Friday, March 28, 2003

I have nothing more to add to that

15 war stories the media got wrong.

Note that all 15 were about how well the war was going. In other words, the problem is journalists’ lack of scepticism towards the lies being told them by the military. As I write, there is a story that Iraqi militias--or death squads as the Pentagon likes to call them--are firing on civilians trying to flee Basra. The Guardian points out that there were also British troops in the vicinity, who may have been the actual target. (Later), and in the Saturday paper, gives much greater detail on how the false stories got spread. One reason the coverage is so surreal is that the mistakes aren’t admitted. When I went to bed Wednesday, a gigantic column of Iraqi tanks was streaming south to attack; I spent most of Thursday trying to figure out why no one was saying what had happened. Now I know: there were 3 vehicles. Read both articles.

Just (Fri. morning) saw Rumsfeld berate a reporter who dared ask him why the US is reporting 28 dead but only 14 wounded, which is not a credible proportion.

When that general said that the enemy he’s fighting in Iraq is different than the one they war-gamed against, I didn’t realize (and the media didn’t enlighten me) that he meant a $250 million exercise involving thousands of troops. In fact, I know I mentioned those particular games at the time (last summer), because a retired general running one of the teams quit in the middle and leaked to the Army Times that the results were rigged.

Tony Blair made some enemies this week. He announced that Iraqis executed two captured British soldiers, without offering any proof. The army, it turns out, told the families of the soldiers something else, and one family feels the whole thing is a horrible stain on their honor, I guess for being captured rather than dying in battle. I also keep seeing stories about the Bush-Blair press conference yesterday, where Blair was articulate and actually addressed the questions, and Spurious George’s best answer was “I have nothing more to add to that.” Quote from a Guardian editorial: “George Bush, who at Camp David this week seemed to be asleep while standing up, insists a relentless America will prevail "no matter how long it takes". Down in Tampa, that sounds like leadership. But it is actually an amazing admission that the US military behemoth no longer entirely controls the timetable or pace of a war begun at a moment and in a place of its own particular choosing.”

Meanwhile, British deaths are nearly as high as American, in case you hadn’t noticed, (as any Frenchman can tell you, most Americans think the US won WW II single-handed, although Russia inflicted 3/4 of German casualties). How helpful those 23 deaths are is open to doubt, given that all but 4 were accidents or friendly fire (today, an American plane shot up some Brits on patrol).

Oh dear, Sharon’s coalition may break apart unless they resume prosecuting shops that open on the sabbath. Evidently a government fell in 1976 when a ceremony for the delivery of fighter jets went a bit long. Hey, wait a damn minute! What about the Sabbath inspectors? When do they work, if not on the sabbath?

Not much has been heard from one of the most vociferous of COW countries just a couple of weeks ago, Spain. Possibly because polls now show opposition to the war topping 90%. And those are the government’s own polls. I’m less sure about Italy, whose government just broke its promise that Americans wouldn’t be using Italy as a launching pad for offensive operations. Wouldn’t it be nice if this war provoked a shift back from the right in Europe? Chirac, yeah ok a slimy rightist, but opposed to the war, is also getting a 90% approval rating for his Iraq policy.

The body of a former president of Serbia, missing since August 2000, has been found, and I have absolutely no recollection of this. Ivan Stambolic. Don’t even remember the name.

Milosevic ordered it, of course.

The UN votes to resume oil-for-food. I was still right on this one.

Rumsfeld told the Senate that the US has no responsibility for reconstruction in Iraq.

Reuters just said that the US is halting operations for 4-6 days. If that isn’t an admission of a massive miscalculation (or misunderestimation in Bush-speak), I don’t know what is.

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