“Speaking on the CBS News program ‘Face the Nation,’ General Myers said he had full faith in the war plan, adding ‘I just can’t explain why people are sniping at it.’ And Mr. Rumsfeld, speaking on the ABC News program ‘This Week,’ said, ‘We’re within 49 miles of Baghdad, and there are all these people hyperventilating that this isn’t working.'” — “U.S. Officials Vehemently Counter War Doubts,” New York Times, 3/30/2003 (reg. required to read)
I find the “49 miles” thing to be really weird. Most people, confronted with 49 miles of anything, would round up to 50 miles for the purposes of conversation — “We’re within 50 miles of Baghdad,” certainly sounds a lot more normal than “We’re within 49 miles of Baghdad.” It makes me suspect that Rumsfeld, et al are using the “49 miles” metric for the same reason that candy bars at the local Speedway are sold for 49 cents rather than 50 — the idea that the number “49” is a rather more deeply attractive number than “50” for the purposes of selling something. As in, we’re just 49 miles from Baghdad? Hell, that’s progress!!!
It’s probably just me, but I’d feel a lot more confident in the planning skills of our war planners if I didn’t get the feeling they were trying to use the same psychological tools to reassure me of their progress in this war that Hershey and M&M Mars use to tempt me to purchase their empty calorie confections. I don’t need the psychological sugar coat.