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Blame for Iraq Extends far Beyond the GOP

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo Blame for Iraq Extends Far Beyond the GOP By Matt Taibbi
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 9, 2006
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      Blame for Iraq Extends Far Beyond the GOP
      By Matt Taibbi
      Posted on November 5, 2006

      Anyone out there see the Letterman-O'Reilly dustup that went
      down recently? On the surface it looked like a seminal
      moment in modern television history, a Godzilla v. Megalon
      monster epic in which Godzilla was finally toppled just
      outside the Tokyo city gates. Keeled over, its rubber eyes
      flitting dumbly against the cardboard landscape, we finally
      saw the great lizard's vulnerable side. It was almost
      possible to feel sorry for Bill O'Reilly, who had trotted
      out on set with the peace-offering of a plastic sword and
      shield, expecting to make nice with his fellow overpaid TV
      icon -- but who instead ended up skewered and turned over
      the video-spit by the end of the segment, with an apple in
      his mouth and Sumner Redstone's massive billionaire foot
      wedged firmly in his ass.

      For the rest of his days, few people will forget the image
      of O'Reilly sitting glumly and taking it while some smug
      ex-weatherman called him a "bonehead" to raucous studio
      applause. Which is too bad, because Bill O'Reilly wasn't
      even the dumbest person on the set that day. For that honor
      my vote goes to Letterman. Here's Letterman's explanation of
      his initial position on the Iraq war:

      "Here is my position in the beginning. I think I sort of
      felt the way everybody did. We felt like we wanted to do
      something, because something terrible had been done to us.
      We did not understand exactly why, all we knew was that
      something terrible, something heinous, something obscene had
      been done to us. So, while it didn't exactly make as much
      sense to go in to Iraq as it did perhaps to go into
      Afghanistan, I like everybody else felt like, yes, we need
      to do something. We need to do something. And as the weeks
      turned into months, turned into years, and as one death
      became a dozen deaths became a hundred deaths became a
      thousand deaths, then we began to realize, you know what,
      maybe we're causing more trouble over there than the whole
      effort has been worth."

      That's a hell of a speech -- back to it in a moment. For
      now, consider the context in which it was delivered. We are
      in the last week before midterm elections in George Bush's
      second term, five years after 9/11, three and a half since
      the beginning of the Iraq war. By now we can say without
      much hesitation that the media establishment has turned not
      only on George Bush, but on the public attack-dogs of his
      right flank who dominated the national political media for
      so long. There's no more free lunch for the likes of
      O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, the latter of whom also took an
      unusually savage fragging in the national media last week
      for his attack on Michael J. Fox. That incident basically
      moved Al Franken into the national mainstream, with even a
      normally gentle humorist like Pulitzer Prize-winning
      cartoonist Muke Luckovitch (from the Atlanta
      Journal-Constitution) calling Rush a "big fat idiot" last week.

      What's happening is that these talk-radio pit-vipers who for
      a decade or so had us all wondering "How the fuck do these
      guys get away with this stuff?" are now no longer getting
      away with it -- there's now a mechanism in place in the
      national media that is poised to savage these guys for the
      same kinds of tactics that for the last ten years ago were
      mostly left to the likes of FAIR and Eric Alterman to bitch

      And it goes beyond beating on O'Reilly and Rush. All across
      the media landscape, once-reviled liberal or Democratic
      figures are being rehabilitated and celebrated by the same
      national media that, at best, habitually described Democrats
      as soft on defense or as unelectable political losers
      throughout most of the Bush years. This process actually
      began some time ago, around the time the Iraq war really
      started to go sour; I remember in particular one week in May
      when Good Morning America had a fuzzy-warm bit on Al Gore's
      "comeback" and a laudatory piece on the Dixie Chicks on
      successive days. Could that have happened in 2003? I doubt
      it. And it's continuing today; Chris Matthews last week
      called Nancy Pelosi "stylish" and compared her to Joe
      DiMaggio, of all people, while David Gregory went on the
      campaign trail with Michael J. Fox for the Today show. Can
      you imagine NBC news throwing a tow-line to a liberal
      Hollywood actor before the 2000 presidential elections?
      2004? No way. But this year, it's possible.

      Last week we also saw Wolf Blitzer, before the war one of
      the chief cheerleaders for the invasion, finding himself
      arrayed in an antiwar pose in another Japanese monster-movie
      debate situation with Lynne Cheney, with whom he had a
      fierce exchange over the broadcast of unpleasant footage
      from Iraq. And of course there was Bob Woodward, who a few
      years ago published one of the all-time Electrolux suck jobs
      for the administration with Bush at War, reading the writing
      on the wall and doing a complete about-face in his new book
      State of Denial, which came out to much fanfare and an
      uncompromising 60 Minutes segment last month.

      Look, there's nothing mysterious about any of this. It's
      pretty obvious what's going on. We saw this same kind of
      cultural shift in 1968, after the Tet offensive (an analogy
      so obvious that even Tom Friedman saw it recently), when the
      American political establishment soured on the Vietnam War.
      Despite the conservative propaganda that for decades has
      insisted that it was the media that lost the war for us in
      Vietnam, in fact the media didn't turn on the Vietnam war
      effort until the war was already lost. And the reason the
      media soured on that war had nothing to do with it being
      wrong; it had to do with the post-Tet realization that the
      war was expensive, unwinnable, and politically costly.
      America is reaching the same conclusion now about Iraq, and
      so, like Dave Letterman, a whole host of people who just a
      few years ago thought we "had to do something" are now
      backing off and repositioning themselves in an antiwar stance.

      What's dangerous about what's going on right now is that an
      electoral defeat of the Republicans next week, and perhaps a
      similar defeat in a presidential race two years from now,
      might fool some people into thinking that the responsibility
      for the Iraq war can be sunk forever with George Bush and
      the Republican politicians who went down with his ship. But
      in fact the real responsibility for the Iraq war lay not
      with Bush but with the Lettermans, the Wolf Blitzers, the
      CNNs, the New York Timeses of the world -- the malleable
      middle of the American political establishment who three
      years ago made a conscious moral choice to support a
      military action that even a three year-old could have seen
      made no fucking sense at all.

      It doesn't take much courage to book the Dixie Chicks when
      George Bush is sitting at 39% in the polls and carrying 3000
      American bodies on his back every time he goes outside. It
      doesn't take much courage for MSNBC's Countdown to do a
      segment ripping the "Swiftboating of Al Gore" in May of
      2006, or much gumption from Newsweek's Eleanor Clift to say
      that many people in the media "regret" the way Gore was
      attacked and ridiculed in 2000. We needed those people to
      act in the moment, not years later, when it's politically
      expedient. We needed TV news to reject "swift-boating"
      during the actual Swift Boat controversy, not two years
      later; we needed ABC and NBC to stand up to Clear Channel
      when that whole idiotic Dixie Chicks thing was happening,
      not years later; we needed the networks and the major
      dailies to actually cover the half-million-strong protests
      in Washington and New York before the war, instead of
      burying them in inside pages or describing the numbers as
      "thousands" or "at least 30,000," as many news outlets did
      at the time; and we needed David Letterman to have his war
      epiphany back when taking on Bill O'Reilly might actually
      have cost him real market share.

      Take a look again at Letterman's comment last week:

      "So, while it didn't exactly make as much sense to go in to
      Iraq as it did perhaps to go into Afghanistan, I like
      everybody else felt like, yes, we need to do something."

      Well, that's putting it pretty fucking mildly, wouldn't you
      say? It's not that Iraq didn't make "as much sense" as
      Afghanistan -- it didn't make any sense, and anyone with
      half a brain could have seen that. And Letterman's
      subsequent reasoning -- that seeing one death turn into
      dozens and then hundreds and thousands made him reconsider
      the whole thing -- all that tells you is that this is a
      person who makes life-and-death decisions without
      considering the consequences. If the Iraq war was not ever
      going to be worth 3,000 American lives (and countless more
      Iraqi lives), then why the hell did we go in in the first
      place? If you make a decision to fight, you had better not
      be scared of blood. And if you're suddenly changing your
      mind about things after you lose a few teenage lives, you're
      a hundred times more guilty than the guys like Bush who are
      actually sticking to their guns about this war.

      Because Bush and the rest of that crew sent young men to die
      for something they believed in, fucked-up as their reasoning
      might be and have been. But these shitheads in the political
      middle who are flip-flopping right now sentenced teenagers
      to death for the cause of expediency and careerism. There
      are young men coming home now without arms and legs because
      the Wolf Blitzers of the world were too afraid to lose their
      jobs or piss off advertisers bucking the war hysteria of the
      times. Remember, CNN and the rest of the networks did great
      business in the run-up to the war. They had artists cooking
      up fancy new "America's New War" graphics and they were
      selling lawn fertilizer and soda and male-enhancement drugs
      by the metric ton right up to the time when the Saddam
      statue came down. But the war isn't selling anymore; the war
      is a bummer. And so these guys are changing their minds.

      Are you throwing up yet? Surely that behavior is more
      shameful than anything coming out of the White House.

      This assault on the Republicans that's taking place in the
      national media right now is partially a reflection of
      national attitudes, but mostly a matter of internal
      housecleaning. The members of the Bush administration have
      proven to be incompetent managers of the American system,
      and so they are being removed. It's that simple. They
      screwed up a war that all of these people wanted, turned
      public opinion against the dumbed-down militarist politics
      that until recently was good business for everybody. And so
      they have to go. Mistake any of this for ideology or
      principle at your peril.

      Matt Taibbi is a writer for Rolling Stone.


      Dan Clore

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