Friday, March 20, 2009

Do You Know What Today Is?

It’s not just Feel Good Friday.

It’s not just the first day of spring. It’s not just the birthdays of Rosie O’Donnell, Matthew Broderick or Kevin Federline.

It is the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, an event which has gone unrecognized by pretty much everybody save lefty bloggers. Even the New York Times has let the day go unmentioned (though to be fair they published a picture from an anti-war protest yesterday).

For those who have forgotten:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. and coalition forces launched missiles and bombs at targets in Iraq as Thursday morning dawned in Baghdad, including a "decapitation attack" aimed at Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and other top members of the country's leadership.

President Bush announced the start of the military campaign against Iraq shortly afterward in a televised address from the White House.

"American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger," Bush said.

Administration sources said the decision to strike came after a nearly four-hour meeting in the Oval Office in which CIA Director George Tenet and Pentagon officials told Bush they could lose the "target of opportunity" if they didn't act quickly; Bush then gave the green light.

That’s not all he gave them. He also gave them Medals of Freedom--about as obscene as AIG executives giving themselves $165 million in bonuses today.

I think back to this day six years ago and all I can feel is a deep shame--and I was one of the ones stridently opposed to the war. I remember seeing “shock and awe” on the television, the Baghdad night sky illuminated by bombs and rockets. I felt sick, because I knew it was all wrong. For one thing, the media was enjoying it far too much.

I remember the breathless excitement of embedded reporters covering the invasion as if it were a trip to Disney World. They had fancy new lingo like “decapitation attack” to go with their fancy new flak jackets and helmets.

Stuff like this:

In fact, I'm afraid that whatever I cover as a reporter in the future will never match the adrenaline-induced, heart-in-my-throat sense of anticipation that I felt while embedded with the U.S. Marines on their march from Kuwait to Baghdad. And I suspect it will be very rare that I feel so close to the center of a story of this magnitude.

Of course, it’s hard to have perspective when you’re so close to the center. Maybe we'd have had less fawning news coverage had the embeds not been living out little boy fantasies of being the romantic war correspondent.

And I realize this isn't entirely fair. Plenty of journalists did their jobs courageously and admirably, despite extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

Yesterday, Editor & Publisher dug into the pre-war memory hole and came up with some interesting nuggets of their own:

It was fascinating to re-read Judith Miller previewing how we would go about locating those WMDs she was so sure Saddam possessed. And Thomas Friedman stating again that he backed the war but (I did not recall this) also hitting Bush hard for not gaining enough allies or doing the right diplomatic work. The Times' editorial also criticized Bush on this but, unlike Friedman, opposed war at that time. Plus: the complete text of Bush's final pre-war speech to the nation, where he gave Saddam and his kids 48 hours to get out of Dodge -- and repeated the false claims that the Iraqi ruler had WMD and helped al-Qaeda.

You may find this amusing, from the Times' Jim Rutenberg: "Yesterday, the Media Research Center, a conservative group, released a report criticizing ABC News for what it called liberal bias. The group said ABC News was the worst 'offender' among the networks for 'channeling Iraqi propaganda,' 'sanitizing radical protesters' and 'championing France and the U.N. over the U.S.'''

On the other hand: There was Paul Krugman.

In his regular column, he hit nearly every nail on the head in predicting what would follow. Yet consider the scorn he has had to endure from so many in the years since, who got it nearly 100% wrong.

Interestingly, those who got it nearly 100% wrong are still, for the most part, writing columns and appearing on television.

There are a few exceptions. Judith Miller, who single-handedly did more to drive America to war than any journalist this side of Fox News, was last seen on television fighting construction of a CVS drugstore in Sag Habor. But all of the rest of the pundits, columnists and opinion makers who applauded the war still have their jobs, some of them even got promotions.

Those who criticized the media’s enthusiastic war boosterism--folks like Ashleigh Banfield and Phil Donohue--have disappeared from our TV screens.

And six years later, we’re still at war. I know it’s kinda hard to tell and all, since news bureaus packed up their gear and left Iraq once the news started turning bad. I’m sure everyone would just as soon we forget all about it, but see, there’s still a large number of troops over there, six years down the pike. Only yesterday the Army announced it would stop its "stop-loss” program, but all anyone on the TV news could talk about was AIG. I know, it’s hard to walk and chew gum at the same time, it really is. You folks at MSNBC and CNN have my sympathies.

So here we are, six years later, still embroiled in a war that was supposed to be over in months.

I just thought it was worth mentioning.