Thursday, September 6, 2007

Advice to General Petraeus

I’ve been there, done that. Okay, it wasn’t Iraq; it was Hollywood. But they take things seriously, and everyone in power has someone whose job is to make the boss look good. Okay, it wasn't defending an indefensible war; it was coming up with ways of dismissing callers, canceling lunch dates and rejecting scripts without creating bad feelings. The rule in Hollywood is you can destroy someone but leave the door open in case you want to be involved with their next project. How does this apply to you? Come through with a good report and you might get to Iran!

True, I never had to put a good face on a cholera outbreak, the collapse of the government and a third of the country’s people going hungry. That's more challenging, but I have some thoughts. Stick with what’s working. “Two third of the people have food”, is the way I’d suggest phrasing it and hope nobody thinks about the others. As for the weapons we’ve given to the Iraqi army which they’ve sold to the insurgency, the way I'd put it is, “The weapons we’ve provided are being put to use” (just don’t say by whom). As for all the people who’ve been killed or fled, that can work in your favor. Point out that every day, fewer and fewer people can be said to be suffering in Iraq.

A bit trickier to deal with is the statistic that 70% of Iraqis have reportedly said, "the presence of US forces in Iraq is making security worse". If you have to include that in the report, be sure to point out that polls are known to be skewed, particularly when the interviewees are distracted by shelling, which probably raises the margin of error. And here's where my Hollywood experience can be really useful. Behind its gates, Bel Air is home to contentious, demanding celebrities and studio heads, many of whom have in their history conflicts as intense as those between Shias and Sunnis, yet they co-exist with no violence. It may be worth your while to put in a call to the Bel Air Patrol, the private force that maintains the calm, to see if they can come over and help put a lid on things.