishu, the capital, the State Department issued internal guidance to staff members, instructing officials to play down the invasion in public statements.
“Should the press focus on the role of Ethiopia inside Somalia,” read a copy of the guidelines that was given to The New York Times by an American official here, “emphasize that this is a distraction from the issue of dialogue between the T.F.I.’s and Islamic courts and shift the focus back to the need for dialogue.” T.F.I. is an abbreviation for the weak transitional government in Somalia.
“The press must not be allowed to make this about Ethiopia, or Ethiopia violating the territorial integrity of Somalia,” the guidance said.
Of course these talking points become less effective when put out in this form. But just remember, “Officially, we haven’t put anybody in Somalia.”