Three Imaginary Girls

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Since my weekly MFA column falls on the day after the first so-called free election in Iraq in 50 years, I felt the need to address the subject. But what to say about it?

I don't believe that "Freedom is on the March." Bush has been proclaiming that inanity since Fall of last year – and it was trite the first time. Nor can I even stomach that Bush has "Firmly planted the flag of liberty." My every skeptical liberal nerve stands on end at the banality.

But I'd like to consider – could it be possible that there's something good coming to pass in Iraq today? On this day, I'd like to read a news source I could believe, to find out what transpired. But mostly, I feel like we here in the U.S. can't possibly know what's going on half a world away, especially with the current conservative bias of our media.

To illustrate the case, I browsed three articles posted today:

  1. From a U.S. corporate media news source (Knight Ridder Newspapers – and incidentally, the top Google news story this afternoon)
  2. From the Guardian (a top U.K. newspaper)
  3. From the Nation, one of the top progressive news sources, also the top story on today.

Let's check out the tone of these three articles…

  1. First from the Knight Ridder Newspapers-owned Kansas City Star…

    Millions of Iraqis defy insurgent

    The story opens a bit bombastically, with glowing praise for the events of the day…

    "Sunday was a rare day of jubilation in this war-weary nation. A surprise majority of Iraqis cast ballots in their first independent elections in half a century, voting for democracy and defying the insurgency that tried to silence them with a barrage of attacks that killed at least 44 people."

    It continues on in this same tone, proclaiming that, "…Iraqis basked in a freedom that most of them had never before known. Voters danced in the streets and let out shrill cries of joy. They wiped away tears and hugged their children. They risked death and celebrated with chocolates.

    I'd like to believe this was true. Who doesn't love chocolate? Chocolates are on the march!!!

    Mmmm, chocolates. But seriously – chocolates? Clearly, the plausibility factor has plummeted for skepticalD.


  2. Next, I was encouraged to find a more objective story from the Brits. I especially liked that they began the story with a bulleted list of just the facts:

    Iraqi voters defy the bombers

    • Turnout put at 57%
    • Polls fail to open in some Sunni areas
    • More than 40 die in blasts

    OK, that's a bit closer to what I was looking for. The article continues with a guardedly positive response to the elections, without too much editorializing. It described the relatively high voter turnout ("Iraqis… go to the polls in greater than expected numbers for the first democratic elections for 50 years.") but it also mentioned the unrest right at the top ("At least nine suicide bombers, most with explosives strapped to their chests, detonated themselves near polling stations in Baghdad.")

    Can you imagine if a U.S. or U.K. election involved nine suicide bombers and over 40 deaths? Tony Blair described today's vote as "a moving and humbling experience." I'd like to hear if the friends and family of the suicide bombers and their victims were moved.

    In this same article, Bush proclaimed that, "the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists." With over 40 deaths and nine suicide bombers, it's fair to ask the rhetorical: have they?

    Earlier this week, Bush issued another philosophically-questionable platitude, "A world without tyranny is an ideal world."

    Jesus. Why do we have a President who talks like the head cheerleader at a pep rally before the big Banal College versus University of Vapidity homecoming match? The words say nothing tangible, but they incite – so it's difficult to counter argue them. I mean, I know tyranny = bad. Hard to argue. But did any journalist question Bush, both about whether Iraqis really are rejecting the "ideology of terrorists" (a weak euphomism for "anti-American occupation"), and about whether we're truly working to eradicate tyranny? Which brings me to my third article…


  3. Occupation Thwarts Democracy

    The fantastic John Nichols at the Nation challenges the question: even if this one day was a success, is the principal that brought us to this day a moral one? Do the ends justify the means?

    "Under pressure from the Bush Administration, political parties campaigning in this weekend's so-called "election" in Iraq did not proposed timetables for the withdrawal of US troops from their homeland.

    This constraint upon the debate effectively denied the Iraqi people an honest choice. Polls suggest that the majority of Iraqis favor the quick withdrawal of US forces, yet the voters of that battered land were cheated out of a campaign that could have allowed them to send a clear signal of opposition to the occupation."

    An excellent point, one not addresses in the previous articles. Nichols continues to say…

    "That democracy has been denied in Iraq is beyond question. The charade of an election, played out against a backdrop of violence so unchecked that a substantial portion of the electorate– particularly Sunni Muslims–avoided the polls for reasons of personal safety, featuring candidates who dared not speak their names and characterized by a debate so stilted that the electorate did not know who or what it is electing."

    Again, good points – but are they accurate? He doesn't provide any objective data about the number of the disenfranchised electorate who couldn't/didn't vote. Did the Iraqi people not know who they were voting for? Was there really chocolate in Iraq?

Our media has been "Chicken Big" for so long – proclaiming that the sky is upheld, when it's most likely falling – that how are we to trust them to relate historically significant events like today's election? Where does the truth lie? With Chocolates on the March? Somehow, I doubt it…

{This article originally appeared in igDana's weekly Music for America column "A Rush and a Push." Check out the column and feel free to comment on their message boards here.}