(click for detailed view)
The battle for farmland was so successful that Secretary of War, Robert Gates decided it was time for him to lead the Afghanistan PR campaign himself - while bringing along some press corp dummies to repeat whatever he tells them. For NPR the honor of mastering Gatespeak went to Mary Louise "Two Clocks" Kelly. The highlight of the trip for Kelly was a Potemkin village stroll with Gates through a market in Now Zad. After repeating Gates' comments to troops about being "the tip of the spear" Kelly describes this "unthinkable" miracle:
"We are driving past adobe mud huts and on our way for Secretary Gates to do something that, until a few months ago, might've been unthinkable.Golly, puts me in mind of a "market in Indiana in the summertime." After leaving the market, Kelly informs us that Gates reflected, "It has been a useful day." No kidding, even a dummy could have figured that out.
We're in a town market. Afghan men sit before small stalls selling pomegranates and potatoes, oranges and eggs. And what might have been unthinkable, not so long ago, is the sight of the U.S. secretary of Defense walking down the middle of the road. No body armor, just khakis and a buttoned down shirt and a Camp Lejeune baseball cap on his head. Marines are swarming the roofs of the mud huts around us, machine guns in hand, watching for trouble, but all is calm. And Gates chats politely through a translator with a couple of the locals."