Not to let anyone off the hook, but it's not exactly surprising that the Bush administration would head us straight into the Big Muddy.
At what point did Bush and Cheney not
reek of arrogance, dishonesty, and venality? Ditto for their neocon "brain trust" and a rubber-stamp Congress drunk on pork and power.Sarah Vowell
admits she was caught off-guard:
I see my initial worries about the current administration as the greatest betrayal in my whole life by my old pal pessimism. I attended the president's inauguration in 2001. When he took the presidential oath, I cried. What was I so afraid of? I was weeping because I was terrified that the new president would wreck the economy and muck up my drinking water. Isn't that adorable? I lacked the pessimistic imagination to dread that tens of thousands of human beings would be spied on or maimed or tortured or killed or stranded or drowned, thanks to his incompetence.
Me? I expected the worst from the Bushies, and that's just what I got. "You may screw up my country," I thought, "but nothing you do will surprise
Surprise came from another front, and my pessimism-readiness proved just as inadequate as Vowell's. The reviews came in for Colin Powell's off-Broadway production.
If Powell's selling of the war was Shakespearean
, the media's
response belonged in a Greek tragedy — a unison chorus shouting "compelling, compelling
"a massive array of evidence," "a detailed and persuasive case," "a powerful case," "a sober, factual case," "an overwhelming case," "a compelling case," "the strong, credible, and persuasive case," "a persuasive, detailed accumulation of information," "the core of his argument was unassailable," "a smoking fusillade... a persuasive case for anyone who is still persuadable," "an accumulation of painstakingly gathered and analyzed evidence," "only the most gullible and wishful thinking souls can now deny that Iraq is harboring and hiding weapons of mass destruction," "the skeptics asked for proof; they now have it," "a much more detailed and convincing argument than any that has previously been told," "an ironclad case... incontrovertible evidence," "succinct and damning evidence... the case is closed," "Colin Powell delivered the goods on Saddam Hussein," "masterful," "If there was any doubt that Hussein... needs to be... stripped of his chemical and biological capabilities, Powell put it to rest."
This just couldn't be. I'd seen the show! Max Bialystock wouldn't have touched this turkey.
Though this site commemorates February 5, 2003, perhaps the true day of shame is the 6th, when the press and pundit class pronounced Powell's speech an unimpeachable call to arms.
I should have seen it coming. The signs all pointed to it.
It was there when a doddering and valueless Ronald Reagan was exalted as "presidential" and "The Great Communicator." It was there when non-stop equivalation
turned a mismatch between a well-rounded statesman
and a strutting twit into a horserace.
But the entire news establishment calling bullshit parfait? And not just any bullshit, bullshit that was ready, willing, and — thanks to them — able to kill hundreds of thousands of people and catalyze chaos in the most volatile part of the world!?
If the press would do that, what might they do if the government started spying on us, torturing people, and suspending the right of habeas corpus? Let's hope we don't have to find out.
Perhaps like many progressives, you saw the UN presentation for the sad, whorific spectacle it was. Or maybe like many others — including those who entrusted
war powers to Bush — you believed either that Bush was bluffing his way to more leverage with Hussein or he had much stronger evidence that he couldn't reveal for security reasons.
If you were blogging in February and March 2003 (I wasn't), or if you still have your old e-mail (I do), look back at what you wrote then. George Santayana would have wanted you to.
Here's what I found in my trip down memory lane, five questions I kept sending a Republican friend while debating the merits of the pending war:
- In your opinion, what good evidence did Bush or Powell provide that Saddam has WMD?
- How can one justify a pre-emptive war absent strong evidence of either a clear and present threat or a violation of UN sanctions?
- If evidence doesn't matter, why did we urge the UN to resume the inspection regimes?
- What justified our trumping the UN's inspection efforts (which, again, were resumed at our urging), at a substantial cost to us in international good will?
- Why are we optimistic that regime change will be effective, given the tragic history of blowback and no U.S. good deed going unpunished in the Middle East?
The debate raged on, but he never did answer any of those questions.
I ain't no Bob Woodward. I don't have Judith Miller's Rolodex, nor the bully pulpit that is the New York Times
They clearly know more about American politics than I ever will. So, why didn't they
bother to wonder about such things? And why, to this day, does the MSM still work to tilt power toward this failed administration? Their robotic insistence on "centrism
" and "bipartisanship" is, at heart, a call to unmake last November's redistribution of Congressional power:
Back in 2002, when the U.S. was debating whether to invade Iraq, those who opposed the invasion were, for that reason alone, dismissed as unserious morons and demonized as anti-American subversive hippies. Despite the fact that subsequent events have largely proven them to have been right, and that those who did the demonizing were the frivolous, unserious, know-nothing extremists, this narrative persists, so that -- even now, when most Americans have turned against this war -- the only way to avoid being an "extremist," and to be rewarded with the "centrist" mantle, is to support the continuation of this war in one form or another.
If you thought the war was a good idea at the time, remember that you had a lot of help in coming to that conclusion. I hope that makes you even more mad as hell than I am, and even more committed to not taking this anymore.
We should be mad. One of the pillars of our American democracy went completely comatose at the switch as the train hurtled toward an unfinished bridge.
[Well, I should qualify "completely." A handful
of people got it right, and we're all indebted to the reporters who put it all on the line
to get a little truth out of Iraq. It's a damned shame that, as an institution, speaking truth to power is the exception, not the rule, in today's Fourth Estate.]
This issue is the main reason for this Brigadoon blog (which I plan to reactivate this time each year).
Not to put too fine a point on it: what the fuck is wrong with the American news media, and what is our best hope for fixing it?
And if we can't fix it, I urge you to use this occasion this year and every year to help awaken concern about this in our fellow citizens.
Like it or not, old media still has a powerful influence on public opinion. You can bet the farm that it will make and break candidates during this election cycle, as it has in every cycle in our lifetimes.
The bumper stickers say "Bush Lied, People Died." But would he have gotten away with it without the media by his side?
We need to grab this bull by the horns, or failing that, to raise awareness about what comes out its other end.
Labels: Colin Powell, Day of Shame, MSM, United Nations