Ward Harklavy of the Village Voice has revealed that even more about President Bush’s October 13th videoconference with U.S. troops and an Iraqi soldier was staged than was apparent on the television screen.

In an embarrassing episode for the White House, television cameras captured a lengthy rehearsal of the teleconference with deputy assistant defense secretary Allison Barber coaching the soldiers before the arrival of the president.

Despite the captured-on-film moment the Pentagon denies that the event was staged, and Bush’s press secretary Scott McClellan insists that reporters who asked about the apparent staging of the event are getting caught up in “side issues.” “I think what the American people heard was some very important information from our men and women in uniform,”

One of the troops taking part in the teleconference was Master Sergeant Corrinne Lombardo who introduced herself simply as “Master Sergeant Corine Lombardo, with the Headquarters 42nd Infantry Division and Task Force Liberty, from Scotia, New York.” She told Bush:

SERGEANT LOMBARDO: I can tell you over the past 10 months we’ve seen a tremendous increase in the capabilities and the confidences of our Iraqi security force partners. We’ve been working side-by-side, training and equipping 18 Iraqi army battalions. Since we began our partnership, they have improved greatly, and they continue to develop and grow into sustainable forces. Over the next month, we anticipate seeing at least one-third of those Iraqi forces conducting independent operations…

Together with our coalition forces, we’ve captured over 50 terrorists, as well as detained thousands of others that have ties to the insurgency. And I believe it is these accomplishments and the numerous accomplishments from our task force that will provide a safe and secure environment for the referendum vote.

But a google search of Corine Lombardo turns up several articles written by her on official military sites (this one, for example). as well others where she is quoted (like here) as an official military spokeswoman. Ms. Lombardo, it seems, is a public affairs person attached to the 42nd Infantry Division. In other words, her job is public relations, helping to put a good face on our military efforts in Iraq.

Harklavy, in his Village Voice piece quotes his associate David Axe, who has covered Iraq for the Voice, and knows Sergeant Lombardo from having spent time in Tikrit.

Her job when I was with the 42nd Infantry Division included taking reporters to lunch.

She lives in a fortified compound in Tikrit and rarely leaves.

Many public-affairs types in Iraq never leave their bases, and they’re speaking for those who do the fighting and dying.

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