Thursday, October 26, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

LESS than two weeks before congressional mid-term elections, and with polls showing the Republican Party is in danger of losing control of both houses of Congress, the last thing George Bush wanted was to hold a press conference to defend his Administration's handling of Iraq.
But the US President was forced to, mainly because internal Republican Party polling shows Iraq is a huge negative for Republicans countrywide and must be met head on.
About 75 per cent of Americans believe the Bush Administration has no coherent strategy to deal with what they now see as a civil war.
Republican candidates are racing to distance themselves from Mr Bush and calling for "course correction" in Iraq.
So there was Mr Bush - one moment incredibly defensive, the next aggressive and emphatic, but mostly looking uncomfortable - admitting that his Administration had made mistakes in Iraq and that Americans were losing heart about the whole venture. "I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq", he said. "I'm not satisfied either. But we cannot allow our dissatisfaction to turn into disillusionment about our purpose in this war."

Skip noted the above. It's from Michael Gawenda's "Election fears force Bush into damage control" (Sydney Morning Herald). Skip notes that Iraq's a growing issue in press coverage in his country (Australia) and that the talk has turned to elections there. He wondered whether the talk of Iraq in the US could be seen as resulting from elections as well?

I think that's a good question and that it's at least one aspect of it. I also think that's why a lot of people seem to think they're covering Iraq (in the US) by sprinkling a reference to the fatalities or the polling in their article that has little to do with Iraq. We're getting a lot of trash passing for 'coverage.' Such as an article that doesn't belong in The Nation. It's on Harold Ford Jr. and not only is Ford not someone the magazine should be admiring, the writer also has little idea of what killed Ron Kirk's campaign in Texas. I read the e-mails. We have a large number of community members in Texas and the idea that Corny (as they dub John Cornyn) won because he dubbed Kirk with the "L-word" (liberal) is a joke. In the DFW area, members can tell you that Kirk didn't even feel the need to run commercials for most of the campaign. They can also tell you he was a lousy Dallas mayor, he was pro-business and he was a lousy speaker. That's sound-bytes, that's on the stump. Ron Kirk ran a lousy campaign. I e-mailed Billie for a comment because she loathes Kirk. Billie: "He shucked and jived looking all the while like like Carlton on Fresh Prince. I was never more embarrassed to be a Black woman than to have a candidate who went so far out of his way to distance himself from African-Americans." I also called a friend in the area whose a journalist and he echoed Billie's criticism and added these two points: (1) Kirk ran a weak campaign and had no base; (2) He came off a position (mayor of Dallas) in a city that doesn't have a strong mayor. (The city council outweighs the mayor due to the way the local system is set up.)

That's the reality. Another reality is that chicken ___'s like Martin Frost wouldn't even put "Democrat" on their campaign material. When candidates do that, it's not uncommon that the party begins to be seen as something embarrassing -- when even candidates won't claim it. There has been a long history of that in Texas. But we get nonsense from The Nation (such nonsense that we're not linking to the glossy story).

Considering that the editorial last year stated there would be no endorsement for any candidate who supported the war, the fact that the article doesn't even explore's Ford's stance on that issue and that it comes in an issue that will hit stands the week before the election means that the magazine doesn't walk it the way it talks it with this article.

Far better is Nicholas von Hoffman's "Useful Idiots" -- which Kyle noted and, sadly, it's web only -- no print version for this. Here's Kyle's highlight from the article:

Now comes another piece in The London Review of Books that would have served the world better had it appeared in an American publication. It is ""Bush's Useful Idiots," Tony Judt's essay on "The Strange Death of Liberal America."
Judt is a corking good historian currently running New York University's Remarque Institute. In this piece he directs his anger toward the corps of men and women who, though presenting themselves as liberals, supported the Iraq disaster from the git-go. Of them he writes, "Indeed, intellectual camp followers of this kind were first identified by Lenin himself, who coined the term that still describes them best. Today, America's liberal armchair warriors are the 'useful idiots' of the War on Terror."
Who are the useful idiots who served Bush so well in bringing defeat and disgrace down on our country? He names some of them--Michael Ignatieff, Leon Wieseltier, David Remnick, Thomas Friedman, Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago Divinity School, Paul Berman, Peter Beinart--but without too much head-scratching, others could be added to Judt's list.

Now note, the above? Not worthy for print. The puff piece on Harold Ford Jr.? It will be in print. Which has more value to the reader? I'd argue von Hoffman and, since members have e-mailed complaining about the Ford article, I'd argue that's not an minority opinion.

Kyle notes that when he copy and pasted his highlight, von Hoffman's article was the most e-mailed at The Nation. But, again, it's web only. Not worthy for publication. Kyle asked if we could address Ford? We will, after the election. Cedric's suggested it for a piece at The Third Estate Sunday Review but wants to wait until the weekend after the election. So look for some reality then (and I'm not just speaking of the article we're not linking to). (Let me note that Betty wants this written now and may write about it Monday when she substitutes for Kat. That's fine with Cedric but he doesn't want to write it until after the election.)

So von Hoffman has a serious piece and it's about Iraq but won't be printed and a puff piece on Ford, that avoids the issue of Iraq, gets covered. And you wonder why the war drags on?

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Thursday, the total number of US troop fatalities stood at 2787. Right now? 2809. Repeating from earlier today, Iraqi fatalities? CBS and AP note "more than 961 Iraqis have been killed in war-related violence this month, the highest level since The Associated Press began tracking civilian deaths in April 2005. That amounts to an average of more than 41 each day, compared with a daily average of about 27 since April 2005, as more Iraqis fall prey to sectarian death squads affiliated with militias. The AP count includes civilians, government officials and police and security forces, and is considered a minimum based on AP reporting. The actual number is likely higher, as many killings go unreported. The United Nations has said 100 Iraqis are being killed each day." Most deaths go unreported.

Riverbend commenting on The Lancet study, approximately 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the war, (Baghdad Burning):

For American politicians and military personnel, playing dumb and talking about numbers of bodies in morgues and official statistics, etc, seems to be the latest tactic. But as any Iraqi knows, not every death is being reported. As for getting reliable numbers from the Ministry of Health or any other official Iraqi institution, that's about as probable as getting a coherent, grammatically correct sentence from George Bush- especially after the ministry was banned from giving out correct mortality numbers. So far, the only Iraqis I know pretending this number is outrageous are either out-of-touch Iraqis abroad who supported the war, or Iraqis inside of the country who are directly benefiting from the occupation ($) and likely living in the Green Zone.
The chaos and lack of proper facilities is resulting in people being buried without a trip to the morgue or the hospital. During American military attacks on cities like Samarra and Fallujah, victims were buried in their gardens or in mass graves in football fields. Or has that been forgotten already?

But by all means, let's talk about wishy-washy spineless Dems, let's give them cover because it's an election! Skip had a good point and it's why I'm shying more and more away from any election highlights at all here. Everyone's on it from outside and most articles aren't worth the time required to read (or skim). [Bill Fletcher Jr. has an article worth reading at The Black Commentator. For those wanting a serious discussion about elections, click here.]

On highlights. Lewis' e-mail is gibberish where he copied and pasted. He's very excited about an article and it will go into the Sunday evening entry. I'm guessing the link was the problem (he put the link in himself) because it was like an entry here when the link is open. I'm on the phone doing a roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin so I may not have time to respond to e-mails tonight. So I'll note here, Lewis resend without the link and let's see if that makes the text readable. Brandon had a great highlight but I want to take that over to The Third Estate Sunday Review because we've already discussed a feature on that topic for this Sunday's edition.

Liang, we're highlighting now, notes Danny Schechter News Dissector's "Those Vietnam Parallels" (BuzzFlash):

The Vietnamese forced the U.S. into negotiations for the Paris Peace Agreement. When the agreement was continually violated, they brilliantly staged a final offensive that surprised and routed a superior million-man Saigon Army. Can the Iraqi resistance do the same? Insurgent groups reportedly have asked for negotiations and some have secretly taken place.
The Vietnam war ended when the costs rose. The BBC reminded us, "As the casualties mounted so did the questions about how much a threat the Vietcong could really pose. Today another pre-emptive war against an enemy far from home has posed similar questions."
As the insurgency in Iraq escalates and continues to seize the initiative with the capacity to attack where and when it wants, as US and allied casualties rise, is it unthinkable to suspect that another April 30th campaign of the kind that "liberated" Saigon is possible in Baghdad?
Remember the US military made the defense of Saigon the centerpiece of its strategy. The slogan then was "as Saigon goes, so goes Vietnam." The same is now being said of Baghdad.
We have already seen one "fall" of Baghdad. Will it "fall" again? Of course not! Repeat after me. We are winning. Democracy is on the march even if we are no longer allowed to say "Mission Accomplished" or "Stay the Course."

Liang wanted it noted that she's heard this from her family growing up but "I can count on one hand the number of times I can find it in the media." Proving Danny's point that Vietnam is still hidden away (when not revised). We did note this already today, the article, but it meant a great deal to Liang and she hopes everyone takes time to read it. It's too late to go into the round-robin but I hope she'll consider sharing her comments in Sunday's Polly's Brew. And I hope it's okay to note that she has serious concerns for children of Iraqis whose families move to this country (US) if the people/media are going to treat this war (in the years to come) the way they treat Vietnam now.

What will that be like? Who will be the new Sly Stallone starring in the revisionist history? It's worth thinking about and I've stated before that the left better not get into one of their "Oh, it's painful, we won't talk about it" moments. That happened with Vietnam. I think it's in Sir! No Sir! where Jane Fonda makes the comment about how she's always being asked why she has to keep going back to Vietnam and she makes the point that the right always goes back to it. That is exactly how the revisionism on that war managed to obscure reality.

You have to wonder if so many hadn't decided that we shouldn't talk about it whether we'd be in the current illegal war now? Fonda's spoken before about how Coming Home captured some of what was going on in the US, Platoon captured some of what was going on in Vietnam but we didn't have the film that captured how the US got over there in the first place. (A Bright and Shining Lie, wonderful book, when it was filmed was made for cable, not the theaters.)

Documentarians, historians (such as Howard Zinn to name but one) covered reality but most shied from it and it wasn't a conversation we could have. It's still not and that does, I believe, go a long way to explaining how Bully Boy could trick the people of the United States into a war.

The right will keep coming back to Iraq and rewriting it. We'll probably hear the ludicrous lie that it was 'winnable' and that the troops had 'one hand tied behind their backs' because DC wouldn't use all the arsenal. We'll hear all those lies again. It's easy to think that since we know the way it went down, everyone will. But Vietnam was largely avoided in most history classes and it was avoided as a topic in most conversations.

The war is over. The troops aren't home yet, but the war is over. Preventing this from happening in the near future will require people being willing to talk about what went down and why. The nation never healed because the nation couldn't address the problem.

655,000 Iraqis and counting are dead. Thirty years from now, will the nation be grappling all over again or are we going to be smarter this time and address reality?

The scary thing to me is that we're not even addressing it today. It's addressed on campus, in conversations, but it's rarely addressed in the media -- big or small. We saw a whole summer taken off from the topic. Now we're supposed to focus on the elections. Elections don't end wars, people end wars. "Power players" don't end wars. (See Sunday's edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review.) And it's very discouraging to realize that we may well see the fourth year mark of the illegal war before we see the media start to treat it seriously, as more than a sidebar or a starting point for puff pieces. There are execeptions but they shouldn't be exceptions.

If you remember the period and you watch Sir! No Sir!, it really is shocking to see how Vietnam has been rewritten. And, as Jerry Lembcke points out in the film, reality was covered in real time. Not in a few outlets. It was covered. Big and small, it was covered. The lack of coverage today makes me very fearful of how the revisions will go on this illegal war.

This entry's a little different than usual, my apologies. I'm on the road speaking. I will be filling in for Kat tomorrow but it will be late because I have a late flight home. Also don't expect much tomorrow. On Ruth, Cheryl and Joan both wondered if filling in for Kat would mean she wouldn't have a report this weekend? Ruth actually wondered that herself and her focus is going to be on the report. If there's time, she'll also do a post at Kat's site this weekend. If not, she'll just do the report. [Blogger/Blogspot was down yesterday evening so Ruth wasn't able to do a guest post yesterday.]

The e-mail address for this site is

danny schechter