CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O BROKE ANOTHER CAMPAIGN PROMISE TODAY. FOR OVER TWO DECADES, COASTAL WATERS IN THE US WERE PROTECTED FROM BIG BUSINESS WANTING TO EXPLOIT THEM, DESTROY THE ECOSYSTEM AND ALL TO SQUEEZE OUT A LITTLE OIL AND GAS.
ASKED ABOUT IT TODAY, BARRY O DECLARED IT WAS NO BIG DEAL, "HEY, WHO DOESN'T SQUEEZE OUT A LITTLE GAS EVERY NOW AND THEN. I'M DOING SO RIGHT NOW. I THINK IT WAS THAT BURRITO I HAD FOR LUNCH."
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
Starting off with a question: What is the role of the press?
In the US, that can lead an esoteric discussion or emphasizing certain points such as we can debate the merits of this and that, the right not to reveal sources, the differences between reporting and opinion journalism, the increasing (and bad) tendency to label TV hosts "journalists" (they're not reporters and, no, they don't even qualify as journalists), etc. But that's in the US and it's true of many countries -- East and West -- with an existing and functioning press. What about a country being hailed as 'emerging' and as a 'democracy'?
What about Iraq?
What message has the US press sent since the last votes were cast on March 7th? First off, the press rushed to declare Nouri al-Maliki the winner. They rushed to do that on March 8th. The day after the election. With no results -- not even partial -- released. They did have a 'poll' that said Nouri was the leader . . . a poll done by Nouri. Often they forgot to include the source for the poll when citing its results. Those results weren't valid. But what message did that send to Iraqis? Remember that they've been very vocal about what happened with their own press. One example should suffice, such as when Listening Post's (Al Jazeera) Richard Gizbert observed, "As they scan their new media landscape, Iraqis are under no illusions about what they see. They know the channels covering the elections had their favorite candidates as did the newspapers." If they were looking for any sings that this was not the way a functioning press behaves, they didn't find it from American outlets. Around the time the ballot count released reached 70%, each day had Nouri's political party ahead in the count or Ayad Allawi's. At that point, though a surprise could have still been in store, the press' back and forth was more understandable. But last Friday 100% of the vote count was released and how has the press -- the US press -- behaved since?
That tally found Allawi's slate had won two more seats in the Parliament than had Nouri's. Which meant Allawi had first dibs on attempting to put together a government. The US government will do business with whomever Iraq declares prime minister. That's reality. For the US press, objectivity shouldn't be hard in this instance (though they're declaring Nouri the winner on March 8th indicates otherwise) because it's not really a US issue. The individual -- whomever he (or in a better world) she is will continue relations with the US government. So the US press should have been able to have been objective. (That may be too high a goal for those who couldn't even be informed -- as the Friday roundup guests on The Diane Rehm Show at the start of this month demonstrated, few even bothered to learn basics.)
And just by being objective, they could have sent a message. Even now, they're not able to. In what country -- functioning democracy or 'democracy' or not -- is the sitting leader allowed to cast aspersions on the vote as freely as Nouri has? In what country would the sitting leader be allowed to benefit by the targeting of members of the winning's side -- targeting them with violence and political intimidation?
This is what's going on in Iraq and there's no disputing it. The US press probably couldn't change the realities on the ground (I doubt seriously that shaming works on Nouri -- if it did, he would have slit his wrists years ago). But it could help the Iraqi people. Instead of the diffident, lackadaisical attitude displayed by the US press, there could be expressions of outrage over what's happening. That it's not taking place sends a message to the Iraqi people that this is just how it's going to be, that this is how it is?
I don't believe you can make democracy somewhere else. I believe a people can make a democracy if they want it. The War Hawks -- including a large segment of the -- "CASE CLOSED!" -- US press -- believed democracy could be exported. I would assume that all but the most thick headed now realize it can't be. But I'd also -- apparently wrongly -- assume that the US press would grasp that their actions are being watched and that behaviors are modeled. So when they want to act as if it's perfectly normal that, for example, a member of Allawi's party was assassinated Sunday or that at least one -- possibly four -- members of Allawi's party are being smeared with the charge of "Ba'athist!" in order to sideline them, the message to the Iraqi people is, "That's just how it is."
I didn't and don't support the ongoing, illegal war. But I also don't believe the press should now tell the Iraqis that that's just the way things are and no sense getting outraged, no sense expecting more. That's the message being sent: This is all you can hope for. (Possibly with a subtext of: This all you're worth.) The entire international community should be vocal about these efforts to overturn the will of the people but the US press bears a special burden (in a court of law, the term for that 'burden' should be "culpable") since it did so much to help sell the Iraq War to begin with. And we're fully aware that the selling of the Iraq War didn't stop in March 2003. Waves of Operation Happy Talk kept the illegal war -- keeps it going -- for every Damien Cave or Alissa J. Rubin that did some strong work, you had ten and twenty Dexter Filkins lying in print over and over. You see a lot of that today if you pay attention, the Dexy pose, where they all want you to know -- now -- that things aren't that bad. Why, in 2006, . . . But check the archives, in real time, they weren't telling you about it when it was happening. Today they will because it helps sell the war. "It's better! Now it's better!"
So for those crimes and many more, the US press should feel a special obligation in terms of calling out outrages in Iraq. But they don't judging the near total silence. A rare exception would be the Los Angeles Times editorial board:
Nevertheless, Maliki has been challenging the election results every which way, within the elastic boundaries of the law. He has tried but so far failed to secure a recount of what international observers determined to be a sufficiently fair and transparent vote. And just before the final results were released last week, the Supreme Court concluded, at Maliki's urging, that the right to form the next government could go to alliances and super-coalitions formed after the election, if they prove to have the most seats. Maliki promptly launched negotiations with other religious Shiite and Kurdish parties.
Now the Accountability and Justice Commission, which already had banned scores of candidates with alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from the election, says six others slipped through the cracks, won seats and should be disqualified. Removing them would alter the outcome, because several appear to be from Allawi's Shiite-Sunni bloc (and because Allawi's coalition won by only two seats). Not incidentally, the commission's head, Ali Lami, belongs to a party that is reportedly in merger talks with Maliki.
Perhaps some of this is just postelection posturing, but to us it looks like shenanigans. What's more, not only are these dubious maneuvers potentially destabilizing in such a fragile country, but they are probably unnecessary for Maliki's bloc to come out on top.
RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
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