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The Killing Season

It’s 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 check.

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.

“It 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 undertaking.”

>From 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 politely.

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.

—Molly Ivins


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.’

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