Saturday, August 20, 2005

Behind the Misty Scrim


I'd like to draw your attention to a passage from the lead editorial in yesterday's Oregonian, my hometown paper:

Two years later, though, the U.S. death toll is nearing 1,900. The misty scrim that obscured our view of the war -- wishful thinking, distortions, outright lies -- is rapidly dissolving. Americans increasingly see the war as it is, and know it's going badly. Little wonder that when a gold-star mother parks herself inconsolably in Crawford, Texas, asking hard questions and spurning glib answers, she strikes a nerve.

I've highlighted the bit that particularly attracted my eye. Here we are 28 months into an ill-conceived war, and the Oregonian appears to be using Cindy Sheehan as cover to mention the lies upon which the war was justified. And now the editors are sufficiently emboldened to actually call the administration's justifications "lies."

Yet there was never a misty scrim* obscuring our view. Like other transparent fabrics, Bush's rationales concealed nothing. While it was impossible to know the full extent of US intelligence at the time, some of what they offered were clearly lies: the 2003 State of the Union (which they did cop to, redfaced, eventually), the bogus aluminum tubes, and the mushroom clouds, to name just a few.

What's interesting isn't that the Oregonian is finally identifying the administration's pre-war rhetoric as lies; rather, it's the timing. Whether because of Cindy Sheehan or the majority of Americans who now think Bush lied, The Oregonian has found it's courage. (All right, I don't have LexisNexis, but I don't recall seeing a lot of "lying" language. You'll correct me if I'm wrong.)

It was shocking to think that a President might mislead a country to justify an invasion. Yet that's the role of the press. If a President does lie to the country and our independent media don't call him on it, who will? The mainstream press takes a lot of crap now about covering things like the "runaway bride," the Michael Jackson trial, et. al. It's clear that in an ever more competitive--and unsubsidized--market, the media have to give the people what they want. I can overlook some pandering.

The press must also take unpopular stands and report what they find--not what the President's press office feeds them. It's great to see The Oregonian finally holding Bush to account for his lies and incompetence. But it's hardly a bold position, given the protection a grieving mother has afforded. The reason amateurs set up shop on blogspot is because they want to say the things the press doesn't appear to have the courage to report. Let's hope this editorial is a prelude to a new, critical local paper.

scrim: (n) A transparent fabric used as a drop in the theater to create special effects of lights or atmosphere

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