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07 November 2006

Thoughts On Iraq

Shelly points to a really interesting op-ed in Rolling Stone. The piece, written by Matt Taibbi, talks about the growing shift in the U.S. from supporting the war occupation in Iraq to the backlash we're seeing now:

We saw this same kind of cultural shift in 1968, after the Tet offensive (an analogy so obvious that even Tom Friedman saw it recently), when the American political establishment soured on the Vietnam War. Despite the conservative propaganda that for decades has insisted that it was the media that lost the war for us in Vietnam, in fact the media didn't turn on the Vietnam war effort until the war was already lost. And the reason the media soured on that war had nothing to do with it being wrong; it had to do with the post-Tet realization that the war was expensive, unwinnable and politically costly. America is reaching the same conclusion now about Iraq, and so, like Dave Letterman, a whole host of people who just a few years ago thought we "had to do something" are now backing off and repositioning themselves in an antiwar stance.

What's dangerous about what's going on right now is that an electoral defeat of the Republicans next week, and perhaps a similar defeat in a presidential race two years from now, might fool some people into thinking that the responsibility for the Iraq war can be sunk forever with George Bush and the Republican politicians who went down with his ship. But in fact the real responsibility for the Iraq war lay not with Bush but with the Lettermans, the Wolf Blitzers, the CNNs, The New York Timeses of the world -- the malleable middle of the American political establishment who three years ago made a conscious moral choice to support a military action that even a three-year-old could have seen made no fucking sense at all.

It doesn't take much courage to book the Dixie Chicks when George Bush is sitting at thirty-nine percent in the polls and carrying 3,000 American bodies on his back every time he goes outside. It doesn't take much courage for MSNBC's Countdown to do a segment ripping the "Swift-Boating of Al Gore" in May 2006, or much gumption from Newsweek's Eleanor Clift to say that many people in the media "regret" the way Gore was attacked and ridiculed in 2000. We needed those people to act in the moment, not years later, when it's politically expedient. We needed TV news to reject "swift-boating" during the actual Swift Boat controversy, not two years later; we needed ABC and NBC to stand up to Clear Channel when that whole idiotic Dixie Chicks thing was happening, not years later; we needed the networks and the major dailies to actually cover the half-million-strong protests in Washington and New York before the war, instead of burying them in inside pages or describing the numbers as "thousands" or "at least 30,000," as many news outlets did at the time; and we needed David Letterman to have his war epiphany back when taking on Bill O'Reilly might actually have cost him real market share.

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Letterman's subsequent reasoning -- that seeing one death turn into dozens and then hundreds and thousands made him reconsider the whole thing -- all that tells you is that this is a person who makes life-and-death decisions without considering the consequences. If the Iraq war was not ever going to be worth 3,000 American lives (and countless more Iraqi lives), then why the hell did we go in in the first place? If you make a decision to fight, you had better not be scared of blood. And if you're suddenly changing your mind about things after you lose a few teenage lives, you're a hundred times more guilty than the guys like Bush who are actually sticking to their guns about this war.

Because Bush and the rest of that crew sent young men to die for something they believed in, fucked-up as their reasoning might be and have been. But these shitheads in the political middle who are flip-flopping right now sentenced teenagers to death for the cause of expediency and careerism. There are young men coming home now without arms and legs because the Wolf Blitzers of the world were too afraid to lose their jobs or piss off advertisers bucking the war hysteria of the times. Remember, CNN and the rest of the networks did great business in the run-up to the war. They had artists cooking up fancy new "America's New War" graphics and they were selling lawn fertilizer and soda and male-enhancement drugs by the metric ton right up to the time when the Saddam statue came down. But the war isn't selling anymore; the war is a bummer. And so these guys are changing their minds.

Are you throwing up yet? Surely that behavior is more shameful than anything coming out of the White House.

This assault on the Republicans that's taking place in the national media right now is partially a reflection of national attitudes, but mostly a matter of internal housecleaning. The members of the Bush administration have proven to be incompetent managers of the American system, and so they are being removed. It's that simple. They screwed up a war that all of these people wanted, turned public opinion against the dumbed-down militarist politics that until recently was good business for everybody. And so they have to go. Mistake any of this for ideology or principle at your peril.
In one sense "staying the course" amounts to little more than stubbornness in the face of reality. But in another it is kind of admirable. Bush may be a monster. But perhaps he isn't the biggest monster of all.

Comments on "Thoughts On Iraq"

 

Blogger pfangirl said ... (11/08/2006 07:54:00 AM) : 

Wow, that's a great, insightful article. It really highlights the whole 'safety in numbers' scenario that seems to dominate commentary on US political decisions.

 

Blogger jasdye said ... (11/08/2006 05:45:00 PM) : 

so what to make of Bush's dumping of his biggest war-hawk? (although i still think Cheney is the one who needs to fly the coop.)

 

Blogger Wasp Jerky said ... (11/08/2006 06:21:00 PM) : 

One horseman down. So many to go. :)

If Bush was going to drop Rummy, he should have done it before the election, when it might have picked up a few votes.

 

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