Iraq, Washington, and MediaLand apparently all run on Moebius time, a perpetual loop where everything changes yet remains the same.
What am I talking about? See this timeline for Exhibit A. You can see politicians and pundits saying again and again and again and again and again that we have to be patient, that the Iraq crisis will be solved in just a few more months, or that the next few months will be “crucial”, or that we can’t tell if our actions have been successful for another few months. And once those few months are up, someone will say the same thing, with no one noticing the repetition. Never has poor memory killed so many.
In my mind, the indisputable star of that timeline is NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Like a man with Tourette’s, Friedman seems unable to stop himself from repeatedly shouting that “six months”. “The next six months in Iraq are the most important.” “It might be over in six months.” “The next six or nine months are going to tell.” According to the timeline, Friedman has spouted this sort of prediction at least eight times since the start of the occupation (which led sarcastic blogger Atrios to create the term “Friedman Unit”, defined as “a unit of time lasting six months”). And every time the six months is up, he makes another six-month prediction, oblivious to the fact that his previous prediction was proven utterly wrong. And then he does it again, six months later.
It’s possible that one of those times Friedman was right, and that during one of these “crucial” six months, the war was lost for good, in which case there is no victory to be had,the US ought to pack it’s bags, and Friedman ought to stop it with his “six month” dance. Or Friedman is completely wrong and should be fired for his incredibly poor political forecasting skills.
Of course, Friedman is not alone. The timeline is populated with several dozen politicians, journalists, and generals, all with very similar soundbites. Sadly, that rhetoric that has seemed very reasonable to many Americans, most of whom really don’t know much about the situation in Iraq (thanks American media!). Americans seem very aware that things aren’t good in Iraq, want the US to pull out, but then hear a government official or military officer saying that things are changing for the better, it’ll just take a few more months. “I suppose that’s reasonable,” says America, and puts the situation out of their minds for a while. And the occupation and violence continue without much protest from Americans. For six months, when it’s time for another application of the same claims.
I think that Americans have become wise to this strategy (or at least tired of the war to the point where it’s not very effective), so the administration has changed it up slightly. Lately it’s been “we’ve got a whole new strategy that we’re sure will work! Give it some time to work”, “if we pull out, things will get even worse”, or most recently “actually, we’re winning!” Depressingly, the conflicting messages, lousy news coverage, and spineless political “opposition” has led many Americans to simply throw up their hands. Tragically, I think the unspoken consensus among the public is that there is no way to convince Bush to end the war, and that we’ll simply have to wait until the next president. That sense of helplessness is going to get a lot of Iraqis killed.
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