Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The media cheers on the handover 

You can always trust the "Guardian" to put a positive spin on the events in Iraq. Writes James Meek:

"Something happened in Baghdad yesterday, but what exactly? What we know is that somewhere in Saddam Hussein's sprawling former cantonment on the banks of the Tigris, behind silver miles of new razor wire, behind high concrete barriers stronger than most medieval fortifications, behind sandbags, five security checks, US armoured vehicles, US armoured soldiers, special forces of various countries and private security guards, behind secrecy and a fear of killing so intense that none save a handful of people knew it had happened until after it was over, an American bureaucrat handed a piece of paper to an Iraqi judge, jumped on a helicopter, and left the country."
Yes, yes James, we get the point, thank you very much. The humiliated superpower running scared and hiding in a deep deep hole, and all that. Of course, an official change-over pageant marred by a terrorist super-strike would make for a better copy, but alas it's not to be. So all we're left with is sniping:

"Bremer who waved from the steps of his departing C-130 didn't only leave sovereignty, in the form of a terse two-paragraph letter, with the Iraqis. He left 160,000 foreign troops, a broken economy and a land beset by ruthless, reckless armed bands."
No one questions German or South Korean sovereignty, the economy was broken by Saddam and is now doing much better, thank you very much for asking, and the fact that people set off car bombs and behead hostages is of course America's fault. The situation is only dire if the media is there to report it - by this standard, Saddam's Iraq was a much better plece to live indeed. It's true that the media doesn't invent crises, it only reports them. The problem is the crises it doesn't.

Note also Meek's constant attempts to find spatial continuity between Saddam, and the Coalition and the new authorities: "somewhere in Saddam Hussein's sprawling former cantonment on the banks of the Tigris... The handover was held in a single-storey former Saddam-era guesthouse... On one side, the huge new US embassy. On the other side, Saddam Hussein's lavish principal former palace or, as it is known since yesterday, the annex to the US embassy... There was a curious ceremony in the Zone's convention centre which, apart from the odd Saddamish mural, could be a convention centre anywhere". Saddam, Saddam everywhere. It could have something to do with the fact that the only decent buildings in Baghdad belonged to Saddam, but let's just leave the readers with some sinister associations at the back of their mind.

Patrick Cockburn at the "Independent" is equally cheerful:

"[Bremer's] legacy is a land racked by war and violence. The cloak-and-dagger secrecy of the transfer of sovereignty underlines the degree to which US rule is being challenged in Iraq."
Don't worry Patrick, now that Bremer's no longer in charge the attacks will stop, because the jihadis don't really want to turn Iraq into another Talibanistan, they just want the Yanks out, right?

In the "Sydney Morning Herald", Paul McGeough titles his piece "Now for the wrath of the oppressed". It's not quite clear whether he means the wrath of the provisional government against the terrorists, the "insurgents" against the authorities, or the Iraqi people against the government, or all of the above.

And at "Time", Tony Karon complains about being left out:

"If Iraqi history was made Monday in Baghdad, nobody told the Iraqis. Literally: The transfer of political authority in Iraq from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority to a largely U.S.-appointed Interim Government led by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was brought forward two days early to avoid its moment in the headlines being bathed in blood by insurgent violence — the five-minute event attended only by handful of participants, aides and journalists passed in secrecy deep inside the "Green Zone" which separates government and Coalition facilities from the ever-dangerous streets of the capital. Still, Allawi proclaimed it "a historical day".
Fool, doesn't he know that it's "a historical day" only when the "Time" reporters are invited to cover it?


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