April 23, 2003
By Mike McArdle
Breaking News - one of our rescued POWs has just farted.
Okay, it wasn't that bad - but it was close. The shameless
cheerleading that virtually all news outlets engaged in during
the month-long walkover of a war in Iraq shows us just how
compromised our US news sources, particularly the broadcast
sources, have become when the news involves the military.
A seemingly endless array of retired military "experts"
tore themselves away from Northrup or Boeing or the American
Legion to offer their journalistic services the networks to
explain just how we were going to kick the ass of the Iraqi
army. There was some initial early murmuring about how our
"courageous men and women in uniform (CMAWIU)" -
how many times did we hear that phrase? - may have been a
bit understaffed because at least at first the Iraqis didn't
crap themselves and make a run for Syria. But a war pitting
the most potent military in world history against a force
that was basically equipped to fight World War I soon began
to resemble the Miami vs. Troy State mismatch that it was
and the news was all good after the first week and our pundits
quickly joined the ex-soldiers in 24/7 rabble rousing for
We've moved to the outskirts of Baghdad in just a few
It was basically a trip up the interstate. There were "pockets
of resistance" of course, but the Pentagon had predicted
a three week war before it happened and the budget request
had factored in a month-long war so it went just about the
way everyone expected. It was lopsided as hell.
There were Americans killed of course, but our forces killed
as many of them as the Iraqis did. The were also Iraqis killed,
and in far greater number than Americans, but there was scant
mention of them. The war enormously personalized. All American
military actions were directed against Saddam Hussein. The
Fedayeen who were, in fact, fighting against an invading army
from a country that had not been attacked were "Saddam's
thugs" (in contrast of course to our CMAWIU). Even when
homes and marketplaces were blown up it was "the regime"
being attacked not people.
It wasn't until the shooting had all but stopped that we
began to see stories like the one the Washington Post published
last weekend about Ali Kadhim Subhi who was burying his father,
mother and wife in Najaf last week. Subhi was the only one
of 26 members of his family to escape death or injury in the
US bombing. The same day the New York Times told the
story of the Kachadoorian family whose neighborhood was being
destroyed by the bombing so they fled to a cousin's house.
When the cousin's house was blown up they decided to flee
Baghdad but unknowingly made a wrong turn into a firefight
and were gunned down by US forces.
The story of the armless boy who had lost his family when
a bomb hit their which had attracted much attention in the
British press got little attention in the US until last week.
The thousands of Iraqis who demonstrated in Baghdad last weekend
demanding an American withdrawal from their country while
equating America with Saddam received far less attention than
the staged event in which an American military vehicle pulled
down a statue while a few dozen Iraqis cheered.
"We refuse to live in fear" said George W. Bush
about Iraq to an audience in Cincinnati last October 7. Is
it too much to ask of the US press corps that they point out
that he was lying? Unless Bush and everyone around him are
total idiots they did not live in fear of Iraq. The defenselessness
of the Iraqis and the lack of evidence of the much touted
weapons of mass destruction makes it clear that there was
no threat to the US from Iraq. The Bushies cynically changed
the reason for the war the minute the first shots were fired.
Obviously aware that the war would be a one-sided joke the
"threat" was forgotten and it became a war to "liberate"
But of course that's a lie too and last week's demonstrations
show that the Iraqis know it. The Bushies liberation means
the inside track for US companies in both the rebuilding of
the country and the disposition of Iraq's vast oil reserves.
It also seems to mean rule by an American puppet. That the
Bushies would even consider trying to install a convicted
embezzler like Ahmed Chalabi who hasn't lived in Iraq since
he was a kid illustrates how little the welfare of Iraqis
means to this administration.
Years ago then-Secretary of State Dean Acheson defended Cold
War policies with the principle that "politics ends at
the waters edge." The loose meaning of this idea is "how
can you criticize me when I'm defending you against the godless
commie." In the aftermath of Vietnam many on the right
and in the military itself blamed negative coverage for the
loss of the war and consequently American lives (the CMAWIU).
The press, apparently cowed by the criticism, has since adopted
a policy that journalism also ends at the waters edge.
But this is an abdication of the responsibility of a free
press. A war that can't stand up to honest scrutiny probably
shouldn't be fought. You do the CMAWIU no favors by blindly
supporting policies that could get them killed needlessly.
The CMAWIU weren't fighting for our freedom (another totally
worn out phrase in recent weeks). They were fighting for spheres
of influence and think tank theories. I would suspect that
most of those covering the war knew that but what we heard
from them was only slightly more honest than we heard from
the Iraqi information minister, whom they derisively dubbed
The public - and the troops - deserve better.