A public holiday - National Sovereignty Day - has been declared, and the capital, Baghdad, threw a giant party to mark the eve of the changeover.
Hours before the Monday night deadline, four US soldiers were killed in combat.
US-led combat operations are due to end by September 2010, with all troops gone from Iraq by the end of 2011.
Of course, this didn't get a lot of coverage here, the news having been pretty much canceled in honor of the death of Michael Jackson. Over 4,000 Americans have lost their lives to bring Iraq to this point and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, but one man's death -- even if we was a reclusive, Howard Hughes type who was previously the object of ridicule -- is much more important than all of them. In our celebrity-obsessed culture, you don't matter and neither do all those people who lost their lives way-the-hell-and-gone over in Iraq. The oddest thing here is that Michael Jackson didn't really matter much before he died -- the fact is that he was sort of a has-been.
I see I'm in danger of writing what's becoming the worst obit ever. This post isn't about Michael Jackson, but about the media and Iraq. We should be all about Iraq today, but the mainstream media has the attention-span of a butterfly. Better yet, a moth. That moth is drawn toward the sensational as if it were a flame and all our attention goes there with it. If something sensational happens and something substantial happens, off we go to wonder at the sensationalism. The substantial -- the work of years and billions of dollars and supertankers worth of blood -- can just wait.
In addition to the time, the money, and the blood, there were also lies. Hundreds of them. Maybe thousands. Worse than the lies was the plain stupidity. For example, if you've read my posts long enough, you know I wonder how it is that former Weekly Standard editor and founding neocon William Kristol hasn't been kicked out of the pundit class. How is it possible that someone who's just plain wrong so consistently can possibly be taken seriously anymore? Here's a blast from the past, courtesy of Media Matters for America:
There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America... that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq's always been very secular.
-Bill Kristol to NPR's Terry Gross, 4/1/03
Pffft! Those silly fools who believed that Sunni and Shia would start their own civil war! Let's all laugh at them!
And, of course, Kristol was 100% wrong -- as he almost always is. You're never going to go broke betting against his predictions. Ironically, you'll probably never make as much money as Kristol does for this crap. In today's media, pulling stuff like this out of your butt is a growth industry. And it was BS like this, either the result of stupidity or dishonesty, that got us into Iraq and kept us there for so long.
When George W. Bush gave his speech giving Saddam Hussein an ultimatum -- give up power or there will be war -- in March, 2003, he told us "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." He said he had proof of the existence of something that wasn't there. This can only be a lie. I could go back and show you how he knew this wasn't true, but that's not necessary. If you say you have proof of something that later turns out to be untrue, you're not telling the truth. You aren't mistaken, because this is the English language and "proof" means something definite. It means you know something for a fact. If Bush had said he had "strong suspicions" or that he "was nearly certain," that would've been one thing, but "proof" means he was saying he knew they were there. They weren't. Simple logic dictates that he was lying. There is no other possible conclusion.
But lost in all that ridiculous "a third world dictator's going to kill us all" talk was an address directly to "all Iraqi military and civilian personnel" -- specifically, "do not destroy oil wells." This blazing red flag set off few media BS sensors, although it set off plenty of other people's. As it does every time Bill Kristol is allowed to express his dumbass certitude on a talking head show, the media completely failed us then. As always, TV news reported the "facts" -- i.e., what people said, who said it, what they said it about, etc. -- but never bothered to determine whether those "facts" were based on any truth. The meaning of the term "stenographers to power" was never so well demonstrated; things were said, those things were written down and distributed, and checking to see if any of it was true wasn't the business of the media. It was all factual, in that it was actually said by the people they said said it, but none of it was true. TV news became a big pipe from the White House, the Pentagon, and the Republican party headquarters directly into your living room -- with almost no filters along the way.
And it went on like that for years and years. If scandals broke out and lies were exposed, it was the print media that broke those stories. Cable news doesn't do that. They take polls. They cover press conferences. They repeat press releases and studies put out by astroturf organizations. They don't do that kind of journalism.
And it goes on like that still today. The US is taking a major step in leaving Iraq, but the big news is that someone who was a big star in the '80s has died. Remember Anna Nicole Smith? Remember how long that dragged out and sucked up all the cable news oxygen? That was nothing.
And now Iraq is nothing. Today's war is yesterday's news.
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