July 5, 2010

On a day where Republican Senators such as our almost-President McCain have made the rounds of talk shows doing their level best to undermine the July 2011 withdrawal deadline from Afghanistan, Fox News wants you to know that they think we should still be moving full steam ahead in Iraq.

Vice President Joe Biden visited Iraq today and pressed Iraqi leadership to push toward shoring up their government as the US troop withdrawal continues on schedule from that country.

For some in Iraq and in the US, Iraqi violence and instability is seen as a sign that the US should not withdraw its presence. The fear is that sectarian violence will overwhelm Iraq's wobbly democracy. It's not entirely without foundation; however, sectarian violence has been a part of Iraqi history before the US inserted itself and it will be again, with or without a US military presence.

This is clearly not what Fox News wishes to convey to its readers and viewers. While Vice President Biden was in Iraq, several mortars were fired inside Baghdad's green zone. The green zone includes the US Embassy, the Iraqi parliament and the Iraqi Prime Minister's offices. It is hardly unusual for mortars to be fired there, but look at how it was reported by Fox News:

Rockets were fired at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad while Vice President Biden visits Iraq.

The rockets were fired at the embassy, located inside the International Zone.

Vice President Biden is currently in the country to meet with U.S. troops and talk to Iraqi political leaders.

It isn't until the fourth paragraph (below the fold) that they get to the truth of the matter:

"According to Embassy Public Affairs there was a small explosion in the International Zone," a U.S. Embassy spokesperson said. "The incident is being investigated. There were no injuries or property damage."

I'm sure it will come as no surprise that Fox News distorted the story to make it sound as though those mortars were specifically fired at the US Embassy while our Vice President and his wife were there. It is only one example of many and points to a larger and far more orchestrated effort to use the press for the express purpose of stoking support to continue a war we never should have started in the first place.

One of the more interesting paragraphs in the Fox article mentions 2 unnamed soldiers whose statement (as reported) leave a distinct impression those rounds fell inside embassy walls:

Two soldiers inside the compound reported there was an impact from the incoming fire.

Are you pissed off yet? Worried? Concerned for the safety of our Vice President and angry about mortar rounds falling on protected diplomatic property?

Don't be. It's a carefully worded non-statement. Here's what it says, if anyone takes the time to actually read it: Two soldiers felt an impact from mortar fire in the area but not in the embassy.

Until we are actually out of there (and out of Afghanistan) there will be two recurrent themes which the press will play for all they're worth, regardless of whether they are considered "liberal" or "conservative".

Theme #1: We are "losing". It plays like this: if we leave while missiles are still being fired in either one of these countries, we haven't won "the war". This is a predominantly conservative theme, used to stoke fear and loathing of our President, while also using Republican politicians like almost-was-President McCain to whip the dead "we need to stay longer" horse. It is intended to appeal to True Believers, dedicated to Empire and control of Iraqi oil fields.

Theme #2: Give it just a little more time. If we keep our combat troops in these countries longer, we will "win". This was General Petraeus' chorus this morning, in somewhat more veiled terms. Assume the "we're in it to win" mantra is really an effort to lay a foundation to walk back his agreement to the plan President Obama laid out last winter and asked each and every general at the table (including Gen. Petraeus) to commit to.

Conservatives hammer these themes to justify prolonging wars we need to end. Generals hammer them because it is their life's work to wage and win wars. Without wars we wouldn't need generals. President Obama has made a commitment to withdraw. His Iraq withdrawal plan is right on schedule, despite the cries and whispers of the right-wing noise machine. Rather than assuming HE is backing away from the Afghanistan deadline, I'd suggest WE need to keep the pressure on to adhere to that July 2011 date while ignoring the noise, the fear, and the nonsensical notion of what "winning a war" means to generals and profit-takers.

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