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The Therapy Sessions
Saturday, May 03, 2003

I acknowledge that the full job of the Iraqi reconstruction is going to be difficult, but my general feeling is that things are going quite well.

I am surprised at how peaceful Iraq is, especially considering the vast numbers of weapons that are available to the populace. With so many discontents and so many weapons, the US should be filling several body bags a day.

That’s not happening, at least not yet. This is excellent news.

That said, though, the US does need to crack down. Occupation “light” will not work.

Saddam was an evil strongman, and many of Iraq’s problems can be attributed to him. But Saddam was the way he was because Iraq is the way IT is: a disorganized collection of power hungry groups that are eager to exploit each other. A powerful leader is needed to protect Iraqis from themselves.

A US presence needs to be felt throughout the country.

A former exile declares himself leader of Baghdad and starts issuing edicts? Arrest him immediately and make it clear that he has no real power (release him a few days later when no one cares).

A radical Shiite group takes control of Karbala and prohibits Americans from entering the city? Enter anyway, arrest the leaders and take over visibly.

These things do not come naturally to us. But we must act and act quickly. If we do not, we will not be arresting them in the future. We will be fighting them (Power, once tasted, is intoxicating).

We are uncomfortable doing such things. It is police work: walking the beat, showing the power of law.

American soldiers are the world’s best at fighting wars. But at directing traffic, they are terrible. And it’s not because they don’t know the rules of the road.

Americans make terrible peacekeepers because they are attractive targets. Every troublemaker in Iraq wants to kill an American, and the lone GI guarding the police station looks wonderful in a gunsight.

A Bulgarian peacekeeper is hardly worth the effort. They will spend less time defending themselves, and more time doing their jobs – stabilizing Iraq so that a better government can be formed.

For this reason, the US is internationalizing this role.

This is another one of those things that the media said would not happen without the UN.

It is astounding how wrong they have gotten things. It started when the US went to the UN: world opinion would stop us; the Arab street would rise up; the Turkish refusal would make the invasion too treacherous; the US would bomb for several weeks before invading; weather would prevent war; massive numbers of refugees would stream across borders; the oil wells would be destroyed; hundreds of thousand of civilians would be killed; the Iraqis would hate us; the Turks, the Iranians, and the Syrians would intervene; the US would get bogged down; street to street fighting would wear us down…

All proved wrong. Its not that these shouldn’t have been presented as possibilities. It is that, too often, they were presented as insurmountable inevitabilities.

The media needs to look at itself closely. There are reasons for the inaccuracies.

But in terms of outright bias, it is hard to beat NPR. On a day in which hundreds of millions of dollars (of Baathist loot) was found hidden behind a secret wall in Baghdad, Tikrit surrendered without bloodshed, a mass grave was discovered near Mosul, and vast warehouses full of food and medical supplies (hidden by the regime in the Oil for Food program) were found and finally disbursed to their intended recipients, NPR fixiated itself on…the looting of the Iraqi national museum. A story that was already three days old.

And that story is now being proved very exaggerated. The New York Times has been no stranger to bias throughout the whole war, and yet it still can’t even admit how badly it got the story wrong. The headline reads: Loss estimates are cut on Iraqi artifacts.

From 170,000 missing pieces to 85,000? 8500? 850?

No, to 25.

That is not …uh..”a cut.” And to make matters worse, it was an inside job, and many of the museum employess themselves were likely involved.

I was amused by how apoplectic NPR was about the whole affair. Not a single person in the newsroom, and less than a few thousand people in the whole country, could name a single piece of artwork in Baghdad’s museum. Yet, the (unrevised) loss was “staggering” and was described as the “greatest loss to art in 800 years.”

Well. Maybe to the elite, art-loving listeners of NPR, it was.

For me, art is nice, but human life is much more important. If my son’s life was on the line, I’d take a pair of scissors to the Mona Lisa itself.

To me, and to most Americans, there were other stories that were more important: American soldiers getting shot at, winning the war, exposing the brutality of Iraqi regime and proving (surprise!) that the Iraqis really were hoarding food to starve their people. The French, in particular, have been denying that for years.

I think NPR, the New York Times, the BBC, and just about every European news organization were just too desperate to tell us something bad when statues were being felled across Baghdad.

They overreached.

Accuracy? Hey, you can always print a correction later.

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