Jewish World Review April 2, 2003/ 29 Adar II 5763


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Consumer Reports

Why Iraq is not Vietnam | The "quagmire myth" needs exploding.

Maybe you saw the March 28 Pew Research Center poll showing 42 percent of Americans are suffering from "war fatigue" by watching too much television about the rapidly unfolding events in Iraq. In addition, 58 percent find the coverage "frightening." Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority of those surveyed by Fox News claim they tune in at least two hours daily, a certain sign of masochism that one hopes will abate quickly.

The media's blitz of sensationalizing the Iraqi invasion‹which obviously boosts ratings and sells newspapers, even more than an abducted child‹is not unexpected and crosses ideological lines. But with the exception of MSNBC's Lester Holt, I've lost all patience with the cable stations, and just can't stomach the sight of Aaron Brown, Shepard Smith, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Wolf Blitzer, Bill O'Reilly, Larry King and the hundreds of retired generals and colonels who pop off with conflicting analyses.

ABC's Peter Jennings is beyond the pale, even more offensive than NBC's dumbo duo of Matt Lauer and Katie Couric. Jennings, who's conducting a personal vendetta against the Bush administration, ought to soil his Savile Row suit and join the throngs of hate-filled (but pro-abortion and antigun) protesters who desperately crave attention with their die-ins, puke-outs, marches and trite slogans. But that wouldn't do: Pete might miss a luncheon date with Seymour Hersh at the Four Seasons.

As for the "embedded" journalists, one has to admire their courage in traveling with allied troops. And if they're confused by the shifting military maneuvers, sandstorms, Saddam's summary executions of citizens, at least they're actually reporting on the story rather than simply speculating. David Bloom (who would've imagined?), Bob Arnot, Walter Rogers and Steve Centanni are just a number of correspondents who've distinguished themselves, especially with the haunting visage of Daniel Pearl undoubtedly in their nightmares. It's too bad that CNN's Nic Robertson, kicked out of Baghdad, hasn't replaced Blitzer in Kuwait City to offset the I-Haven't-A-Clue Brown.

The Pentagon can't win, naturally, with the left-wing media. In recent wars there was a persistent mewling about the lack of access. Today, there's equal sniffing that reporters are "bonding" with soldiers and not presenting an "objective" narrative, which one supposes would be that Iraq's dictator is nobly defeating the infidels who are trying to end his sovereign regime.

Last Friday, writing in the Wall Street Journal, the invaluable Dorothy Rabinowitz found all this carping from the Beltway Establishment just plain stupid.

She said: "The most interesting concern thus far...came from commentator Roger Wilkins, who mused on [Jim Lehrer's News-Hour] that the journalists would get too close and feel for the military men who would seem to them, after all, to be Œfellow human beings.'

"Now there's a serious worry: and for a certain quarter of the political culture, it probably is. Working and living with soldiers in combat could, after all, give young journalists a picture of the armed forces very different from the ones they gleaned from their universities and other centers of culture inveterately hostile to the military. The nation is likely to survive this threat."

Equally irritating is the clockwork spate of articles insisting that it's Vietnam all over again, with a bumbling administration‹which failed to secure France's blessing‹not living up to the illusory promise of a 12-hour war. Do any of them remember the "quagmire" of Afghanistan? Yes, I know Dick Cheney and former U.N. ambassador Ken Adelman predicted a quick rub-out of Saddam, but so did Bill Clinton. Speaking in New York earlier this month, the This-Mouth's-For-Hire former chief executive, who's harming the Democratic party by relentless criticism of his successor, said, "This war is going to be over in a flash."

The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, who's been the subject of some disgusting anti-Semitic slurs (say howdy, Mr. Buchanan), was far more circumspect about the length of the war. He said on March 16, in reaction to Clinton's comments: "Well, Bill Clinton never fails to appall... He doesn't know [how long the war will take]. It's totally irresponsible to say that. Some of my fellow hawks over the last six, nine months have been saying it's going to be a cakewalk. I've always said we do not know that. And you need to prepare the American people for the possibility that things will go wrong with the war. This man [Clinton] isn't just a pundit. This guy is the former president of the United States saying the war is going to be over in a flash. Totally irresponsible... It's one thing for a commentator to say. But for the most recent president of the United States to be so flip and glib when 200,000 troops are sitting on the verge of a war front is really appalling."

Not that Bush has made such boasts. Speaking last Oct. 7 in Cincinnati, he said: "Military conflict could be difficult. An Iraqi regime faced with its own demise may attempt cruel and desperate measures. There is no easy or risk-free course of action." And in his Jan. 28 State of the Union address, Bush was also realistic: "For the brave Americans who bear the risk, no victory is free from sorrow. This nation fights reluctantly, because we know the cost and we dread the days of mourning that always come."

Isn't some perspective in order? At this writing, the war is less than two weeks old, American and British casualties number less than 100, and yet somehow Iraq is "winning." Bush, who understands that such a massive undertaking isn't going to go exactly as planned, has purposely tamped down hopes that Baghdad will fall in a matter of weeks. But if the war does last a few months, as seems likely, will the media consider that unacceptable? Probably. In fact, such an outcome, with a minimal loss of life, would be an astonishing achievement, one that millions of people‹not necessarily living in New York, San Francisco or Hollywood‹will be thankful for.

The Nation, the far-left weekly that's now virtually indistinguishable from the New York Times, ran a lead editorial in its April 14 issue that represented the sentiments of mainstream media nitwits. I'm thinking of the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, ABC's Peter Jennings, Bob Herbert and Maureen Dowd from the Times, the staff at Newsweek and editorialists at the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and other mass-circulation dailies. But that's a minuscule sampling. The Nation's writer, reduced to ridiculing the "shock and awe" slogan of this war, said: "Empires, it seems, are eternally vulnerable to hubris."

As blogger Andrew Sullivan‹who's probably worn out 18 rings of worry beads by now‹would say, here's the "money" quote: "A Brooklyn musician [a soulful artist] named Kyp Malone told the New York Times that he mourns the American losses but wonders, (Even if it's quick and easy, I don't know that I want to live in a world where America can just roll over any country it wants.' Well said."

Please forgive an obvious question: Kyp, what world do you want to live in? And, absent the discovery of an alternative planet, will you commit suicide if the U.S. "roll[s]" over Iraq, and one hopes in the near future, Syria?

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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