Upon the release of Apocalypse Now!, Francis Coppola famously stated that "My movie is not about Vietnam... my movie is Vietnam." My question is, Can the same analysis be applied to Iraq today? No one wants another Vietnam. Even the Bush-Cheney-Feith-Perl-Chalabi-Rumsfeld team that carries the bulk of the responsibility for the Iraq disaster didn't want another Vietnam, though they ignorantly assumed they could avoid it. Vietnam was a decisive event in American history. Through the mass disenchantment it created, other protests and would-be revolutions piggybacked. The excesses of the Left during the late Sixties and early Seventies caused enough alarm on the Right to motivate conservative activists on college campuses and in the business community to start building their networks of influence, networks which have reached their fruition today. An important part of these networks are their reliance upon a complicit news media to regurgitate the talking points that are most effective at conveying the official message. Is it propaganda? The effect the official message has on the public is the same as propaganda, so it is almost unnecessary to refer to it as such. And what has been the consistent message on Iraq? Since April 2004, when things started getting real ugly (Fallujah, Abu Graib), the message has been largely damage control, deflecting the stream of negative news coming from the Tigris-Euphrates valley. This news is raw, unfiltered, and would have a greater impact if it were simply reported without comment or analysis. But news is packaged in a sophisticated fashion these days, and thus we get little more than statistics (X US soldiers killed today in Y) before moving on to missing affluent while teenage girls, hurricanes, or some sort of national criminal danger designed to make you consider a new deadbolt on your front door.
In my last post I wondered aloud when the Bush administration would be compelled by public pressure to start doing something about Iraq. Today, I'm curious as to when the mass news media--a critical ally in achieving mass disenchantment--would begin to start asking hard questions of the administration instead of parroting what they're told by officials in government. It feels like we're on the cusp of it, but you couldn't tell by looking at mainstream news media. In fact, most news sources give the administration a free pass; that is, they focus on how difficult the Iraq situation will be for the administration to surmount, as if it had been imposed on them, failing to note that it was created by the administration, with the cheerleaders of the news media celebrity circuit beating the marching drums all the way.
Despite this grim diagnosis, I still believe popular discontent is reaching the point where both media and political elites--in that order--will have to take notice. This telling AP-Ipsos poll is the quantitative basis for my assumption. The statistic I find most compelling is the following:
6. Do you think it is OK for people who oppose the war in Iraq to express their opposition publicly, or not?
—Yes, 87 percent
—No, 12 percent
—Not sure, 1 percent
There you have it. Overwhelming public support for political dissent and antiwar protests. Yet it is not described as such by the pundits. Sheenan is still being given the Swift Boat treatment, even though the above numbers prove the "analysis" of the pundits to be out of sync with the sentiments of the American public. Either A) the pundits are wrong (whether they admit is is another question) or B) their opinion is deemed to be of higher quality. If the latter reason is the case, it should not go over well with the public, who have repeatedly demonstrated a dislike of elitism, despite, paradoxically, being fed populist drivel from elites like George W. Bush or Rush Limbaugh. The pundits (Left and Right) are elites, and when it comes to differnces of opinion on life-and-death matters such as Americans being killed in Iraq for no reason (same poll states 54% have a friend, colleague or family member who has served in the military effort in Iraq at any time since March 2003), I would assume that those pundits will soon be out of a job.
Unfortunately, none of this is certain, polls are only a reflection of reality, and we still have a long way to go before the mass disenchantment I speak of will overcome this nation. Gen. Wesley Clark concluded an article in the Washington Post today with
The growing chorus of voices demanding a pullout should seriously alarm the Bush administration, because President Bush and his team are repeating the failure of Vietnam: failing to craft a realistic and effective policy and instead simply demanding that the American people show resolve. Resolve isn't enough to mend a flawed approach -- or to save the lives of our troops. If the administration won't adopt a winning strategy, then the American people will be justified in demanding that it bring our troops home.
Which is what happened in Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson chose to duck his responsibility for Vietnam by declining to run for re-election. George Bush can't run for re-election but we've got him for three more years. That ought to be enough time to hold our uniter, not a divider, accountable for his war of choice.
(links courtesy of DailyKos)