Results of a recent Associated Press-Yahoo! News poll show that 39 percent of respondents think John McCain “would do a better job in Iraq” than Barack Obama. 33 percent think Obama would handle the war better. http://www.capitolhillblue.com/cont/node/8921
Of course the wording of the question was skewed, as is so often the case. It makes the question of the war one of military competence, subtly positing that “a better job” should be done. How would those polled respond to a differently worded question, along these lines:
“Who would be more likely to end this war that the former United Nations general secretary called ‘illegal,’ withdraw the troops as desired by the great majority of the Iraqi people, and abandon the Bush administration’s plans for permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq”?
The majority would almost surely go to Obama, since most people know that he opposed the war at the outset, and know that McCain’s comfortable keeping U.S. troops in Iraq 100 years.
But even if the AP-Yahoo question was a trick one, the response is troubling. This is the major issue facing the country, intimately connected to the issues of the ongoing war in Afghanistan (which isn’t going well) and the looming confrontation with Iran. But discourse surrounding it is tightly circumscribed by the politicians and press who want us to choose one of two interpretations: the war is either a noble cause, as McCain insists, or a “strategic blunder” as Obama avers. We’re not supposed to consider, much less dwell on the fact, that the U.S. has committed a crime of incalculable proportions by invading and inflicting chaos on what was once the most advanced sophisticated and secular of Arab states. If we did, we would disdainfully decline to answer AP’s cooked question.
Many have commented on the apparent anomaly of “antiwar” voters supporting McCain. Some seem blissfully unaware of his wholehearted support for the war, his “bomb-bomb-bomb Iran” position echoing that of his chief foreign policy advisor, the notorious neocon Norman Podhoretz who has praised McCain’s statement that “Islamo-fascism” is “the “transcendent issue of the 21st century.” They are perhaps unaware that he is ignorant about Islam and has embarrassingly asserted in public that Iran is supporting al-Qaeda. (He stated that during a visit to Israel, and had to be corrected by his extreme-Zionist but somewhat more astute buddy Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Iran is hostile to al-Qaeda but supports Hizbollah and Hamas, which to McCain are part of an undifferentiated Muslim mass best dealt with by bombing, his own first career choice.)
We can blame ignorance for that 39% figure. But it’s created ignorance, a product of dishonest news coverage and a one-dimensional political culture. We live in an imperialist country, in which no one confessing that fundamental truth is allowed significant media access. The radical critic is occasionally allowed a forum, to spice up the offerings and perhaps salve the consciences of the editors and producers accountable to Time Warner, Disney, General Electric, Rupert Murdoch, and Viacom who vaguely recall that the press is supposed to be “free.” But the hard cold truth is as unwelcome to mainstream journalism as news of declining market share. The point is not to speak truth to power but to speak such lies as service power while lending an aura of honest, multi-sided reportage to what is in fact and in essence an enterprise of abject apologetics. The mainstream media lobbies for the capitalist/imperialist system necessarily; it’s not on the outside objectively addressing it but on the inside propping it up.
And so yes, it belatedly, in response to the rising public awareness despite its efforts, reveals some aspects of the lie campaign leading up to the Iraq War. But it can’t pronounce it criminal and integrate that rudimentary observation into the wording of its public opinion polls. So it asks: “Who will do a better job in Iraq?”
The job’s been done on us. We could do so much better. But I don’t see it happening without a real revolution.
GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.
He can be reached at: email@example.com