Wednesday, October 13, 2004

EVIL AND TRAGEDY IN IRAQ. One of the reasons I'm sympathetic to John Kerry is that his agonized stance on the war in Iraq reflects my own. By no means have I always agreed with him. I thought he should have voted against giving George W. Bush the authority to go to war, but for the $87 billion in reconstruction money for Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, I agree with his fundamental stance that we needed to work closely with the international community in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein, truly one of the most evil people on the planet.

That's why Bush's swaggering, unilateral invasion of Iraq was such a tragedy. The goal shouldn't have been to deprive Saddam of his non-existent weapons of mass destruction. As Kerry and numerous others have argued, if the UN weapons inspectors had been allowed to do their jobs, it would eventually have become clear that Saddam didn't have any. Rather, what was needed was some sort of intervention to stop what was an ongoing human-rights catastrophe.

Perhaps a US-backed coup would have done the trick, although Bill Clinton supposedly pushed for that during his presidency and wasn't able to penetrate Saddam's inner sanctum. Perhaps the world community could have been persuaded to drive Saddam out of power - a dubious proposition, I'll acknowledge, given that some of our would-be allies, including the French, were on the take, as New York Times columnist William Safire explains today.

Regardless, Bush's policies have left us with the worst of all possible worlds. Yes, Saddam is gone, but Iraq is in chaos, on the brink of civil war, with its people in far more danger than they were when the dictator was in power.

Yet, every so often, we're reminded of the horrors of Saddam's Iraq. Today the Boston Globe's Thanassis Cambanis - who has managed to find a way to do courageous, enterprising reporting from Iraq despite the dangers - has a gut-wrenching piece on a mass grave being excavated in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. The excavation is taking place to amass evidence to be used against Saddam when he is put on trial. This passage tells you everything you need to know about Saddam Hussein:

At the end of the process, the team will produce evidence packets for each individual case in the form of slide presentations. Kehoe showed some of the slides:

One series showed a boy, first in the grave holding a red-and-white-striped ball, then his skeleton and clothes laid out in order.

Another showed a mother and her infant son. The mother's severed hand was found in her child's blanket with the baby's skeleton. The forensic pictures show his T-shirt, which bears the legend "Summer," and the mother's five pairs of gold earrings.

What should we have done? I don't know. I don't think Kerry knows, either. What's clear is that we shouldn't have done what Bush did. An evil dictator today sits in prison. But the Iraqi people are less safe than they were before the war, and so are we.

Kerry has acknowledged repeatedly that we can't possible pull out now. If we did, Iraq would complete its transformation into a haven for terrorists. All we can do is keep fighting and hope for the best.

ME UPON MY PONY ON MY BOAT. I did not immediately appreciate the loathsomeness quotient of Irene Sege's Globe profile yesterday of former network news personality Jane Clayson Johnson. But after my fellow Phoenicians started screaming about it, I took a closer look.

I'll skip the full analysis, but do check out this passage on Johnson's decision to give up her career in order to become a full-time mother:

Over and over, Johnson says she respects whatever path mothers take. "I want to talk about my choice," she says, "and not make judgments about other people." She recognizes that she has more financial means than most. "I'm very aware and very respectful of single moms out there who are working two and three jobs to make ends meet. I respect what they're doing. I put enough money away where I could make this decision. I understand that. And I have a husband who makes a good living." What about married mothers who work outside the home? "I don't know," she says. "Sometimes there are two incomes and maybe it would be important for the kids to have a parent at home. Sometimes to forego a new car or a boat or some sort of luxury, and maybe live in a more modest fashion so you're not sacrificing at home, is an important thing."

And kudos to whoever wrote what I assume (hope?) was the deliberately sly headline, "Focus on the Family." Dr. Dobson would be pleased.

WE DO IT ALL FOR YOU! Outsiders may assume that it's nothing but craft-brewed beer and mushroom pizza with extra cheese here at Media Log Central. In fact, our duties sometimes weigh heavily upon us. Such will it be tonight, when I'll be watching the third debate between Kerry and Bush rather than the Red Sox-Yankees playoff game. Although I imagine I'll steal a few glances at the game.

Kerry's got work to do. According to this roundup of state-by-state polls, he now trails Bush in the Electoral College by a margin of 291 to 228. That's a turnaround from just a few days ago, when Kerry, if I recall correctly, had 270 electoral votes.

Your pre-debate assignment for today is to read this Salon piece on whether Bush was wired for sound in the first two debates. I have no idea what to make of this story. But that's no ordinary bulge, is it?


Jason F.C. Clarke said...

I'm not sure about all this polling. If you follow closely, you'll see that the race swings wildly back and forth depending on who comes out on top of the most recent Ohio or Florida poll.

I think that, barring a major scandal or crisis, this will come down to the wire. All sites like can do is tell the candidates where they need to be to shore themselves up.

I do wonder whether Ruy Texeira is right, though, and that when the media starts saying the candidates are in a "dead heat," then really Kerry is ahead, because Bush can't really count on any of the undecides or independents tilting his way (historically, at least, that rarely happens).

Sadly, it doesn't matter if Kerry wins 51% of the popular vote if it's in the wrong states. That said, I still think that--barring a major event--this will come down to midnight on November 3.

Anonymous said...

What exactly were your fellow Phoenicians screaming about? I don't get it.

zadig said...

Dan, nice post, but it gives you more credibility as a media critic if you don't open the article by perpetuating a Bush campaign misstatement that the "media" as all but internalized as fact.

Kerry didn't vote against the reconstruction money for Iraq and Afghanistan. He voted for versions of the bill that has provisions for responsible allocation of funds (and Bush said outright that he would veto those versions) and against versions that made the Iraq money a handout without any provisions for paying for it, which is the version Bush supported.

The accurate claim, that the media finds too confusing to wrap their little minds around, is that Kerry didn't vote for versions of the reconstruction bill that he found irresponsible, and Bush was going to veto versions of the bill that he found too responsible. Or wording to that effect.

As a "media critic," you owe it to readers not to simply parrot campaign talking points from either side.

Otherwise, carry one...

Oversnowed said...

Dan, nice Lyle Lovett reference. Are you also a Lyle fan?

Whispers said... is a bit off today because they are including a number of dubious Strategic Vision polls, outliers compared to most polls, for WI, OH, NJ, and IA. has Kerry +4 in WI(Chicago Tribune), +5 in NJ (Fairleigh Dickinson U.), +4 in OH (Chicago Tribune), and even in IA (American Research Group). NJ is definitely going for Kerry; the other three appear to still be in play. But surely Kerry's position in those states is much better than made out by Strategic Vison.

As for the "Saddam was Evil so we needed to topple him" argument - where does that argument end? What happens if the Chechnyans petition us for help against Putin? What about Kim Jong Il? Are we going to unilaterally invade countries run by "bad guys"? Without arguing the morality of this position, it does appear impractical. Furthermore, the people in these countries don't exactly want us invading and taking over. And don't we need to be a bit more frugal with our own resources?

Kerry's position, in favor of an invasion only with an international coalition, lets Kerry appear tougher than simply saying "hey, this whole war was a bad idea", but is itself a bit delusional (though not as bad as the neocon fantasies). Surely the execution of the invasion plan could have allowed for a better effort, but that misses the point of: why invade at all?

What condition in Iraq demanded an immediate invasion, but doesn't require the same in Cuba, or North Korea, or Sudan, or any of a dozen other nations that are in dire straits?

I hope you at least can see why so many people think oil was the deciding factor in the war. (Though looting the US treasury for billions in no-bid contracts certainly has been a tasty benefit for GOP backing corporations.)

Anonymous said...

If Bush was indeed wearing device on his back, it didn't seem to help him very much, since he clearly lost the first debate. I think it is some sort of device he uses for security purposes with the Secret Service and they don't want bad guys to know about it. I'm not making excuses, I support Kerry.

Vincentine Vermeille said...

Regarding the "Focus on the Family" profile, it really was awful, and the picture was a sickening tone of pink. For Anonymous who doesn't know what the Phoenicians object to, I think it's the anachronistic sappiness of the whole thing. It starts, "These days 4 a.m. finds Jane Clayson Johnson rocking in a blue glider . . . the soft glow of a nearby street lamp seeping through the sheer pink and white curtains," and proceeds to "Johnson answers the door wearing a slightly crushed olive skirt and gold sweater, with a red cardigan draped over her shoulders. On her feet are pointy-toed tiger-print Versace shoes with stunted stiletto heels, a striking contrast with the sleeping infant nestled against her chest." By the time you get to "I am more happy, more complete, more fulfilled than I was," you wonder if it's some kind of clever parody.

The same paper had a "Life in the Pop Lane" column which I found rather strangely racist. I don't have too many feelings about the hip-hop community one way or another, and I tend to think Renee Graham is okay, so I was taken aback by these lines:

"Only the hip-hop community could turn its ongoing voter awareness campaign into a reason for yet another beef."

"Still, it has been remarkable to see members of the hip-hop community caring about something more than cars, jewelry, and their latest beef . . ."

Geez, Graham must be really agitated about the political situation. Maybe she's black, I don't know, but those comments are pretty cold.