Iraq, the final chapter
Friday, August 20, 2010; 9:00 AM
Here are five reasons why the withdrawal of the last American combat troops from Iraq is a bigger deal than the media coverage would suggest:
-- It's been more than seven years since George W. Bush landed on that aircraft carrier with the Mission Accomplished banner.
-- The war utterly dominated our politics for years, helped Bush get reelected, was a classic case of botched military planning and sullied the reputation of almost everyone involved, including the media.
-- The mythical weapons of mass destruction were never found, making it in many people's minds a war fought under false pretenses.
-- At least 4,415 American service members have died in the conflict, and many more Iraqi civilians.
-- Barack Obama kept his campaign promise to end combat operations in Iraq by this summer.
Now, before you hit the send button, I understand all the caveats. The war isn't over. There are still 50,000 American troops there, albeit mostly in an advisory role. The pullback of the last few units was largely symbolic. The Bush surge stabilized things enough so that Obama could live up to his pledge. Iraq, though, has been unable to agree on a government and could still descend into endless sectarian violence. The real battlefront now is Afghanistan, the war that Obama is escalating.
MSNBC provided blowout coverage Wednesday night, led by chief foreign affairs reporter Richard Engel, who has chronicled the war from the start. The pullout led the New York Times and Washington Post on Thursday. But there were no stories on the front of the Wall Street Journal or USA Today. By the time you read this, the coverage will have slowed to a trickle.
Sure, it's more dramatic when a war ends in victory, with parades and speeches and the other side surrendering. But that is not the nature of modern counterinsurgency warfare. Iraq will occasionally slide back into the news, but for Americans, at least, it is largely history.
In defense of Murdoch
I can't resist when Slate's Jack Shafer , analyzing News Corp.'s million-dollar check to the Republican governors, has a line like this: "I've got to defend the genocidal tyrant's donation. . . .
"The Democrats' real complaint isn't that Murdoch has tainted his company's journalism by making a political donation. It's that he didn't give them as much fun money as he did the Republicans.
"For Murdoch or any other CEO, campaign donations aren't donations -- they're investments. Competing as he does in the highly regulated industry of broadcasting, Murdoch cannot function without government licenses. He cannot expand his broadcast holdings without securing new licenses. Because his very livelihood depends on the whims of politicians and regulators, he'd be insane not to be funneling all the legal cash he can to the most powerful and influential politicians. I hate to write this, but it's true. Murdoch is a victim of government power. If Washington didn't flex so much regulatory power, he wouldn't feel compelled to pay them such steep tribute."