News Quiz: Iraq
Friday, Feb 14, 2003
Sorry for all the warblogging, but this one caught my eye: Earlier this week the Arab press aired an audio speech purportedly from Bin Laden. Recalling what you read in the press about that speech, did you get a sense that he supported Saddam Hussein?

Several articles, on CNN, the NYT, and other major sites, reported that Bin Laden was supporting Iraq's aggressive military stance (Iraq-the-governmentregime, as Iraq-the-people don't really have a military stance involving biological or chemical weapons). The White House carried this ball, citing it as further evidence that Iraq-the-regime supports the terrorist activities of Al Quaida.

The funny thing is that shortly after the broadcast, MSNBC reported: "At the same time, the message also called on Iraqis to rise up and oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who is a secular leader." This sentence was later downplayed in an edit to the article, and within a day was stricken completely.

Osama is striving for solidarity of the Arab people against the United States; I don't think anyone disputes that. My concern is, given that the seemingly unstoppable Bush War Machine has Iraq in its sights, what is the plan? They'fe talked about ousting Saddam and changing the regime, but to what? Theres a good deal of dispute as to what the Iraqi people think in their hearts. What I haven't heard spoken of is this war's 'win condition'.

Is the conflict over when everyone who's left alive likes us and won't try to build weapons against US interests in the next 10, 20, or 50 years? Is the conflict over when we've bombed their capacities to the point where we can wait another decade before they get close and we have to bomb them again? Is it over when we enthrone someone who has our interests at heart, hoping that they stay our friend, but happy to come back and hit 'reset' again if they don't like us anymore?

But getting back to the bigger point: There seems to be no distinction between Iraq the people and Iraq the government, when such a distinction weakens our own solidarity against them. On the contrary: if Osama says Iraqi people should rise up and take Saddam out of power, then is it smart for us to condemn that, when we've been saying the same thing for years? Maybe it's smart for us to condemn it if the Iraqi people are more hell-bent on destrying the United States than Hussein himself is. This is pretty doubtful, but if that were true, then any conflict we get in to over there isn't going to be resolved by a simple regime change, unless the government we put in place is nothing more than a hostile dictatorship designed to supress the Iraqi people.

If I had to sum up my biggest frustration, it's that the media (tv, radio, web, print: all of it) simplifies the issues into little slices of 'this is what happened today' without ever looking into deeper issues and bigger pictures. The only instances where a broader scope of time is given are in editorial pieces which are so filled with bias and, by definition, opinion, that there are already too many grains of salt in the mix to trust their view, especially when it's so different than the "other side's" (left v right) editorial viewpoint.

Whatever happened to unbiased, nonsensationalistic reporting to people with IQs higher than carrots?

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