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Thursday, June 29, 2006

American Press Stuck on Sunny Side of Iraq by Paul Mulshine

Reality-based lack-of-progress report by ambassador was met with stony silence.

I was perusing some political sites on the Internet recently when I came upon what I assumed was a blockbuster story.

Al Kamen, who writes a column of political gossip for the Washington Post, had unearthed a memo from the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The memo contained 23 points describing conditions in Iraq:

Point 2: "Two of our three female employees report stepped up harassment beginning in mid-May. One, a Shia who favors Western clothing, was advised by an unknown woman in her Baghdad neighborhood to wear a veil and not to drive her own car. She said some groups are pushing women to cover even their face, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative."
___ to Read the on "Print Article and/or Read More" below >>>

Point 7 noted that "Temperatures in Baghdad have already reached 115 degrees. Employees all confirm that, by the last week of May, they were getting one hour of power for every six hours without." Point 18 referred to an embassy employee who finds himself going to a funeral "every evening." Point 21: "Personal safety depends on good relations with 'neighborhood' governments, who barricade streets and ward off outsiders. People no longer trust most neighbors."

Taken as a whole, the memo added up to a complete refutation of the Bush administration's assertions regarding progress in Iraq. I expected to wake up the next morning and see the memo on the front page of every newspaper in America.

And then: nothing. Other than a few mentions in editorials, the memo faded from sight. The only meaningful coverage of it was in the British newspapers.

I was perplexed. Maybe the memo was a fake. It certainly read that way. Who but an enemy of the Bush administration would have penned that line about "a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative"? If the ambassador to Iraq, over whose name the memo went out, is willing to admit that the United States has managed to hand Iraq over to Islamists even more fanatical than those in Iran, then any American "victory" in Iraq will be a Pyrrhic one indeed.

But the Brits were taking the memo seriously, so perhaps it was real. I called Kamen at the Post. He told me the State Department confirmed the memo was authentic. I asked him why the media ignored it.

"I don't have an answer," he told me.

I don't either. But I do have a question: If, as so many Bush loyalists assert, the supposedly liberal members of the media are so biased against the Iraq war, then why would they ignore this story? There are only two possible answers: Either the media types aren't that liberal. Or the war isn't that conservative.

The first option can be safely dismissed. Most members of the mainstream media are extremely accepting of the central tenet of liberal thought since the New Deal era, that the federal government offers the best forum for addressing political and social problems.

The Iraq war, I think it's safe to say, follows out of that line of thinking. That might explain why the media have been so uncritical of what is turning out to be the biggest foreign-policy fiasco in American history.

It's an article of faith among Beltway conservatives these days that the media are out to undermine the Iraq war. I have never seen any evidence of that. The quick dismissal of this memo offers further proof that the media are generally supportive of what is in essence a Wilsonian exercise in nation-building.

Consider the major newspapers of New York, the most liberal city in the nation. The Wall Street Journal is rabidly pro-war, outdone perhaps only by the New York Post. The New York Times? Reporter Judy Miller engendered as much war fever with theoretical weapons of mass destruction as William Randolph Hearst did with the actual sinking of the USS Maine.

As for the writers on the Times opinion pages, they generally endorsed the idea that spreading democracy to the Mideast was a proper use of U.S. power. Their objections focused more on Bush's bungling of that objective.

That would also describe the position of the leading liberal politician in New York and in the nation, Sen. Hillary Clinton. I keep reading that the nation is in the grip of a fierce ideological struggle over the Iraq war, but I don't see it. Hillary Clinton's view of the war seems to differ only slightly from the views of the neoconservatives at the Weekly Standard and the National Review. All agree that "liberating" Iraqis constituted a proper use of our military might and our tax dollars. If given a magic wand and a chance to go back to February 2003 and abort the invasion, I doubt if either the liberals or the neocons would wave it.

As Baghdad began its descent into post-liberation chaos, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously remarked that "freedom's untidy." Just how untidy is apparent from that memo. Excuse me if I sound like a real right-winger, but compared to it, dictatorship was pretty neat.

© 2006 Star Tribune
source here...


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