THE MEDIA SPECTACLE that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) made of himself in Baghdad on April 1, 2007, was yet another reprise of a ghastly ritual. McCain expressed "very cautious optimism" and told reporters that the latest version of the U.S. war effort in Iraq is "making progress."
Three years ago, in early April 2004, when an insurrection exploded in numerous Iraqi cities, U.S. occupation spokesman Dan Senor informed journalists: "We have isolated pockets where we are encountering problems." Nine days later, President George W. Bush declared: "It's not a popular uprising. Most of Iraq is relatively stable."
For government officials committed to a war based on lies, such claims are in the wiring.
When Defense Secretary Robert McNamara visited Vietnam for the first time, in May 1962, he came back saying that he'd seen "nothing but progress and hopeful indications of further progress in the future."
In October 1966, when McNamara held a press conference at Andrews Air Force Base after returning from a trip to Vietnam, he spoke of the progress he'd seen there. Daniel Ellsberg recalls that McNamara made that presentation "minutes after telling me that everything was much worse than the year before."
Despite the recent "surge" in the kind of media hype that McCain was trying to boost in Baghdad, this spring has begun with most news coverage still indicating that the war is going badly for American forces in Iraq. Some pundits say that U.S. military fortunes there during the next few months will determine the war's political future in Washington.
And opponents of the war often focus their arguments on evidence that an American victory isn't possible. But shifts in the U.S. military role on the ground in Iraq, coupled with the Pentagon's air war escalating largely out of media sight, could enable the war's promoters to claim a notable reduction of "violence" as the American death toll falls due...