Iraq Reinforcements: Return of the ‘5 O’Clock Follies’?


Was it fair to tweet the Pentagon announcement late Monday afternoon that 200 more U.S. troops are headed for Iraq—bringing the total there about 750—as the “5:34 O’Clock Follies”?

That’s a reference to the infamous “5 O’Clock Follies” conducted by the U.S. military in Saigon’s Rex Hotel during the Vietnam War. It was where the Pentagon’s local spokesmen offered up enemy body counts and other data suggesting that the U.S. was winning the war in southeast Asia. “Early in the US phase of the war, the principal daily US press briefing became known among US newsmen as the `5 O’Clock Follies,’” a 1979 Army study said. “Nothing the best of the public affairs officers could do could `sell’ what the majority of the press had decided was a bad or at least a suspect policy.”

The term has become shorthand for the messy business of trying to sell war:…

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