Captain Josh Rushing

by Ted on October 30, 2004

In the terrific documentary Control Room about the Al-Jazeera network, one of the most appealing figures was Marines spokesman Captain Josh Rushing. With the possible exception of Ken Pollack’s The Threatening Storm, I don’t think that I saw or read a more persuasive spokesman for the war in Iraq. He engaged often-critical Al Jazeera journalists in a fair-minded way, without giving up a point. He simultaneously radiated candor and a deeply-felt belief in the righteousness of the cause. My fiancee said that she wished she could hire him.

He’s recently left the Marines, and he’s given his first interview to Fresh Air today on NPR. You can listen to it online. I haven’t heard it yet, but I suspect that most people who saw Control Room would be interested in what he has to say.

UPDATE: That was really something. He’s deeply pro-military, but critical of the way the war has been conducted. If the election wasn’t days away, I suspect that he’d be in for the full-strength “slime and defend” treatment. More below.

Here are my real-time notes, which I might revise after listening again:

He feels “duped” about the intelligence. He says it hit him when Colin Powell admitted that the intelligence had been deliberately manipulated.

He used to spend all of his spare time online in chat rooms; he would tell people who he was and try to clear up misperceptions about the war.

He says that Fox reporters would ask him what points he wanted to get across before the interview, and they would essentialy script the interview before the cameras started rolling.

Al Jazeera would ask extremely combatative questions, often based on false premises, and then simultaneously show an unrelated bloody scene to make it seem that he’s responding to the scene.

He loved “Iraq for Dummies”; he read it on the plane, and it made him look like an expert by the time he arrived in Iraq.

He thinks there was too much White House influence in the communications corps. They brought in a White House insider, a civillian from the Bush campaign. They promoted him to two-star rank, so that he outranked the colonel who would normally have been in charge of communications. Several other Bush adminstration officials opened an office next to theirs, and it changed the way they operated.

The communications corp have been proud of being non-partisan and straight shooters, but he thinks that they were compromised. He was occasionally accused of being a political flack by a reporter. During the war, he would have argued with that. Afterwards, he’d have to agree that sometimes they were carrying water for the administration. He cites a scene in the film about looting- they were promoting the message that Iraqis were responsible for protecting themselves from looting, which he personally thought was absurd. Since they had just taken over the city, of course they were responsible for security.

He says that his personal values say that you should admit mistakes. He believes that there’s a culture now that says that you never admit a mistake. Says that culture goes all the way to the White House, citing the second debate when Bush couldn’t think of a single mistake. “I find that kind of hubris disturbing, and I think the rest of the world finds it a little arrogant- even beyond arrogant, even delusional at some point.”

Doesn’t think that he’s alone. Cites the survey that says that most in the military are Republican, and says that’s been true for a long time, but in the past year he’s heard more criticism of the Administration than he’d ever heard before.

Very frustrated because he was told “You can’t speak to the press about Control Room“. When Abu Ghraib broke, he was quoted in a piece in the Village Voice about how the horror of war. He says he would have liked to have given America the message that it wasn’t just him- there were legions of people like him, who would have said exactly the same thing. But he was accused of grandstanding, which he found very hurtful.



James Russell 10.30.04 at 10:47 am

If the election wasn’t days away, I suspect that he’d be in for the full-strength “slime and defend” treatment.

I don’t see why the timing of the election should have anything to do with it. He’s had the temerity to publicly question the wisdom of what Bushcorp is doing after having helped to do it, and that will automatically make him a target of the right-wing smear machine, election or no election.

Apparently the Control Room DVD features a commentary track by Rushing. I’d be very interested in hearing that.


M. 10.30.04 at 4:21 pm

I didn’t see Control Room, but I have to say that it sounds like he could handle the usual slime attacks better than most people. Could be wrong, but…


praktike 10.30.04 at 4:55 pm

I found him to be a very sympathetic figure in the film … you could watch him grow as he understood more and more how America was actually perceived in the Arab world. It’s pretty clear that our public diplomacy was astonishingly inept, and he realizes it.


Mark T 10.30.04 at 4:58 pm

How sad that honesty is punished and comunication is politicized. Does the administration not realize that winning a war depends on knowing the reality of what is happening in the field with the greatest possible degree of accuracy? Capt. Rushing is a hero, it’s beyond comprehension that they would choose to slime somebody like this, but you can easily predict that it will happen if the President is re-elected.


pbal 10.30.04 at 4:59 pm

Josh also pointed out that it was a big mistake to leave dealing with Al Jazera to the lowest ranking guy in the office (Josh). Al Jazera, being the source of news to the arab world, merited a real expert in the region to be doing the job he was assigned.


Charles 10.30.04 at 5:06 pm

Just one question. You say he “recently left the Marines,” just how did he manage to do that with a Stop Loss order in place? Nobody gets out of the Marines.


John 10.30.04 at 5:16 pm

My wife and I saw Control Room and Rushing came across as a very likable, earnest, well-intentioned young military officer. There were also some hints of his being a bit naive, but that may have been simply the results of his own inherent honesty — he got blindsided by some who don’t share his integrity. In addition, as a former Air Force officer, I thought his career was over.

We listened to the Fresh Air interview last night and came away with an even better impression, though a poignant one.

Rushing is on his way to becoming a wise man. Clearly, he’s reflected on his experience at considerable depth. I could go on a length about Rushing’s very sophisticated view of what was happening in Iraq and to himself and of his role in it. He doesn’t BS himself, much less others. Regretably, my sense at the end of the movie, that his military career was over, was correct.

Too bad that the Marines have lost a fine young officer with great potential. Someone else will gain.

We wish Rushing the very best.


Kilgore 10.30.04 at 5:55 pm

Rushing said that the Marines don’t currently have a stop loss policy


steveeboy 10.30.04 at 6:23 pm

The USMC does NOT have a stop loss policy…

They never have trouble getting recruits.

Their long tradition of honor, pride, and espirit de corps means that they are the service of choice for kids wishing to really “prove their manhood” by joining the absolutely most “military” of the service branches.

I served in the Air Force, and there was never any doubt about which branch of the service was the most disciplined, had the best military bearing, and who you wanted protecting your ass.

Those guys were so fucking sharp it put most other people–in any branch–to shame.

I myself would never join the USMC, but the people that do join tend to become very hard ass, great warriors, and very decent people. Even their rear-area support people are good with a rifle and know what to do when the shit goes down. That doesn’t happen in the other services.
(in Somalia, teh Army couldn’t even figure out what to do about toilets for the women GIs.)

For one thing, theyt have already achieved an important goal just by getting through basic training–the longest and toughest of all services.

Had GW Bush been a Marine, I guarantee he would not be such a whiny litle bitch seeking to prove his masculinity by sending others to die. He would not have this pathological need to prove his toughness because he knows he pussied out when it was his turn to serve his country.

If you watch comments coming from Iraq, compare the bland, white washed statements of the Army troops to those of the marines.

The marines are pretty much the only ones that tell the truth, tell it straight, don’t spin–just like this guy rushing.

I read an interview recently where the grunts were VERY critical of Bush and Rumsfeld and the whole war. When asked by the reporter if they were scared about speaking out they replied, “hell no, what are they going to do, send us to Iraq?”

If you want to know what is really going on, ask a Marine–other than Ollie North of course…

Rushing was the sort of Officer that they needed about 5000 of in IRaq. If they had peopel liek that they may have had a chance to pull off their “hearst and minds” strategy.

It is quite telling that they ran him out of Iraq and probably the Corps.


Kilgore 10.30.04 at 7:40 pm

Rushing said that the Marines don’t currently have a stop loss policy


rougy 10.30.04 at 10:24 pm

Good kid – well on his way to deprogramming himself from all of the bullshit our military fills our soldiers’ minds with.

He should start smoking pot or dropping acid – then the real awakening will begin.


rougy 10.30.04 at 10:25 pm

Good kid – well on his way to deprogramming himself from all of the bullshit our military fills our soldiers’ minds with.

He should start smoking pot or dropping acid – then the real awakening will begin.


Der Commissar 10.30.04 at 10:52 pm

Hubris? In not “admitting” a mistake? With the circling leftwing sharks waiting?

This is one of those places where a little reflection might lead to a conclusion that it’s one thing to “admit” mistakes to reasonable people, but quite another thing to do so to the likes of Kerry and Co. After all, Walter Cronkite just opined (on Larry King) that Karl Rove probably set up the Osama bin Laden interview.


Ethesis 10.31.04 at 4:30 am

Is an interesting follow-up to this thread, as is:


I know, counterpunch to Apocalpse Now to the far left, but it is a coherent narrative in its own way.

One that gives me pause.


John 10.31.04 at 9:42 am

I’d also reccomend for more of the military’s opinions on war. There are a variety of viewpoints represented there, but pretty much every contributor is real military and the site is run by Retired Colonel Hackworth.


Haven 10.31.04 at 4:58 pm

Der Commissar,

I didn’t realize that conservatives and Christians believe truth is relative to political party?


paul a'barge 11.01.04 at 1:02 am

With respect to “not admitting mistakes,” this guy is unbearably naive. Given the current state of the culture war in America, Bush’s instincts are on the money. You don’t admit mistakes to the Main Stream Media (MSM) or to DIMocRATs.

Now, having said that, let’s underscore that with a call for the examples where Kerry has admitted his mistakes … starting with his slander and lies all the way back to Viet Nam.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.


Dan Smith 11.01.04 at 3:55 pm

A couple questions.

When did Powell claim evidence was manipulated?

Who exactly is trying to “slime” Jim Rushing?


Hey Baby! 11.01.04 at 6:58 pm

Roughy, I totally agree with you. Our Joshy boy should grow his hair long, get dreads and score himself an incredible pair of lava lamps. And then, he’ll be set for life!

I especially agree with Der Commissar. Our liberal media is just is going to be the death of this universe. Remember kids and kiddos… The Jews Did 911!

– Love Baby


Jamie R 11.01.04 at 9:10 pm

I HIGHLY recommend the DVD. There’s lots of extra footage and commentary from several of the main characters – including Rushing. It really helps one understand the context of the movie better. I have several friends who, like Rushing, are loyal members of the military but can think for themselves. It’s nice to see that portrayed in this documentary.


moondog 11.02.04 at 6:51 am

In some of his offhand remarks,
this junior officer probably inadvertantly made more positive public affairs ground with the Arab and international community than the entire United States government has managed in these past two years!! This is the type of man we need representing us as an American, a Marine, and a representative of U.S. Foreign Policy. How in the hell could his superiors have squandered this resource?!!


Moondog 11.02.04 at 7:02 am

Capt. Rushing poses a serious threat to terrorist recruitment and propoganda. Voices such as his work to kill anti-Americanism and extremist ideology where they are born…on the streets, in coffee shops, in the mosques…
Hell of a good Marine.


Pearl Hoffman 11.04.04 at 4:07 pm

I saw Control Room last night. Excellent!

I saw Control Room last night. Excellent!
I urge Josh and anyone interested in Iraq and terrorism to read (and possibly post a review) of the book, What Price Israel? (50th anniversary edition 1953-2003, ISBN 0-7414-1927-0) by Alfred Lilienthal. Lilienthal is a 90 year old Am. Jewish writer who never favored a Jewish state. This book–it information based on documents– gives some historical perspective on why there is terrorism in the Mideast today: it was the militant Zionists (not all Israeli immigrants were involved) who first used terror against the British military and the Palestinians to get what they wanted.
posted by Markareet

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