Media, politics and culture.
When I launched this blog on May 3, 2010, I promised, “Every day…we’ll probe the latest media outrages, and uncover a few ourselves, while also providing links to important articles and blog posts at other sites (both mainstream and alt-), along with essential or amusing video. Since this is The Nation, we’ll pay special attention to media politics and media culture, and update often, even at night and on the weekends.”
The blog’s original title and logo, MediaFix, soon bit the dust, but for more than four years, this promise, I believe, was largely fulfilled (especially the weekend part, as it would turn out). Today, however, marks my final post here. So, a few reflections and highlights.
Certainly worth recalling are two long-running, nearly “live” blogs.
The first, covering WikiLeaks revelations and controversies, started in November 2010 and ran nearly 24/7 for six months, establishing what some called the all-time record for a blog devoted to a single subject, with a dozen or more updates daily. (At least two fans created artwork likening this to Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak or Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak.) A Nation intern, Kevin Gosztola, played a strong supporting role. It would be the “most-read” offering on the Nation site almost every day for nearly the entire six months. Out of this, I wrote the first book about WikiLeaks and then, with Gosztola, the first book about Chelsea Manning.
The second “streak” concerned Occupy, and this time the daily, almost-live blog, started in October 2011, would run for five months or so. This too led to an ebook, the first on the movement. Like the WikiLeaks blog, this one would prove to be the popular material on the Nation site most days for many weeks.
Also popular, though not quite as long-running, were my daily postings on the 2012 election, which also led to an e-book. What I remember most vividly was somehow covering the final week of the campaign, with frequent updates, from a hotel room with spotty Wi-Fi—after we got knocked out of our home due to Hurricane Sandy. Never thought I ‘d cover an election night from a Comfort Inn without the excuse of a candidate’s headquarters in the ballroom.
I can’t possibly cite, or even recall, many other highlights of roughly 1,000 blog postings. Although of much shorter duration, my coverage of the Steubenville rape case drew tremendous readership and linkage. An interview with my friend and co-author Robert Jay Lifton produced just about the wisest commentary on the Obama drone program anywhere, if I say so myself. I interviewed Oliver Stone and Alex Gibney and often tackled the scourge of executions—state murder—in this country. Along the way there were tributes to everyone from Beethoven and Upton Sinclair to Phil Ochs and Bruce Springsteen (not to mention Kurt Vonnegut, Steve Earle, Pete Seeger, Sam Cooke and Billy Bragg). I debuted my Vonnegut and Me book here. Also my book on when Hollywood turned left.
I tried to rally the forces that ultimately convinced President Obama not to bomb Syria last year. Very recently, I’ve attempted to do the same (with outcome uncertain) re: a return to air strikes in Iraq.
Although the subjects ranged widely, in nearly every case I focused partly or mainly on media or pundit failures. Rarely did I go after Fox—that was too easy, as Stewart and Colbert show every week. Although hardly the worst actor, The New York Times probably drew most of my attention—for coming up short far too frequently. Several columnists—notably Bill Keller, Thomas Friedman and David Brooks but also Nick Kristof—drew criticism. At the same time, I often tipped my hat to the Times’s excellent public editor, Margaret Sullivan.
I regret that I won’t be able to write my multiple annual pieces here related to the atomic bombings of Japan in 1945, the aftermath and the nuclear lessons for today, but you can find some of the previous ones using the search function or check out my Atomic Cover-up book here.
But now, as they’ve told me, it’s time to go. If you remain interested, please check out my long-running and popular blog, Pressing Issues, which also concentrates on politics and media but with (even) more rock ’n’ roll and humor in the mix. (My e-mail remains email@example.com). For now, I’ll just quote one of this magazine’s patron saints, Woody Guthrie: So long, it’s been good to know you…I got to be driftin’ along.
Read Next: Greg Mitchell on right-wing violence—and the media’s unwillingness to call it terrorism.
The new crisis in Iraq has brought out of the woodwork (in some cases, gutter) some of top officials and pundits who helped lead us to war, and long occupation, in the country, but it also has brought back to television some of the top critics and thoughtful analysts of our tragic blunder.
Case in point this past weekend: Jonathan Landay of McClatchy on CNN and Andrew Bacevich for the full half-hour with Bill Moyers (video below). I first met Bacevich, then known mainly as a former military officer and West Point instructor, a decade ago when he wrote an op-ed questioning the war for The Washington Post. Then I covered the death of his son in Iraq, and his many columns that followed.
Now for a few highlights from the transcript of the Moyers show, including key discussion of “American exceptionalism”:
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, [Robert Kagan’s] notion of American history, particularly since 1945, is one that we might term an extended liberation narrative where the United States devoted itself, in the wake of World War II, to promoting liberal values, democracy everywhere, fighting against evildoers, and he concludes that this success is being squandered by Barack Obama and those who are unwilling to continue this crusade.
Now, that narrative is only sustainable if you leave a lot of important facts out, or if you distort those facts. So we get no mention of overthrowing Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. We get no mention of the CIA overthrowing the president of Guatemala. We get virtually no mention of the Vietnam War, which he dismisses as sort of an unfortunate incident of no particular significance. And perhaps most egregiously, he utterly ignores the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he served as a cheerleader for. And which to a very large extent, account for the problem that we’re dealing with today in the greater Middle East.
BILL MOYERS: This week, one of his allies, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Elizabeth wrote a long essay in “The Wall Street Journal.”
AB: Well, I’d say rarely has a major American newspaper published an op-ed that was so thoroughly shameless. Again, what is the cause? What was the catalyst of the instability that racks Iraq today? The simple answer is the one that Cheney and his daughter don’t want to mention: the unnecessary, misguided, and frankly immoral war launched by the United States in 2003. We destabilized Iraq. In many respects, we destabilized the larger region. And misfortune of Barack Obama is that he inherited this catastrophe, created by the previous administration.
Once you got to Iraq and took it over, and took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government in Iraq, you can easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of eastern Iraq the Iranians would like to claim—fought over for eight years. In the north you’ve got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire….
I think the contrast between what Cheney said in 1994 and what he says 20 years later is actually very illustrative of this point. And that is that what passes for foreign-policy debate today, is just nakedly partisan. Back in 1994, he was in the business of defending George Herbert Walker Bush. Now he’s in the business of defending George W. Bush. But basically attacks Barack Obama, blaming Obama for any difficulties that we’re having. And the point about naked partisanship I think really applies in a somewhat larger stage. When you look at the people who get invited on the Sunday talk shows, or whose op-eds appear in “The New York Times” or in “The Washington Post” or other prominent organs of opinion, they are people who are participating in this partisan debate.
There is very little effort to look beyond the Bush versus Obama, Republican versus Democrat, to try to understand the larger forces in play that have brought us to where we are today. And the understanding of which could then make it possible for us to think somewhat more creatively about policy than simply having an argument about whether we should, you know, attack with drones or attack with manned aircraft.
BM: What are those larger forces at work? Because Robert Kagan says, quote, “world order shows signs of cracking, and perhaps even collapsing.” And that these changes signal a transition into a different world order, which the United States should attempt to lead.
AB: When Kagan uses phrases like world order, he’s describing something that never really existed except in his own imagination. But again, the point is worth reflecting on. Kagan believes, many people in Washington believe, perhaps too many people in the hinterland also believe, that the United States shapes the global order. That there is an order for which we alone are responsible.
Where does this kind of thinking come from? I mean, I think in many respects, what we see here is the contemporary expression of the whole notion of American exceptionalism. That we are chosen. We are called upon, called upon by God, called upon by providence, to somehow transform the world and remake it in our own image. Now, Robert Kagan wouldn’t state it as bluntly as I just did. But that is the kind of thinking that I think makes it very difficult for us to have a genuine and serious foreign policy debate.
BM: So the other side would argue, as they are, that well, look at the beheadings and the murders, the brutality and cruelty that the radical Islamists are inflicting upon their adversaries, and the people of Iraq. Isn’t that an evil to which we are the only ones can respond?
AB: Well, first of all, it is an evil to which we contributed by our folly in invading Iraq back in 2003. There was no Al Qaeda in Iraq under the previous order. That’d be the first point. And the second point I think would be: let’s be practical. Let’s be pragmatic. If indeed we are called upon to act, let us frame our actions in ways that actually will yield some positive outcome.
I’m personally not persuaded that further military action in Iraq is actually going to produce an outcome more favorable than the last one. If what we have here on our hands in Iraq, in Syria, elsewhere in the Middle East is a humanitarian catastrophe, then let us become serious about asking ourselves, what is the appropriate response? What can the richest and most powerful country in the world do to alleviate the suffering of innocent people who are caught up in this violence?
And my answer to that question is not air strikes. My answer to that question is, well, if indeed we have a moral responsibility to come to the aid of suffering Iraqis and Syrians, then we better start opening up our wallets to be far more generous and forthcoming in providing assistance that people need.
You know, we live in a country where if you want to go bomb somebody, there’s remarkably little discussion about how much it might cost, even though the costs almost inevitably end up being orders of magnitude larger than anybody projected at the outcome. But when you have a discussion about whether or not we can assist people who are suffering, then suddenly we come very, you know, cost-conscious.
* * *
BM: So do we conclude from that that you don’t believe there is anything practical we can do on the ground to separate the warring forces or help the government forces in Iraq prevent this violence? Is the only option murderous genocide and optimum paralysis?
AB: We have been engaged in the Islamic world at least since 1980, in a military project based on the assumption that the adroit use of American hard power can somehow pacify or fix this part of the world. We can now examine more than three decades of this effort.
Let’s look at what US military intervention in Iraq has achieved, in Afghanistan has achieved, in Somalia has achieved, in Lebanon has achieved, in Libya has achieved. I mean, ask ourselves the very simple question: is the region becoming more stable? Is it becoming more democratic? Are we alleviating, reducing the prevalence of anti-Americanism? I mean, if the answer is yes, then let’s keep trying. But if the answer to those questions is no, then maybe it’s time for us to recognize that this larger military project is failing and is not going to succeed simply by trying harder.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, the events that are unfolding in Iraq at this very moment promote a debate within Washington revolving around the question, what should we do about Iraq? But there is a larger and more important question. And the larger and more important question has to do with the region as a whole. And the actual consequences of US military action over the past 30 years.
BM: As you know, Iraq has formally asked the US government to launch air strikes against those Jihadist militants. How do you think that’s going to play out?
AB: Well, I don’t know. My guess would be that this will substantially increase the pressure on the president to do just that. And my question would be if we launch air strikes, and if the air strikes don’t have a decisive effect in turning the tables on the ground, then what? I mean, this is always, I think, a concern when you begin a military operation that you have some reasonable sense of what you’re going to do next if the first gambit doesn’t succeed.
* * *
BM: Many people are saying that Barack Obama is feckless, lacks will, or strength, and that he’s enabling the defeat of our interest in the Middle East by pulling the troops back and by being indifferent to what’s happening there now.
AB: Well, he’s not indifferent. I mean, I’m not here to defend the Obama approach to foreign policy, which I think has been mediocre at best. That said, the president has learned some things. I think the most important thing the president learned from his predecessor is that invading and occupying countries in the Islamic world is a pretty dumb idea. It leads to complications and enormous costs. So we see him reticent about putting so-called boots on the ground. That said, the president certainly has not been reluctant to use force in a variety of ways. Usually on small-scale drone strikes, commando raids, and the like.
Where I would fault the president is that he hasn’t been able to go beyond learning the negative lessons of the Bush era to coming up with a positive approach to the Islamic world. Shortly after he was inaugurated he went to Cairo, gave a famous speech, speech proposed that there was going to be a new beginning, turn the page, a new beginning of US relations with the Islamic world.
Who would not endorse that proposition? I mean, I certainly do. But it has come to nothing. Nobody in the Obama administration, either in the first term or in the present term, as far as I can tell, has been able to figure out how to operationalize this notion of a new relationship between ourselves and the Islamic world. One can give Secretary Kerry credit for trying to restart the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Were we able to broker a peace that created a sovereign, coherent, viable Palestinian state, that actually could be the one thing we could do that would seriously change the tenure of US relations with the people of the Islamic world. But that effort has failed.
* * *
BM: What is it, about how we go to war? We poured blood and treasure into Vietnam and Iraq and wound up with exactly the opposite consequences than we wanted. And we keep repeating, hearing the same arguments and claims that we should do it again.
AB: Well, war itself is evil. But war is an evil that should command our respect. War is something that we should not take lightly, that we should not discuss frivolously. And I think that that’s one of the great failings of our foreign policy establishment. That our foreign policy establishment does not take war seriously. It assumes that the creation of precision guided weapons makes war manageable. Removes from war the element of risk and chance that are always inherent in warfare. So these are people who, quite frankly, most of them don’t know much about war and, therefore, who discuss war in frivolous ways.
BM: And yet, there’s this still almost religious belief in force as the savior.
AB: Well, I think your use of religious terms is very appropriate here. Because there is a quasi-theological dimension to their thinking related, again, to this notion that we are called. We are chosen. We are the instrument of providence. Summoned to transform the world. And therefore empowered to use force in ways not permitted to any others. I mean, the ultimate travesty of the immediate period after 9/11 was the Bush administration’s embrace of preventive war that became then the rationale for invading Iraq in 2003. But it was a general claim. A general claim that the United States was empowered to use force preventively. Before the threat emerges. Not simply—
BM: Pre-emptory strikes.
AB: Not simply in self-defense. And we should note that as far as I can tell, President Obama has not repealed that notion. Indeed, has used it himself in order to employ force in lesser ways in various situations.
BM: So is it duplicity or self-delusion?
AB: It depends I think on who we are talking about here. For somebody like Vice President Cheney berating Barack Obama for somehow surrendering American leadership and in the course of doing that simply ignoring the record of the administration in which he served—that’s duplicity. That’s malicious partisanship.
Greg Mitchell’s book, So Wrong for So Long, which covers ten years of media malfeasance, starting with the run-up to the Iraq war, features a preface by Bruce Springsteen. This is his final week at The Nation. His popular personal blog is Pressing Issues.
Read Next: Robert Scheer on our government’s soft spot for brutal dictators.
There’s been a rising tide of criticism of mainstream media coverage of the US response (real or desired) to the new crisis in Iraq, from Maddow to Maher and with even Megyn Kelly joining in. The reliance on officials and journalists who were so wrong back in 2003, and often for years after, has been decried, culminating in a segment this morning on one of the networks that has joined in the disgraceful resurrection of ye olde Iraq hawks.
Brian Stelter hosted a segment on his Reliable Sources today, introducing it with a reference to my recently updated book and ebook on Iraq and the media, So Wrong for So Long. Then he introduced one of the heroes of that book (one of the few in the press who was not “wrong”), Jonathan Landay, of McClatchy; and Peter Beinert, who favored the war but has repeatedly attempted to repent.
There seems to be this historical habit of the American media to rehabilitate people… On the Iraq invasion, I mean, you have people on CNN who were mouthpieces for the Bush administration and were handing out misleading and inaccurate information to the American public and the world—who are treated as legitimate, credible political commentators. I think that is a very serious problem for the media that it needs to get a grip on.
I think it’s definitely true that the media’s foreign policy conversation has an instinct towards kind of Beltway insiders who share basic assumptions. And some of the people who had the intellectual foresight and creativity to question the assumptions that led us to Iraq still don’t get on the air, which is a big problem…
But I don’t have a problem putting on people who were architects of the Iraq war on to talk today—as long as they have to reckon with what happened in the past. We shouldn’t treat the past as if it’s irrelevant. It’s not irrelevant. It’s highly relevant.
David Carr at The New York Times joins in today with a column on the media and the war—and Micheal Hastings' new novel, set at the beginning.
Here’s video of the full CNN segment:
Greg Mtichell’s book, So Wrong for So Long, which covers ten years of media malfeasance, starting with the run-up to the Iraq war, features a preface by Bruce Springsteen. This is his final week at The Nation. His popular personal blog is Pressing Issues.
Read Next: Obama sets us a on a slippery slope to war in Iraq.
Finally, a major newspaper has axed George Will—and apologized—for his truly disgraceful column on how “privileged” and “alleged” rape victims on campus are often the real victimizers. And are so often “delusional.” Why? Because victomhood has supposedly become “a coveted status that confers privileges.”
Now the venerable St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the leading news outlet in that neck of the woods, has decided to free Will. Editors revealed yesterday:
The change has been under consideration for several months, but a column published June 5, in which Mr. Will suggested that sexual assault victims on college campuses enjoy a privileged status, made the decision easier. The column was offensive and inaccurate; we apologize for publishing it.
Now for the bad news: Will will be replaced by the equally disturbing (on other issues) Michael Gerson.
It’s worth returning to what Will actually wrote.
Colleges and universities are being educated by Washington and are finding the experience excruciating. They are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (“micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate. And academia’s progressivism has rendered it intellectually defenseless now that progressivism’s achievement, the regulatory state, has decided it is academia’s turn to be broken to government’s saddle.
Consider the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. “sexual assault.”…
Now the Obama administration is riding to the rescue of “sexual assault” victims. It vows to excavate equities from the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults…
UPDATE: Will continues to defend the column, even some say, doubling down. And it turns out all of the Washington Post editors who okayed it were male.
Note: I will be leaving The Nation after four years next week. You can continue to follow my posts daily at my long-running blog Pressing Issues. Thanks. -- G.M.
Read Next: Michelle Goldberg on why the campus rape crisis confounds colleges.
The incident drew wide coverage earlier this week: an audience member at a large right-wing forum in Washington, DC, on, what else, Benghazi, was taunted by a crowd after simply asking why panelists were acting like most Muslims are terror-connected. The woman was clearly identifiable as a Muslim herself. Dana Milbank of The Washington Post was there to offer the bad news.
But then Dylan Byers, media reporter at Politico, after getting the organizers’ spin, charged that Milbank’s account was misleading. He claimed that the event was merely held at the Heritage Foundation, they were not behind it. And he asserted that the taunting was over-hyped and the woman didn’t seem to really mind all that much. So Milbank’s account was a “disaster.”
Well, Milbank has responded this morning by throwing the same charge back at Byers. He claimsthat the Politico columnist was basing his retort on a nine-minute video of the entire proceedings—while Milbank was actually there and saw the whole thing. Heritage, in fact, was a co-sponsor of the event. The woman, in fact, was very upset. The taunting and cheering actually was considerable. And so on.
We’ll chart how Byers responds. But Milbank, while qualifying a couple of his own statements (now that a full video is out), hits him hard, especially for allegedly lazy “armchair” reporting.
It’s possible, of course, that Byers could have sat at my side for the entire event and still thought I misjudged it; such interpretations are subjective. But had he witnessed all these remarks, and heard the hisses in the audience and observed the moderator’s sneers, he might have understood better the exchange with Ahmed that followed. That’s why there is no substitute for shoe-leather reporting.
UPDATE Byers so far has only responded on Twitter, with: "Two quick thoughts -- 1. Funny that
@Milbank's talking shoe-leather journalism after failing to adequately report on an event he attended...… and 2, you'd be surprised, @Milbank, how much news you can break from an armchair." Meanwhile, latest Milbank piece has drawn 613 comments, and counting.
Read Next: Leslie Savan on how Fox News created a monster—and made two others disappear
What a Sunday of surprises in our two leading newspapers.
A column by Nick Kristof at The New York Times did the impossible—almost letting George W. Bush off the hook on the current crumbling of Iraq because, you know, so many are to blame. There’s Maliki, of course, but he also cites John McCain and others blaming Obama—and with classic “balance,” states that “some on the left” somehow find “fault” with Bush. As if they’re the only one in the US who blame Bush for setting all in motion with his invasion.
And factually, I suppose, it should be “everyone of the left.”
Then there’s this from Kristof: “The Democratic narrative is that President Bush started the cascade of dominoes. The problem with that logic is that Obama administration officials were boasting just a couple of years ago about how peaceful and successful Iraq had become because of their fine work.” Again: It’s just “the Democratic narrative,” not an objective fact, that Bush “started the cascade of dominoes.”
Just the latest Kristof embarrassment. And let’s not forget that he strongly urged Obama to bomb Syria last year—which would have aided the ISIS rebels.
On the other hand, in the same edition (even the same section), the Times handed over op-ed space to Chelsea Manning, and here you go. It’s mainly on journalists and the “embed” (or “in bed”) program, with claims that reporters play along with the military for access. (See my updated book on Manning.) Much of all this should hardly be news to most but still… from her “Fog Machine of War”:
Among the many daily reports I received via email while working in Iraq in 2009 and 2010 was an internal public affairs briefing that listed recently published news articles about the American mission in Iraq. One of my regular tasks was to provide, for the public affairs summary read by the command in eastern Baghdad, a single-sentence description of each issue covered, complementing our analysis with local intelligence.
The more I made these daily comparisons between the news back in the States and the military and diplomatic reports available to me as an analyst, the more aware I became of the disparity. In contrast to the solid, nuanced briefings we created on the ground, the news available to the public was flooded with foggy speculation and simplifications.
Meanwhile, over at The Washington Post, there was quite an account, with full details on the frantic attempts by the US to seize or trick or snatch Edward Snowden after he released his NSA bombshell, hoping he’d do something stupid—like get on a plane to Bolivia or some such (and they famously did divert one flight).
As it crossed Austria, the aircraft made a sudden U-turn and landed in Vienna, where authorities searched the cabin—with Morales’s permission, officials said—but saw no sign of Snowden.
The initial, official explanation that Morales was merely making a refueling stop quickly yielded to recriminations and embarrassment.
Austrian officials said they were skeptical of the plan from the outset and noted that Morales’s plane had taken off from a different airport in Moscow than where Snowden was held. “Unless the Russians had carted him across the city,” one official said, it was unlikely he was on board.
Even if Snowden had been a passenger, officials said, it is unclear how he could have been removed from a Bolivian air force jet whose cabin would ordinarily be regarded as that country’s sovereign domain—especially in Austria, a country that considers itself diplomatically neutral.
“We would have looked foolish if Snowden had been on that plane sitting there grinning,” said a senior Austrian official. “There would have been nothing we could have done.”
And finally, a great John Oliver segment last night ripping Washington Redskins team owner ("Chief Running Without Moral Compass") over failure to change team name.
Read Next: Bob Dreyfuss on how Iraq's crisis got started—and how it didn't.
In a column yesterday I asked, “As Iraq Crumbles, Will US Media Back Obama Bomb Strikes?” As the day went on, as you know, things in that country went from worse to worst. And top news outlets here started weighing in, on their editorial pages or commentary, on the question.
Among the few to strongly oppose US intervention, at least for now, was The New York Times, which did so much in its news pages to help pave the way for the 2003 invasion. From an editorial posted late last night:
The United States has a strategic interest in Iraq’s stability and Mr. Obama on Thursday said America was ready to do more, without going into detail. But military action seems like a bad idea right now. The United States simply cannot be sucked into another round of war in Iraq. In any case, airstrikes and new weapons would be pointless if the Iraqi Army is incapable of defending the country.
Why would the United States want to bail out a dangerous leader like Mr. Maliki, who is attempting to remain in power for a third term as prime minister? It is up to Iraq’s leaders to show leadership and name a new prime minister who will share power, make needed reforms and include all sectarian and ethnic groups, especially disenfranchised Sunnis, in the country’s political and economic life—if, indeed, it is not too late.
On the other hand, Times columnist David Brooks in a new column blames most of the problem on… Obama. Of course, he leaves out the part about the Iraqis ordering us to get out. Brooks concludes: “The president says his doctrine is don’t do stupid stuff. Sometimes withdrawal is the stupidest thing of all.”
Fareed Zakaria at The Washington Post casts most of the blame on Maliki and concludes: “Washington is debating whether airstrikes or training forces would be more effective, but its real problem is much larger and is a decade in the making. In Iraq, it is defending the indefensible.” A columnist at the Los Angeles Times, Paul Whitefield, suggests Bush and Cheney should take care of the mess, since they caused it, but exactly how they’d do that remains a mystery.
But that appears to be a minority view right now. The always-ready-for-war Washington Post called for action to halt an ISIS takeover: “Not to do everything possible to avert that outcome would be a dereliction, and one that Americans might greatly regret for years to come.” David Ignatius may draw laughs with his urging the US to convene a Middle East “peace conference” where Sunni and Shia would, you know, “reconcile.” John McTernan at The Guardian closes with this howler: “We have to go back to Iraq to rescue democracy. After all, as Margaret Thatcher said at the time of the Falklands, why else do we have armed forces?”
Representative John Boehner suggests Obama took a “nap” while Iraq crumbled and naturally ol’ reliable arch-hawk (arch and hawk) Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post claims Obama isn’t just napping, he’s “surrendering.” Michael Gerson also makes Obama the goat. And at the same site James Dubik argues that there are no good options—but, hey, the US must take action. The Wall Street Journal, what a surprise, slams Obama for the “Iraq Debacle.”
And yes, the expert on all things Iraq, Judy Miller is back! And telling us she warned about all this, on Fox, natch (because Curveball told her?). Here’s a roundup of Fox hawks calling for bombers or at least drones.
For context for all this, see my book (now in updated e-book edition) on the media failures for a decade of the Iraq war, So Wrong for So Long.
Read Next: William J. Astore explains how we all got drafted into the American national security state.
See my Friday column on updated commentary from New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, more.
It seemed absurd, at least to me (and maybe to Jon Stewart, see below), yesterday as the US media, including MSNBC, focused overwhelmingly on the defeat of Representative Eric Cantor in Virginia, with all of 65,000 votes cast, just as Iraq—where we have lost 4,500 of our own soldiers, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and spent more than a trillion dollar—was crumbling.
Today that’s even more true, as Iraq breaks apart even more. Now the Kurds have taken Tirkuk, and in Mosul the insurgents have liberated $435 million from just one large bank, making them, as The Washington Post points out, easily the world’s best-funded anti-American terror group. And that’s before the oil revenues roll in. But hey—as Jon Stewart pointed out after Cantor’s defeat—now there will be no bipartisan action in Congress!
But later today, perhaps, the focus will shift to the question of what the US—which brought Al Qaeda to Iraq in the first place—will do now.
Last night it emerged that Iraq had asked Obama to bomb insurgents’ positions last month, which he refused to do. But that was then and this is now, with Baghdad the next rebel target and the linkage with Syria conflict clear (and Iran, of course, very much in the picture). American bombing may now be a very open question. John McCain may call for another “surge” any minute now.
So we’ll start monitoring here the emerging calls in the media for action or inaction. But note: recall how close we came to bombing Syria just last autumn, with many prominent voices in the media calling for that and Obama, at the last minute, bailing out (thank goodness).
UPDATE Rep. John Boehner claiming Obama took a "nap" while Iraq crumbled. Here's a roundup of Fox hawks calling for bombers or at least drones. Columnist at L.A. Times suggests Bush and Cheney take care of it.
Read Next: Tom Engelhardt takes stock of fifty years of miserably futile American warfare.
A powerful, moving commercial boosting the escalating campaign to force a Washington pro football team name change—rejected for the Super Bowl on TV earlier this year—aired last night in our seven largest cities during half-time coverage of game three of the NBA finals.
And that’s great. My only disappointment was that my Cherokee hero, Will Rogers, one of the greatest Americans ever, got cut out of the final version. He appears in the original two-minute version—which was cut to a minute for the current spot. You can watch both of them below.
I’d propose changing the DC team’s name to the Washington Rogers. This would pay tribute not only to a great Native American but also Will Rogers’s brilliant and biting commentary (still funny and relevant today) on the shenanigans on Capitol Hill and in the White House. And here’s a bit of his reflections on his (and our) heritage.
I love being down here in pilgrim country. I bet you when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and they had the whole of the American continent to themselves, and all they had to do to get another 160 acres was to kill another Indian, you know, well, I bet they kicked at the cost of ammunition. Now, I hope my Cherokee blood is not making me prejudiced, but it was only the generosity of the Indians that allowed the pilgrims to land in the first place. Suppose it was the other way around.
Yeah, my ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower. They met the boat.
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UPDATE: Terrorist couple in Las Vegas IDed, plus photos, videos, online rants. UPDATE #2 AP and Reuters defend not calling right-wing terrorists 'terrorists"--because they must follow government agency and FBI lead. Washington Post story on this also weak.
It was a busy, violent weekend for right-wing nuts in America. But will the US media dare call them “terrorists”?
First, you had the Sovereign Nation shootout plus explosives outside the courthouse in Forsyth, Georgia. I’ll let the great Charles P. Pierce take it from here:
Let’s not kid ourselves. [Georgia shooter Dennis Marx] is a product of more than his own psychoses. He is a product of a conservative movement that has lost its moral bearings, a gun culture than imbibes paranoia the way some people drink iced tea, a media infrastructure—from Roger Ailes’s empire through the poison from which Clear Channel and other media conglomerate profit, all the way down to the guys broadcasting on short-wave from their root cellars in upper Michigan—that enables and encourages and empowers armed political paranoia and does so for the cheapest possible reasons, for political power and for corporate profit. And, no, Both Sides do not do this. There is nothing comparable on the Left to the vast ideological bunker of the mind that has been created and sustained by the institutions of modern conservatism within which Dennis Marx found a home. In a week in which Bowe Bergdahl has been slandered for cheap points and cheaper laughs, the emergence (once again) of an actual American terrorist should be a very sobering moment.
Then we have the Bundy-loving, Gadsden flag-draping Loonie and Clyde cop killers out in Vegas yesterday. From the major Las Vegas newspaper:
The shooters then stripped the officers of their weapons and ammunition and badges, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. They then covered the officers with something that featured the Gadsden flag, a yellow banner with a coiled snake above the words, “Don’t tread on Me.”
The flag is named for Christopher Gadsden, a Revolutionary War general who designed it. It has recently come back in vogue as an adopted symbol of the American tea party movement….
Like many of the neighbors contacted, Krista Koch said she didn’t know the couple’s last names. She described them as “militant.” They talked about planning to kill police officers, “going underground” and not coming out until the time was right to kill.
Brandon Monroe, 22, has lived in the complex for about two weeks. He said the man who lived in the apartment that was being searched often rambled about conspiracy theories. He often wore camouflage or dressed as Peter Pan to work as a Fremont Street Experience street performer. A woman lived with him, Monroe said, but he didn’t see her as often.
They were weird people, Monroe said, adding that he thought the couple used methamphetamines.
The man told Monroe he had been kicked off Cliven Bundy’s ranch 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas while people from throughout the U.S. gathered there in protest of a Bureau of Land Management roundup of Bundy’s cattle.
Reached Sunday, the rancher’s wife, Carol Bundy, said the shooting and the April standoff against the federal government were not linked.
In a later report, CNN naturally refuses to ID them as right-wing nuts, leaving vague that they left behind a “flag” and manifesto. Just hated cops. ABC does better, mentioning swastika symbols found at apartment and so on.
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