When people die, photo ops fail

Last week, Sen. John McCain staged a truly Orwellian publicity stunt in a Baghdad market. In a desperate attempt to give some sliver of credence to claims that the dreaded “liberal media” are failing to report on all the wonderful things happening in Iraq, McCain took a brief walk outside the American-maintained fortress that is Baghdad’s Green Zone.

Afterward, McCain declared his walk through the market was a sign that security had improved significantly in the Iraqi capital, and the administration’s current troop escalation is working. What he didn’t mention was that, during his short stroll, he was accompanied by dozens of heavily armed U.S. troops and several armored vehicles, while a couple of attack helicopters hovered overhead.

McCain’s photo op (which included the spectacle of the elderly senator wearing a flak jacket) was ludicrous on so many levels that even the normally docile national press, which has always treated McCain with kid gloves, pointed out he was making a fool of himself. Chastened, McCain issued a half-hearted apology a few days later, saying he “misspoke” when he pointed to his little walk under the protection of several platoons from the world’s most powerful military as evidence of Baghdad’s excellent shopping opportunities.

The most interesting question raised by McCain’s pathetic stunt is why this genuine war hero — who after all knows far better than most politicians the difference between real courage and the made for TV kind — thought he could get away with it.

The answer can be found by taking a random stroll through the archives of the very media McCain was trying to manipulate. From the first days of the Iraq war, it has been an article of dogmatic faith among the movement conservatives McCain is trying to woo that the liberal media have given Americans a far too bleak picture of what’s happening in Iraq.

Here are just a few examples out of literally hundreds: In September of 2003, former Clinton adviser-turned right wing media pundit Dick Morris declared that the “incredibly biased” liberal media were claiming “that Iraq is a ‘quagmire’ and that there ‘aren’t any weapons of mass destruction,’ and that ‘Bush lied’ — and all the while, thanks to Fox News are seeing with their own eyes how much this is crazy spin.”

A year later syndicated columnist and Bush administration stenographer Mark Steyn announced that the “liberal media” were doing their best to hide the fact that “the glass in Iraq is about 2/3rds full. The bulk of the violence is confined to one province and parts of Baghdad … There is no ‘civil war.’”

And last April President Bush himself took the media to task: “The kind of progress that we and the Iraqi people are making in places like Tal Afar is not easy to capture in a short clip on the evening news,” he said. “Footage of children playing, or shops opening, and people resuming their normal lives will never be as dramatic as the footage of an IED explosion, or the destruction of a mosque, or soldiers and civilians being killed or injured.” (Two weeks ago, almost exactly a year to the day after Bush uttered these words, Tal Afar was the site of a particularly horrible massacre, in which 70 men and boys were lynched. Some of the murderers were members of the town’s police force).

Over the past four years it’s become clear that, when it comes to Iraq, perhaps a quarter of Americans are equipped with skulls that can successfully deflect almost all unpleasant facts. These people will account for the majority of the votes cast in next year’s Republican primaries — hence McCain’s extraordinarily well-armed stroll.

Here’s another unpleasant fact: the day after McCain’s photo op, 21 people from that same market were kidnapped, taken north of the city, and murdered.

–PAUL F. CAMPOS

(Paul F. Campos is a law professor at the University of Colorado and can be reached at Paul.Campos(at)Colorado.edu.)

8 Responses to "When people die, photo ops fail"

  1. Larry Desaire  April 11, 2007 at 11:08 am

    McCain to be an American hero, now with his latest foolish trick he has shown he does not now have the character needed to lead this country into the future. The American people have suffered because of the lies of the Bush Administration. Will the American voters replace one liar with another in the next presidential election?

  2. The South Point  April 11, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    completely inane?

  3. Arlo J. Thudpucker  April 11, 2007 at 8:49 pm

    He’s willing to say, or do, anything if he thinks it will bolster his sagging fortunes.

    Obviously, he’s desperate.

    He’s become a cartoon character. Yosemite Sam, with the personal integrity of Alberto Gonzales.

  4. Shirley Blaylock  April 12, 2007 at 1:26 am

    What an idiot. A perfect example of political bullshit – lying, misleading, etc. In one of their session – instead of naming a highway or bridge or something equally inane, perhaps Congress could address this lying thing. We really don’t like it.

  5. Ray  April 12, 2007 at 7:39 am

    McCains stunt only exemplifies the utter contempt that politicians have for the american people and the lack of respect of everyones mentality. He obviously thinks people are stupid enough to believe his stunt, or did.

    Is it not obvious that the real reason for our invasion of Iraq has not been revealed to the american people? Does anyone still believe that our presence there is to help free the people from the grip of tyranny? We have destroyed the country and the people. Thier society is in shambles with death and suffering now thier way of life.

    It is unfortunately exactly what our allies wanted. Now they will have us attack Iran and eliminate another one of the threats to zionist designs.

  6. Ray  April 12, 2007 at 7:40 am

    McCains stunt only exemplifies the utter contempt that politicians have for the american people and the lack of respect of everyones mentality. He obviously thinks people are stupid enough to believe his stunt, or did.

    Is it not obvious that the real reason for our invasion of Iraq has not been revealed to the american people? Does anyone still believe that our presence there is to help free the people from the grip of tyranny? We have destroyed the country and the people. Thier society is in shambles with death and suffering now thier way of life.

    It is unfortunately exactly what our allies wanted. Now they will have us attack Iran and eliminate another one of the threats to zionist designs.

  7. Lawerence Boyd  April 13, 2007 at 12:34 am

    After witnessing George Bush steal the presidency with all of his lies, why shouldn’t McCain try and follow suit? America’s first clue to Bush’s character should have been how he, after running his campain on keeping the federal government out of state affairs, went to the federal Supreme Court to get them to stop the recount of the votes in Florida in 2000 that the Florida Supreme Court ruled could be counted. His Legacy will be how he deceived the American people for eight years. A good example is that right now his administration is saying that they lost all the emails containg anything to do with Gonzales and the lies he has told to the American people. Give me a break!!
    I guess McCain feels that if lies were good enough to get Bush elected and re-elected, then its good enough for him. It’s not going to work this time because if its one thing the American people can take from this is that the Republicn control over our being has to come to an end.
    Not only do I predict that the Dems will occupy the the Oval Office, but if the vast majority of republican politicians don’t distance themselves from the Bush Administration it’s going to be a
    woodshed whuppin’ that’s coming in 2008 by the Dems!
    Bush lies,
    Chaney lies,
    McCain lies!
    You would think McCain would be smart enough to know that he couldn’t just tell the American public anything and we would buy it. Within seconds of McCain telling everyone how safe it was to visit the markets in Iraq in the Green Zone CNN had a correspondent telling its viewers that there was absolutely no place in Iraq that an American could could safely walk around at any time.
    And if I can give the Republicans a bit of advice…… You better put your money behind Ron Paul. He’s probably the only chance you guys have of keeping Hillary out of the top job in America. As I said in another post, its too bad he’s a nobody in name recognition!!!!!

  8. Joknows  April 12, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    Your article is an astute analysis of conservative’s dogged attempt to paint the media as liberal, which has been disproven time and time again. And the quotes you cite point to their naivete in understanding the consequences of an ill-conceived, unjust war of aggression.

    Sadly, McCain is hitching his political wagon to a star that is headed for a supernova.

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