Back during the start of Iraq II in early 2003, Gibson, a Marine corporal, drove a Humvee that provided protection to ambulances. After a few firefights, Gibson recalled, his unit was greeted by thousands of Iraqis who crowded the streets for 60 miles into town. They sang and danced in celebration of the arrival of U.S. troops.
When his convoy stopped, a man approached, pushing a young girl in front of him. The father picked out a Marine and pushed his daughter forward.
"He was, like, here, have my daughter," recalled the 25-year-old Gibson, who's now a student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. "When the Marine said, 'No, no,' the guy just cried. Tears were streaming down his face."
At this point, a couple of nearby business types shaking cinnamon into their coffee cups were trying to eavesdrop on Gibson's story. That's when he launched into a climax designed to kick all of us media types squarely in the balls if this meat patty had any.
When Gibson returned home in May 2003, he was glad that his father had recorded news reports about his unit. But instead of showing the Iraqis greeting them as liberators, the footage was all bloody firefights with insurgents and downed soldiers. "I couldn't watch it. I told my father to turn it off," he said.
Then Gibson met longtime KC conservative pundit Rich Nadler, who runs an activist group called Americas Majority in Overland Park. (The last time this newspaper reported on Nadler's activities, it was in a story about how he had produced some phone-bank messages urging African-Americans to vote Republican during the November 2002 elections ["Black Tuesday," December 12, 2002]. That story also noted that Nadler had produced TV ads two years earlier for a group called the Republican Ideas Political Committee. The spots featured a woman complaining that her son's violent, drug-infested public school offered "a bit more diversity than [she] could handle." The ads were labeled racist by such noted liberals as then-Sen. John Ashcroft.)
Nadler has recruited Gibson to join two other Iraq vets who are convinced that news outlets aren't showing the real war. Nadler calls it the War of Words Project.
Nadler got the idea, he says, "by listening to the slanted, idiot, left-wing media every night."
The Strip loves when Rich Nadler talks dirty.
Nadler claims that the media concentrate too much on a few morbid details. Purely for the sake of explanation, this contrary cutlet will now repeat just a few of the overplayed details: What was supposedly an in-and-out war is now in its fourth year; the war may end up costing $600 billion, 10 times more than the White House's original estimate; 35,000 dead Iraqis; 2,300 dead U.S. troops; and 17,000 injured U.S. forces.
To prove things aren't so bad over there, Nadler cites a study that found an average of about 25 people a day have died in Iraq since the American occupation. (The study was conducted in April 2003 and doesn't include the recent upsurge in killings; but if you irnore that fact, the numbers look pretty positive.) Plus, Nadler says, you have to take into account that some have suggested Saddam Hussein murdered about 75 Iraqis a day, on average.
"If 25 people died in Overland Park in a day, that's a big deal," Nadler tells the Strip. "If that happens in Iraq, it's not a big deal there. That's what they're used to."
So, hoping to get the message out that things in Iraq are relatively the same as they are in Overland Park, Nadler rounded up help from Gibson; J.D. Johannes, a former Marine sergeant and ex-campaign manager for Phill Kline who'd also worked in TV; and Lt. Lawrence Indyk, a self-described "Jewish Iraq war veteran," who was awarded a Purple Heart.
They produced TV commercials showing happy scenes of Iraqis voting, children skipping along with U.S. troops, and American flags blowing in the breeze. One of the main messages, repeated by Gibson, warns that the media want the war to get worse. "Don't let them turn Iraq into another Vietnam," Gibson warns.
Nadler hopes that he'll be able to raise enough money to run the commercials nationally. So far, he has managed to get them on his Web site, www.amermaj.com. The site explains that the goal of his organization is to ensure "a lasting conservative majority" by convincing folks who aren't conservatives to start voting the way that they are.
Back on March 9, Gibson and the other vets flew to Washington, D.C., where they joined Nadler for a press conference to kick off War of Words. Also, there was Nadler's communications director, John Altevogt, another conservative activist who is probably still aglow from his success in exposing University of Kansas religious studies professor Paul Mirecki as an anti-fundamentalist (based on Mirecki's postings on a student atheist group's message board last December).
Altevogt arranged to have the vets speak at the National Press Club. Recalling the event, Altevogt isn't sure which members of the press attended.
"I didn't wander around and ask for their credentials, quite frankly," Altevogt tells the Strip. He does recall a reporter from the Turkish press and another from CNS News (a Web site produced by the conservative Media Research Center).
Gibson, who is studying to sing opera at UMKC, admits that, so far, the project has been ignored by the media. And it concerns him that TV news programs still broadcast only scenes of car bombs and bloody victims of insurgent attacks. "Once you start beating an idea into someone else's mind, that's all they'll know."
Which is why you should visit the Americas Majority Web site. Over and over, until you're convinced.