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Monday, July 23, 2007


War stories

I have to wonder what Senator Reid is up to. Twice in the past month, on the Immigration Reform bill, and then on the recent Iraq withdrawal bill, he's tried to take a thin majority and ram it through the opposition.
On the bill which would have demanded a US withdrawal from Iraq beginning in four months, he had a majority, which would normally be enough to pass a bill. But he also might have expected a Republican filibuster. He might then have also expected President Bush to veto the measure, which would then require an even bigger majority to override. That might have suggested that trying to ram a bill through wouldn't work. It leaves me wondering whether he is really that blind to political realities, or whether he has a different kind of game in mind.
And all this comes at a time when news coming out of Iraq (although that's mixed and contradictory enough) indicates to be that the "surge" and the counterinsurgent strategy that has gone along with it appears to be working.
But it appears that in the US Congress, the important war is the one between the Republican party and the Democratic party. The war in Iraq is only important to the degree that it can serve partisan purposes.

The New Republic recently published an article entitled "Shock Troops" describing three incidents which took place in Iraq, one of an incident were a facially disfigured female contractor was hazed by soldiers, one where a mass grave of children were uncovered and some grisly mockery took place, and one where the driver of an armored vehicle was using it to run over dogs. Almost immediately, current and former military personnel began denouncing it as fiction, and describing in detail what was wrong with it. Now, while I have little doubt that there are some soldiers who would do these kinds of things if they could get away with it, and some who have done things nearly as bad. Juvenile immaturity is not confined to the military...I've seen LDS missionaries do some really stupid things which would look just as bad. But the question is whether these incidents actually took place as described, or were fabricated or embellished.
As someone said, if the story is true, the New Republic gets away with a bad odor, but some soldier is in serious trouble. If it's false, the opposite's the case. The public expects news publications to be able to distinguish fact from fiction. Not that there's anything wrong with writing fiction. Provided you label it as fiction, people are willing to pay for stories that no sane person ought to believe in their entirety. (Ask J.K. Rowling) . But to repeatedly publish fiction and call it fact, or to leave it up to the reader to decide means that before long, no one will believe or trust anything you say, true or false.

And that leads into another question that's been on my mind. I've seen the question of bias often comes up, in writing of history, and journalism. Given that it's almost impossible to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and that every writer selects from the facts available those what seem most important, what is the difference between a truthful, accurate history or news story, and pure partisan polemics?

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