Thursday, March 20, 2003

My fisking of the NYT editorial page

Although I had girded myself, still I was shocked by the besotted equivocation of the New York Times’ main editorial today “The War Begins.” This noxious spackle, slapped against the wall in the most desultory and unprincipled manner, isn’t fit for The Mini Page, much less the paper that holds itself up as the paper of record. If Andrew Sullivan rejoined as a contributor to the NYT, the wattage in the Howell Raines’ office would triple by the simple physics of radiant absorption.

As you can see, I’m quite upset. Just like picking up my dog’s crap (what an appropriate metaphor!), let’s get to the unpleasant, but necessary, task of deconstructing the mottled fruit of the NYT’s labor:

From here, the sound of the war that began last night is inaudible. As veterans realize and almost every writer on the subject of war has reminded us, the experience of this new, unwanted war will be unknowable except among those who will be there for the fighting. The job of the soldiers, men and women alike, is transcendently clear. No one who knows the American military doubts that it will do its job to the best of its ability and with an unswerving consciousness of the balance between opportunity and risk. The lives wagered in this operation belong to young Americans and to Iraqis of all ages. Perhaps no military has ever known as well as this one how important it is to have a care for those lives.

The prose on this paragraph flows as smoothly as a Western Union telegraph. War is here – STOP. The soldiers are good – STOP. The lives of the soldiers are theirs – HUH? And what’s the deal with the word “unwanted” before “war”? It’s redundant like “delicious” before “tiramisu” or “biased” before “Paul Krugman.” Every war is “unwanted.” The NYT clearly slipped in that adjective to remind us that the war is “unwanted” by certain establishments that live outside of reality – like the New York Times and the United Nations.

Many Americans remember the first gulf war all too vividly, and the temptation will be to read this war against the backdrop of that one. The terrain is the same, but everything else has changed. A military that, even a dozen years ago, still found itself shuttling paper battle orders back and forth is now electronically linked and coordinated in ways that would have seemed unimaginable then. There is no strategic exit in the offing, as there was when the coalition forces stopped well short of Baghdad in 1991. Now it is Saddam or nothing. There is no sense of international coalescence, a mission that bound disparate nations together. This mission has unbound the world.

I don’t think the NYT remembers the first gulf war so vividly. Here’s a clue: it was a success. It aimed to enforce United Nation resolutions, liberate a conquered country from a wacked dictator and re-establish the rule of law. But that’s unlike now: “everything else has changed.” Everything!
“This mission has unbound the world” – please. The approval of France does not constitute “international coalescence” and I’d move to Mars if it did.

Our job here is not as transcendently clear as the soldiers' job. Now that the first strikes have begun, even those who vehemently opposed this war will find themselves in the strange position of hoping for just what the president they have opposed is himself hoping for: a quick, conclusive resolution fought as bloodlessly as possible. People who have supported Mr. Bush all along may feel tempted to try to silence those who voice dissent. It will be necessary to remind them that we are in this fight to bring freedom of speech to Iraq, not to smother it back home.

Here’s that tired and spurious “dissent=martyrdom” syndrome so popularized by people like Mike Farrell. I’m not trying to silence you, Howell Raines. I want to ridicule, refute, and roil you. Blather on, you ivory tower twit!

It would take a very set mind to judge what comes next on any ground but the success of the effort. If things go as well as we hope, even those who sharply disagree with the logic behind this war are likely to end up feeling reassured, almost against their will, by the successful projection of American power. Whether they felt the idea of war in Iraq was a bad one from the beginning, or — like us — they felt it should be undertaken only with broad international support, the yearning to go back to a time when we felt in control of our own destiny still runs strong. Of all the reasons for this mission, the unspoken one, deepest and most hopeless, is to erase Sept. 11 from our hearts.

Pop quiz: America’s war with Iraq is for (pick one) 1.) to enforce U.N. resolutions and make the world body relevant 2.) to eliminate weapons of mass destruction 3.) to deny terrorists a base of operations 4.) to liberate a country from a brutal dictatorship 5.) a purely emotional reaction in a desperate attempt to “erase Sept. 11 from our hearts.” Paging Dr. Phil!

This is now, as Mr. Bush has said repeatedly, a war with two missions: disarming Iraq and then transforming it into a free and hopeful society. That second goal is also an end everyone would like to see. Yet as a nation we have scarcely begun to talk about how it should be accomplished. Even as we sit here at home, worrying about the outcome of the fighting, we must start to debate what comes next.

Oh, must we? This is the NYT running on pure peeve. The war is a day old and they’re bitching that we haven’t outlined a Marshall plan yet.

That public discussion has to start soon, even tomorrow. But for now, all our other thoughts have come to rest. We simply hope for the welfare of those men and women — sons and daughters — who will be flinging themselves into the Iraqi desert.

This is the most incoherent hypocrisy imaginable: right now we should keep our thoughts and prayers with our American sons and daughters…until tomorrow. Then screw ‘em, they’ll be fine. And WTF is up with that word “flinging”? Not “marching bravely” or “facing the enemy”; no, the NYT chose a word that is most closely associated with a sexual misadventure or a reckless impulse (or scatological projectiles). Do they choose these words indiscriminately, or are they trying to be too-clever-by-half? Brain-dead or not, the New York Times editorial page is a non-stop assault on the mind and sensibilities of the American people.

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