The Way We Were


I never watch “Morning Joe” but Mr. Beale does and I happened to be in the bedroom long enough this morning to catch a truly horrible “both sides did it,” context-free, Iraq War dodge. It featured clips of prominent Democrats (John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Carl Levin) calling Saddam Hussein a “brutal, murderous dictator” who needed to be disarmed, followed by clips of those same individuals criticizing Bush’s war later. As if that proved something. As if thatmeant anything.

As if saying Saddam was a dangerous asshole also meant you wanted to invade his country and kill his people. As if Bush-Cheney-Rummy didn’t completely botch things in Iraq and weren’t deserving of the criticism.

Holy propaganda, MSNBC! This was the worst journalistic malfeasance since cable news started flogging fear porn at us 24-7 and made the invasion of Iraq a foregone conclusion. It’s the kind of thing that was straight out of Karl Rove’s Little Shop of Republican Talking Points; yet another reminder of why MSNBC is not the “liberal” network/Fox News counter detractors claim it to be.

When it was over — and it lasted all of three minutes, to be honest — the vapid nitwit Mika Brzezinski nodded her empty head and intoned, “good to remember.”

No, not good! If it’s good then why is my blood pressure rising?

Notably absent from this little traipse down revisionist-history lane was any mention of now-President Obama, who was against the war from the beginning (though he wasn’t in the Senate at the time of the Iraq War resolution.) Nor was there any mention — save writing us off as a mere 29% of American surveyed — of all the rest of us who were against the war from the beginning.

The entire point of the piece was so blatantly obvious: sure it was Bush’s war buteveryone else is to blame, too! The whole country wanted this! C’mon you know you did!

Little surprise the media would like to marginalize the anti-war movement which they virtually ignored in the first place. That would be very convenient for them, but it’s a lie and we all know it. Did you attend one of the February 15, 2003worldwide anti-war marches, or any of the hundreds of anti-war protests that followed? I did. If you were in the media did you cover them? Did you write aboutthe protestors who were rounded up, en masse, by police? Did you give the four counter-protestors attending as much airtime as you gave the hundreds of protestors? For that matter, did you devote as many column inches/air time/bandwidth to covering the anti-war movement as you did the Tea Party? Now, don’t lie. Youknow you didn’t.

The war is what got me involved and paying attention, it’s the reason I started blogging. It’s what woke a lot of us up. I was astonished at the news media’s unabashed war boosterism then, and I’m astonished at its utter lack of accountability now. The media lost all credibility with me in 2002 and it ain’t coming back. I lost my faith in you folks. When I criticize the media, which I do a lot, this is why. You will never, ever, ever be trusted again.

It was only 10 years ago. I remember the way we were. Do you?

I remember talk of smoking guns and mushroom clouds, repeated on the nightly news with no questioning or verification, just pointlessly scaring the crap out of people. I remember anyone who dared speak out against war being subjected to vicious verbal attacks. We were labeled terrorist appeasers and anti-American by the jingoistic flag-wavers who took over the microphone and shouted the rest of us down.

Prominent anti-war individuals had their patriotism questioned and their careers ruined. I remember radio stations sponsoring CD crushing parties after Natalie Maines said she was against the war and ashamed George W. Bush was from Texas.

I remember Republicansrenaming French fries at the Congressional cafeteria “freedom fries.”

I remember people pouring bottles of French wine down the gutters. I remember Lawrence Lindsey getting fired for daring to estimate the cost of the Iraq War at $200 billion. Donald Rumsfeld said that was “baloney,” and Lindsey got the axe. If only.

Hey, CNN: I rememberthis:

NAVRATILOVA: Well, obviously, I’m not saying this is a communist system, but I think we’re having — after 9/11, there’s a big centralization of power. President Bush is having more and more power. John Ashcroft is having more and more power. Americans are losing their personal rights left and right. I mean, the ACLU is up in arms about all of the stuff that’s going on right now. . . .

CHUNG: Can I be honest with you? I can tell you that when I read this, I have to tell you that I thought it was un-American, unpatriotic. I wanted to say, go back to Czechoslovakia. You know, if you don’t like it here, this a country that gave you so much, gave you the freedom to do what you want.

NAVRATILOVA: And I’m giving it back. This is why I speak out. When I see something that I don’t like, I’m going to speak out because you can do that here. And again, I feel there are too many things happening that are taking our rights away.

CHUNG: But you know what? I think it is, OK, if you believe that, you know, then go ahead and think that at home. But why do you have to spill it out? You know, why do you have to talk about it as a celebrity so that people will write it down and talk about what you said?

NAVRATILOVA: I think athletes have a duty to speak out when there is something that’s not right, when they feel that perhaps social issues are not being paid attention to. As a woman, as a lesbian, as a woman athlete, there is a whole bunch of barriers that I’ve had to jump over, and we shouldn’t have to be jumping over them any more.

CHUNG: Got you. But sometimes, when you hear celebrities saying something, do you ever say to yourself, I don’t care what so and so thinks, you know. Yes, go ahead and say whatever you want to say. But you’re not a politician. You’re not in a position of government power or whatever.

NAVRATILOVA: No. And I just might do that. I may run for office one of these days and really do make a difference. But…

CHUNG: Are you kidding me?

NAVRATILOVA: No, I’m not. One of these days, hopefully. But when you say go back to Czech Republic, why are you sending me back there? I live here. I love this country. I’ve lived here 27 years. I’ve paid taxes here for 27 years. Do I not have a right to speak out? Why is that unpatriotic?

CHUNG:Well, you know the old line, love it or leave it.
Love it or leave it!

Yeah, I remember this. We were fed a steady diet of “love it or leave it” from the news media 24/7 in the run-up to the Iraq War.

The media lost all credibility when it clapped and cheered for war. Now, 10 years later, it’s determined to dodge any accountability. Morning Joe’s “well, everyone was for the war!” proves it. Joe and Mika: the media’s job was not to report on what Americans wanted to hear. It was to report on the truth. You failed us. And we won’t forget.

Yes, it’s true: Democrats did vote for the invasion. But only after the White House, Republican-led Congress, and their media lapdogs created a climate so toxic that opposition was a career-ender. Just ask Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame.

Do I wish Hillary Clinton and John Kerry hadn’t voted for the war resolution? You’re damn right. And I think that’s a big reason Obama won the 2008 nomination. I wish every Democrat had had the spine of Russ Feingold, Edward Kennedy, Barbara Boxer and the rest. They didn’t, though, and I understand why.

Back in 2004 the New York Timeswas forced to examine its own role in the Iraq War propaganda campaign, especially Queen Of All Iraq Judith Miller. In May they wrote,

We consider the story of Iraq’s weapons, and of the pattern of misinformation, to be unfinished business. And we fully intend to continue aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record straight.

And that was the last we heard of that.

12 thoughts on “The Way We Were

  1. I remember Republicans renaming French fries at the Congressional cafeteria “freedom fries.”
    I will never, ever, ever stop being angry about the way we treated the French. EVER. And the more I learn about WWI, and about the Free French during WWII, the angrier I get. Let’s us lose 1.6 MILLION and then have the rest of the world call us cowards. Bastards.

  2. Since it’s memory lane day, here’s mine. 10 years ago the wife hastily got a permit to protest for our town at the town (Mountain View, CA), and help a small protest as the bombs dropped. A few things stand out in my memory about that small protest. 1) The permitting agent said cheerily, “Good thing you caught me before the end of the day. I heard that the bombs are dropping now.” She was way to giddy. It was unreal. 2) The turn out was tiny, just us, and a few friends, plus a couple of folks who found us via Move On, like, maybe 8 people total. 3) A man drove by, rolled down his window, said, “You know what you are? Cowards, that’s what,” rolled his window up and left. 4) Two cops were assigned to watch us, but after 20 minutes, they told us they were leaving, citing no point in being there. 5) The local paper’s reporter came out to interview us, swell guy, and it turns out we had gone to summer camp together as kids.
    Today, I wish I could find that a-hole who felt it appropriate to call us cowards from the heated comfort and safety of his car, and ask him if he’d figured out yet who the real cowards are. Alo, the lady at the permitting department, I wonder if she still feels giddy when she hears of bombs dropping, or if that was just a one off.

  3. Here in Baton Rouge — Baton Rouge, i.e., FRENCH for Red Stick — some idiot restaurateur even changed the menu so it was Freedom Onion Soup. That’s probably not the only reason the place died unlamented, but it was another excuse to never eat there.
    I did attend a Feb 15, 2003 demonstration (or thereabouts — don’t remember if it was the exact date but right around then) in New Orleans. I was given a poster picturing a ten year old Iraqi child, about whom some fine specimen of wingnuttery was perfectly willing to define as enemy and worthy of death via assault or bombardment. Don’t know if New Orleans media covered the march. Baton Rouge media didn’t.
    The whole stoking/fanning the flames of war fever in the run up was…surreal. Oh sure, in a backwater town like BR it’s one thing — at a well attended debate on LSU’s campus someone actually argued for immediate invasion so the troops wouldn’t be caught outside that summer. But watching the media swallow hook, line, sinker, rod and reel the whole WMD nonsense without even asking basic logical questions made me realize just how, well, fucked up it all is.
    They’ll demand a blank check when it comes to killing them scary brown skinned feriners…but screech themselves hoarse when it comes to stuff like, oh, I don’t know, flood control, higher education, universal health coverage, and so on.

  4. And this assigning of equal blame to those who told the lies that there were WMD in Iraq, with those who believed the liars. Definitely the same.

  5. Yes, yes, and yes. Amen and amen.
    I remember marching against the war. The Oregonian spent I don’t know how much money, but I’d bet high four figures or even five figures, commissioning aerial photography of the marchers for the sole purpose of disputing the number of demonstrators. Local teevee, as you mention, spent every bit as much time showing the characters in the rainbow fright wigs as they did on the mothers, fathers, young people, old people, professionals, hipsters, and down-and-outers. The message was clear: These people are clowns. Serious, thoughtful opposition got short shrift, if any shrift at all. Phil Donahue lost his top-rated cable show because he wasn’t cheer-leading the glorious offensive like all the other MSNBC hosts.
    And today? Oh, the media will scour their archives for the prescient tidbit that somehow made it on the air for five seconds. The day after day after day of relentless beating of the war drums is fast disappearing from their consciousness. Who even remembers that Connie Chung once upon a time did actual interviews? Well, besides Martina Navratilova, that is.
    I recall that some enterprising folks actually slipped into Iraq pre-war to film everyday folks doing everyday things: Going to work, sitting in cafés, flying kites, and so forth. Their documentary footage was almost universally condemned as being propagandistic, the very notion that the people we were about to murder wholesale were *human beings* or something was simply abhorrent. Video representation of their lives that didn’t comport with the demonization we were indulging was tantamount to treason.

  6. Martina Navratilova was a lot more civil in that interview than I would’ve been. I would’ve told Connie to FOAD.
    The Iraq war was just SO wrong on so many levels. I fear that we will be dealing with the karmic blowback for a long, long time.

  7. And this assigning of equal blame to those who told the lies that there were WMD in Iraq, with those who believed the liars. Definitely the same.
    For most people who aren’t BushCo, “You believed my lies and failed to stop me, so it’s your fault and not mine,” ceases to be a credible argument sometime around the age of 5.
    That Connie Chung interview was a fcking disgrace, along with the Diane Sawyer excoriation of the Dixie Chicks for daring to be ashamed of Bush. Another reminder of the utter worthlessness of corporate mass media.

  8. I’m sorry, but I’m not as forgiving of the reigning Democrats who acquiesced–and in many instances–urged on the Iraq War.
    Kerry, Clinton, Biden, Feinstein, and a number of other Democratic Senators (including the party’s 2000 Vice Presidential nominee, Joe Lieberman) approved the invasion without ever seeing a shred of solid evidence. Levin (mentioned above) voted against the Iraq AUMF, as did about 20 other Democratic Senators and the majority of House Democrats. None of those people have ever been held to account for that decision, none has ever explained why they should be trusted with the governance of this country after either being so gullible or making such a stupid mistake. Instead, they’ve been trusted as presidential candidates, cabinet officials, and foreign policy experts, while the people who got it right are still in secondary role within the party.

  9. And when the reasons for going to war kept changing — remember that?
    And we would point out the changing reasons to those who were in favor of the war, and they would just fucking ignore us. Like they were the ones living in the real world, and WE were the delusional loonies.
    I got scolded in a restaurant in Indianapolis by a waiter for ordering French fries with my meal. “Ma’am,” he instructed me, “we only sell AMERICAN FRIES here.”

  10. It was my husband’s birthday. Our daughter was hospitalized with frightening implications. We stepped out of our personal situation and we marched. My husband, Vietnam vet, signed a petition of Vietnam vets against the way (and within a week, was quizzed about it in an interview for a government job). We had trouble making it economically in the States. We left in 2005, after the next election.

  11. I still think that sanitizing the blame for the Iraq war is just part of the media maneuvering to get Jeb in in 2016. First they have to rebuild the Bush brand again, which means, right after Jeb said that “history would be kind” to his brother, we are now getting a lot of (a) pieces like this one, showing that Dubya wasn’t REALLY to blame, and (b) fluff pieces like those showing Dubya painting and their dad writing poetry. See? The Bush’s are wonderful, and getting a third one would be just awesome.
    Have to rebuild the brand and fast to get in the running.

Comments are closed.