Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Media Coverage of War Didn't Cause Failures

My parents were here to help us get settled in. Dad spent a couple of days battling the downstairs sink. The previous owner fancied himself a plumber/electrician. He wasn't. There's a lot to fix.

At the end of the day we sat down for an hour or so to chat, and, as often happens, the topic came around to politics. As regular readers [snicker, probably the most regular readers are my dad and husband] know, my parents lean right and I and Pither lean left. I don't think any of us are "extremists" or "radicals," but our rhetoric sometimes goes that way.

It didn't get too extreme yesterday (like I'm going to argue with my parents after all the hard work they were doing on our house). And I thought they brought up an interesting point.

They wondered what WWII or the Civil War would have been like if there had been the kind of media coverage that we see today. If we'd been aware of all the screwups and friendly fire incidents and pictures of dead bodies, would we have lost the will to continue the fights? Screwups always happen in every war, we just didn't see them all the time.

For me, it's not the death toll or the gruesome pictures or the screwups that makes me against Bush and his wars (except Afghanistan, which made sense). I'm not an anti-war liberal. I'm specifically against Bush's awful, stupid and unnecessary warmongering.

I understand that sometimes great sacrifices are called for. I think most people understand that, despite the visuals and media coverage. Many in the military and their families cling to the belief that their sacrifices are worthwhile and continue to support the President and his policies. It's natural, no matter the conflict, to feel that way. I heard somewhere that the percentage of Americans directly involved in WWII (soldiers and families) was 12%. Now it's something like .5%. So during WWII, that need to believe would have been more widespread.

And it wasn't until recently that a majority of Americans started opposing the Iraq War. Coverage has been ongoing since the beginning, but many people thought there was a good reason for the carnage, so they supported it.

So I don't think it was the coverage of the war that caused the change in public opinion. And it's certainly neither the coverage nor the turn in public opinion that has caused the continuing screwups.

Here's an important distinction between the Civil War, WWII, and the current Bushie War on Terra. During the Civil War and WWII, Congress held many hearings, demanding accountability of the Administrations of how the wars were being waged, how monies were being spent. That oversight has been stunningly lacking regarding Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, talk of oversight has earned accusations of anti-American, pro-terrorist treason.

Until the reflection of change in public opinion in the form of the November 2006 elections, Bush kept saying he would stay the course, continuing the same failed policies and strategies that lost billions of taxpayer dollars and caused thousands of lives with little gain. Sure, as my dad pointed out, in one day of training for D-Day, 35,000 men were lost. But then we got D-Day. Bush's D-Day is a surge around Baghdad? Who knows, maybe the surge (and nothing else, since there's still foreign - to Iraqis - contractors, sectarian conflicts, American soldiers training their own killers) will work. Would Bush have even done that if a continually mis-informed American public hadn't stood up to demand accountability?

In this instance, the media coverage that may have helped sway public opinion was a great boon, as it allowed the American public to attempt to provide the oversight and check that the Congress was not providing.

It's not the images of death, it's not the accounts of screwups. It's a realization that we were lied into a war that made no sense to the wider struggle against terrorism; that the war theory (too few troops, no post-war plan, private foreign contractors rather than Iraqi or U.S. military workers, etc.) expounded by Rumsfeld and Bush was wrong; that Bush cronies have been profiteering to the tune of billions of dollars; that Congress hasn't been providing checks and balances; that every rhetorical argument of loving and supporting the troops has been a lie.

The Bush Administration has had carte blanche to wage this war any way it chose. It had public support, it had a great deal of media support, it had Congressional support. And still it was messing up and failing.

I don't think the real question is, "If there had been modern media coverage during WWII or the Civil War, would those wars have failed?" I think it's, "If there had been media coverage comparable to what was available during the Civil War or WWII, would the Iraqi post-war have gone any better?"

Because of the huge differences in casus belli, oversight, and characters of the various Administrations, I seriously doubt it.

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