The Daily Brew

Friday, April 11, 2003:


More Fighting To Do
© April 11, 2003
The Daily Brew

Nothing more thoroughly demonstrates the short memories and profound ignorance of the grass roots Republican base than the gloating over what has been presented as the end of the war in Iraq. As always, the media partnership with the White House is to blame.

The official script for "Operation Iraqi Freedom" apparently was to read like a spaghetti western, a showdown between Bush and Saddam at the Baghdad Corral. From the beginning of the conflict, the media and the administration presented the month long war as a nip and tuck battle. Given the facts on the ground, it was an audacious display of coordinated spin.

Arguments prior to the war concerned mostly the length of the cakewalk. Even as it happened, the raw facts showed the American military chewing up sporadic Iraqi resistance like a plow through a field. Nevertheless, from the moment the invasion began, the media breathlessly presented every small arms attack on an A1 Abrams tank as having the potential to turn the conflict into an American defeat. The ruse was so contrary to the reality that it must have been getting hard to do with a straight face. Fortunately for the script writers, the fall of Saddam's statue in Baghdad provided the perfect telegenic moment where the media and the administration could triumphantly declare victory.

So as the statue fell, all across the cable networks the familiar chorus of instant pundits fell into line, treating the moment as though it provided some sort of closure, and praising the White House as though it had just won the Superbowl. The military did its part to keep the news on message by attacking foreign news organizations that strayed from the triumphant reporting of pre-approved, "embedded" journalists. Never in the history of warfare had the presentation of a conflict been more thoroughly controlled, and as a result, never in the history of warfare had the actual uncertainties created by instigators of the conflict been more thoroughly ignored. The absurdity of the presentation; the total integration of White House and media spin, would have been comical if propaganda weren't effective in influencing the opinions of a gullible public.

Even mildly educated viewers were bewildered at the spectacle. After all, the eventual conquest of Saddam's regime in Iraq was perhaps the only predictable event of the whole war. Thoughtful people had been discussing the complexities of dealing with the aftermath of the conflict for over a year, ever since the administration telegraphed its determination that war was inevitable, regardless of what Saddam Hussein did or did not do. For all but the most easily led astray, the fall of Saddam represented the opening of Pandora's box. Yet the media reported the event as though it somehow provided closure. Of course, in a sense, it did. It represented the end of the period where the Bush administration could control or even predict the events it had just unleashed.

Now that the war has run its official media story line, it will be interesting to see how the script develops to explain the messy realities of post war Iraq they have so far ignored. Ruling the now conquered Iraq promises to be no small feat. The most obvious flaw in the story line is the fact that "liberated" Iraqis continue to fight against US forces. Iraqi's new found "freedom" also apparently includes suicide bombers, looting, the general breakdown of most utilities, no food or water, and a civil war that threatens to erupt as a result of the ongoing political assassinations. All of these facts detract from the cable news version of the war. As the ripples of the conflict begin to erupt outside of Iraq, as with today's storming of the Iraqi embassy in Iran, the administration and the corporate media will be challenged to develop a new narrative explaining how these events somehow reflect favorably on Bush. One option, the option selected in the case of Afghanistan, would be to simply ignore such developments. Another option would be to distract the public with yet another war. If the past is any guide, the media will chose the first, and the administration will choose the second.

Common Sense // 12:35 PM

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