hard to make Iraq into a suitable Christmas topic, unless
one bears news of Our Boys getting home-knit socks and home-baked
cookies from Lard Lake or Fluterville. Mere mention is enough
to drive full-grown adults to doctored eggnog. Nevertheless,
since the season should require us to do at least some thinking
about the killing being done in our name, let’s do a reality
The Sabbath gasbags, as The Nation’s Calvin Trillin
calls our Sunday TV news commentators, distinguished themselves
yet again. They’re trying to gang up on Donald Rumsfeld on
the theory that the entire Iraq war would have worked out
just dandy if it hadn’t been for Rumsfeld’s mistakes.
This shark attack was precipitated by blood in the water—to
wit, Rumsfeld’s dismissive answer to a soldier inquiring as
to why his unit’s vehicles weren’t armored. Rumsfeld treated
the soldier exactly the way he treats members of the press
or anyone else who raises questions about the war: as though
he were an impertinent fool. It didn’t look good on television.
For those now waxing indignant about Rumsfeld and the whole
situation concerning armor, I remind you that when 60 Minutes
carried exactly this story in October, as did other news outlets,
the right wing promptly pounced on it as further evidence
of supposed liberal bias in the media.
Rumsfeld’s mistakes may constitute an impressive list, but
is there any evidence that this war could ever have worked
out well? I know, anyone who asks that question is promptly
denounced by the right wing, insisting, as the media watchdog
group FAIR puts it, “that the war is going well and anyone
who feels otherwise is a defeatist liberal uninterested in
bringing democracy to the Middle East.”
So far, we have not brought democracy to Iraq. We have brought
blood, killing and death. Our so-called liberal media do a
pathetically inadequate job of telling us about the war because,
first, it is too dangerous to cover most of the country, and
second, reporters who are critical of the endeavor are blacklisted
by our military. The few American reporters who speak Arabic
are sending hair-raising reports.
For evidence that the whole enterprise needed to be rethought
from the beginning, I cite the Los Angeles Times story
from June about the iconic image of this war—the toppling
of the statue of Saddam Hussein in the great square in Baghdad.
It was actually a U.S. Army psy-ops stunt staged to look like
a spontaneous action by Iraqis.
was a Marine colonel—not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely
assumed from the TV images—who decided to topple the statue,
the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological
operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi
then till this past election, when Bush kept insisting no
more troops were necessary, we have been treated like mushrooms.
On Dec. 1, the administration announced 12,000 more troops
would be added, mostly by extending the tours of those due
to come home and drafting very surprised National Guardsmen.
It’s hard to imagine any group more credulous than the American
media in relation to this administration. It’s like Charlie
Brown and the football.
The latest talking point is that all the nay-sayers will be
proven wrong and the elections in Iraq will work a treat.
Well, OK, we all hope so. But what is the evidence? The attacks
go up day after day—they’re coming from all over the country.
The U.S. response is that these attacks are the last gasp
of a desperate insurgency trying to buffalo Iraqis before
the elections, and it will all collapse after that. That is
exactly what the administration told us before the “handover”
to the puppet Iraqi government last June. The attacks went
up from 20 to 30 to 50 and now to 100 a day.
Meanwhile, we keep bombing Iraqis. I sometimes think Americans
don’t realize that. This is not “precision,” “pinpoint” bombing—it’s
bombing. It kills innocent people. The best we can hope for
from this election is that the Shiite slate endorsed by al-Sistani
wins. That would be the slate pledged to ask the United States
to leave the minute it gets in. With any luck, they’ll ask
Elsewhere on our suffering orb, genocide proceeds in Darfur.
The United States won’t act. The United Nations won’t act.
We’re all . . . just letting it happen. Again.
The new film Hotel Rwanda has come to remind us all
of the moral complicity of those who do nothing but sit and
watch. The least we can do in honor of the season is send
money to the relief organizations. And you might, if you don’t
have hand-cramp from writing all your cards wishing for peace
on earth, write your congressman as well.
so-called liberal media do a pathetically inadequate job of
telling us about the war because, first, it is too dangerous
to cover most of the country, and second, reporters who are
critical of the endeavor are blacklisted by our military.’