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Washington Bobs
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 the war.

We've moved to the outskirts of Baghdad in just a few days!

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" Iraqis.

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 "Baghdad Bob".

The public - and the troops - deserve better.

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