Sunday, June 15, 2014

Whatever you do, don't mention the war

On the whole, it's probably less interesting to examine Mike Rogers's babbling prescriptions in detail than to look back -- could it be nearly eight years? -- to those halcyon days when, by golly, real Americans thought twice before declaring something a civil war:

"You have not yet had a situation also where you have two clearly defined and opposing groups vying not only for power, but for territory," White House press secretary Tony Snow said. "What you do have is sectarian violence that seems to be less aimed at gaining full control over an area than expressing differences. ..."

Ah, differences. And that sort of carelessness is a sure sign of a librul media plot -- right, Bill O'Reilly?

NBC News has declared that there is indeed a civil war in Iraq. Now that's not shocking, because NBC is the most aggressive anti-Bush network these days, as they have made a calculated effort to woo left-wing viewers.

The question is: Is NBC wrong about Iraq? The answer is yes — at this point.

The Iraq War has morphed into a number of conflicts, much like the chaotic Baltic* situation under President Clinton. Because the Bush administration miscalculated the problems after Saddam, the ensuing chaos has given power to a number of bad guys.

Good thing Fox had leading policy thinkers like Cal Thomas to put it all in context:

The height of pretension in all of this was when Matt Lauer got on the "Today" show, and like a head of state, announced that they were now going to call it a "civil war." What right does he have to do this? Who elected him to anything?

Nor had the White House gotten much friendlier by May 2008:

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Tuesday the administration is “fed up” with the way NBC News is treating the Iraq war.

"I remember very distinctly, how there was a quite the pomp and circumstance when NBC, on The Today Show, decided to declare that they were declaring Iraq was a civil war. But since then, after the surge and things certainly have improved in Iraq, NBC has never had a corresponding ceremony to say that Iraq is not in a civil war. We're just curious to find out what they believe," she said.

In  other words: Stop it, you pesky media! How could you dare suggest that Americans died as a result of systematic policy blunders, rather than episodic hostile action?

Fox, as you can imagine (two versions of the main story line from Friday are shown at right, in case you had something better to do than cataloging variations on the paranoid theme), knows exactly when to declare a policy fault and when to fall back on somber fears about whether our sacrifices were in vain. It's a bit annoying to note that the purportedly liberal media are generally in lockstep; here's the local fishwrap on Sunday's 1A:

Iraq war veterans in Michigan and across the country are watching with dismay, bitterness and even sadness as the same insurgency they fought against took control of two major cities — Mousul and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit — last week.

Is it really too much to ask? That maybe a grownup news organization could remember enough about the past decade to point out not only that it's not the same insurgency, but that the main reason there have been insurgencies in Iraq during that time span was the deranged decision to launch a war there in the first place?

I don't mean to suggest that the press should go around making fun of people or belittling their losses; whatever its provenance, "comfort the afflicted" is a pretty good ethical precept. I do suggest that, having spilled so much ink on idiosyncratic failure, we might do well to be a little more attentive to systematic failure. The second US-Iraq war was not an accident. It was not a bold stroke for freedom or against terrorism. If it was meant to serve national interests, it was almost comically incompetent. If we don't want to endure the consequences of future blunders on that scale, it'd be nice to have a press that is capable of independent decisions and well enough informed to stand by them.

* You don't suppose he meant "Balkan," do you?

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