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Mar 17, 2008

History To Some, Coney Island To Others


The John Burns Week in Review piece on the five year anniversary of the Iraq invasion starts out:

Five years on, it seems positively surreal.

The "it" was the world-wide, made-for-TV, timed-to-the-minute bombing of Bagdad.

Surreal?  At the time it seemed surreal.  With the perspective of history, however, it only seems cold-blooded, gratuitous and all too real.

What's important to emphasize here is that the event, and the recollection, have essentially been boiled down to this one NYT image.  In the dead-tree edition, the photo is vertical, covers at least 60% of the WIR cover, and has the anchor text "Five Years" lined up in enormous type just to the right of the explosion.  The on-line version, no bigger than any other article-accompanying image, is horizontal.

With its sparkler effect, along with the minimization of the explosion(s) as compared to the expanse of still relatively smoke-free Iraqi skyline, this photo does not bring history into the present so much as perpetuates the original propaganda of the attack as a fireworks show.

This attitude is exemplified and reinforced by the caption:

THE AIR SHOW The war began with a mesmerizing display of American might. But the United States made a basic misjudgment about the Iraqis’ readiness to share power.

So the "only but" to qualify the invasion -- and the B-1 "rain" of vengeance on central Baghdad -- was that a "basic misjudgment" (more minimizing coming from that phrase, too) was made by "the United States" (not a renegade Administration?) about the Iraqi's "readiness to share power."  (I guess ripping apart the complex fabric of a country had nothing to do with it.  That is, if "readiness to share" was ever in the mix.)

If, on the fifth year anniversary of this illicit war, the retrospective view involves scaling down, but essentially perpetuating what was framed from the start as "a show," I think I'll wait five more years to see what becomes of our memory.  Who knows?  By then, the date of the attack might be properly revised to the 4th of July.

Five Years (NYT WIR)

(image: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times.  March 19, 2003.  Baghdad, Iraq.


Many Canadians are familiar with John Burns, for he did not fully reach his level of incompetence until he went to the NYT's in the mid 1970's. He has of course received numerous awards and prizes but compared to someone like Robert Fisk he is simply a second rate reporter.
Now that I've got that off my chest I'll have a go with his five year retro ~

A more accurate headline would be, "Still Spinning."

Is it just me, or does that explosion look like it's giving us all the finger?

Look at the detached "war torn" in the upper left hand corner. As if self-inflicted. Shredded would be more appropriate. Demolished. Devastated. Decimated. Never democratized. Not for a minute.

~ while our man in Bagdad was witnessing the surreal another person observed this war and predicted the future with uncanny accuracy ~

This is an extract from an article written on Feb 18 2003 - unfortunately observations and questions raised in it seem beyond the journalistic training, critical thinking, or of interest to corporate media crews and senior staff writers like John Burns.

It is crucial to remember that the present regime in Iraq is ultimately a secular nationalist one, out of touch with Muslim fundamentalist populism. Obviously, Saddam only superficially flirts with pan-Arab Muslim sentiment. As his past clearly demonstrates, he is a pragmatic ruler striving for power, who shifts alliances when it fits his purposes—first against Iran to grab their oil fields, then against Kuwait for the same reason, bringing against himself a pan-Arab coalition allied with the United States. Saddam is not a fundamentalist obsessed with the “Great Satan,” ready to blow the world apart just to get him. What can emerge as a result of U.S. occupation, however, is a truly fundamentalist Muslim, anti-American movement, directly linked to such movements in other Muslim countries.

Direct American occupation of a large and key Arab country—how could this not generate a reaction of universal hatred? One can already imagine thousands of young people dreaming of becoming suicide bombers, and how that will force the U.S. government to impose a permanent high-alert emergency state. At this point, one cannot resist a slightly paranoid temptation: What if the people around Bush *know* this, what if this “collateral damage” is the true aim of the entire operation? **What if the true target of the “war on terror” is American society itself**—the disciplining of its emancipatory excesses?

MG, thanks for the curtain call @

I remember that photo very well; CNN had excerpted al-Jazeera that night and in Arabic the announcer said "Baghadad burns, what can we say?" - the pounding simply broke the heart. Whose din was in the background but Wolf Blitzer's monotonous nasality! He called his show The War Room!
Wisewebwoman you just wrote a haiku -

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