Sunday, July 20, 2003

Bring ‘em on: Two US soldiers killed in ambush near Mosul. Bring 'em on: UN convoy ambushed in Baghdad; Iraqi driver killed. Bremer arrives in Washington for unannounced visit. If it was an unannounced visit, how did he get scheduled on the Sunday talk shows so quickly? Iraqi council fails to choose a president. Bush and Blair want UN to help with occupation costs and troop support. Protests in Baghdad. Shi’ite cleric denounces US “occupation.” Protests in Basra continued for a second day in a row, demanding that Iraq's new governing council include representatives chosen in free elections. Afghanistan: Pakistani press reports sixteen US troops killed in two attacks. Caveat Lector: This is the only source reporting this story. Afghanistan: US press reports two coalition soldiers wounded in convoy ambush. Afghanistan: Germany cuts peacekeeping troops by 800. Home front: Bush campaign cash tops $40 million. Wolfie’s Magical Mystery Tour continues. For a classified and unannounced visit, Wolfowitz sure seems to be getting quite a bit of press coverage. WaPo’s Jim Hoagland accompanied him and yesterday filed a dispatch from southern Iraq. Jim was gushing over Wolfie as he "sits cross-legged in the blowing dust of a hall made of reeds and perspires visibly as a tribal sheik pleads for support. Wolfowitz's blue blazer and red tie add to his discomfort; but the U.S. deputy defense secretary insists on showing respect to a people he has almost certainly helped save from extinction.” Extinction? Don’t you think that’s laying it on a bit thick, Jim. Or is this the start of a new neo-conservative justification for the war? “Saving the Marsh Arabs from Saddam’s Genocide.” Continuining on this theme, today Wolfowitz visited a mass grave. He can’t find the WMDs he promised – but remember that he promised just for bureaucratic reasons, with his fingers crossed – so he’ll settle for the mass graves, and the American press dutifully reports this change of spin without batting an eye. You have to wonder about the US press, when they report that, “in Karbala and Najaf, Mr. Wolfowitz today heard from Iraqis as well as General Conway and his officers, that the region was relatively free of the security problems and deadly attacks against Americans in and around Baghdad.” Meanwhile, Channel News Asia reports 10,000 people turned out in Najaf today to protest a ham-handed attempt to intimidate a popular cleric who spoke out against the US occupation by surrounding his house with troops. Last week, a Reuters report in Gulf News reported a Najafi resident describing the city as a “time bomb.” Overseas press reports indicate a similar disparity in Karbala: Wolfie and the US press get glowing reports that everything is just hunky-dory while Australia’s Sunday Mail tells its readers of growing cultural and religious conflict between residents and local US commanders. Are these reports coming from the same country? It appears that Wolfowitz and his US press entourage are only seeing what they want to see. Still, I've got a couple of questions for Jimbo Hoagland. Does Wolfie wear combat boots with suit and tie, like L. Paul Bremer? I'll bet the troops are really impressed with that fashion statement. And does Wolfie get his ideas about showing respect for the natives from back editions of the London Illustrated News? No wonder he's the talk of the mosque. Bremer hits the talk shows circuit. Bremer made the roundsof the Sunday talk shows, brimming with confidence and blaming Saddam Hussein for everything that has gone wrong since March, although he denied there was any central control to attacks on American troops in Iraq. And contrary to his recent statement to the Iraqis that the US would leave right after elections, he told Americans today that, “we are going to be there for a while. I don't know how many years." The question to be asked is, who is getting the snowjob, us or the Iraqis? Of course, it’s only of historical interest now, but some folks may remember back to November 1967, when LBJ launched his “PR Campaign,” designed to rally public support for the Vietnam War. General William Westmoreland returned from the front to address the National Press Club saying that the U.S. had reached the point "where the end comes into view." The PR campaign was followed by an NVA attack on the Marine firebase at Khe Sahn, and then by the Tet Offensive on January 31, 1968. Coming on the heels of so many administration officials assuring that they could see the “light at the end of the tunnel, Tet and Khe Sahn shook public confidence. CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite traveled to Vietnam and filed several reports. Upon his return, Cronkite presented his "editorial opinion" at the end of the news broadcast on February 27th. "For it seems now more certain than ever," Cronkite said, "that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate." After watching Cronkite's broadcast, LBJ said, "That's it. If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America." At this point, the historical analogy between Vietnam and Iraq breaks down completely. In 1968, the American media had credibility. People paid attention because news wasn’t a subsidiary of the network entertainment division. Newsman like Cronkite had big iron balls that clanged when they walked and politicians feared they might be held accountable for deceits. Today’s celebrity journalists have teeny-tiny genitalia that tinkle like wind chimes as they preen for the camera or tremble at the approach of a displeased politico.


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