The Plank



Media Matters takes us back to May 1, 2003, when the "Mission Accomplished" banner unfurled, the president strutted onto the USS Abraham Lincoln in his parachute harness, and media figures dropped to their knees on live TV. Like this little guy:

[CHRIS] MATTHEWS: What do you make of the actual visual that people will see on TV and probably, as you know, as well as I, will remember a lot longer than words spoken tonight? And that's the president looking very much like a jet, you know, a high-flying jet star. A guy who is a jet pilot. Has been in the past when he was younger, obviously. What does that image mean to the American people, a guy who can actually get into a supersonic plane and actually fly in an unpressurized cabin like an actual jet pilot?

Wow, gee whiz! Fighter jets! Vroooooom!

[JOE] KLEIN: Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me. And it just shows you how high a mountain these Democrats are going to have to climb.

Most of them managed to out-swoon even Kathryn Jean Lopez ("This is the ultimate presidential stud moment.") But anyway, this has all been rehashed before. I was more curious to know if there were any exceptions to the trend. Searching through Nexis, it's hard to find a single news outlet in the days after the speech reporting that perhaps Iraq wasn't all sweetness and light. The Economist, on May 3, seems to have been one of the few notable exceptions:

With reinforcements still flowing in, America's control [of Iraq] is uncontested. But the vagueness of its plans, the bluntness of its instruments for achieving them, and the complex attitudes of Iraqis towards the occupying army all conspire to perpetuate confusion, mutual resentment and the potential for explosions. [...]Negotiations to [decide who will represent Iraq] have started, but decisions about who to include, and in what proportions, may prove even more contentious than the original debates abroad. For example, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, an Iran-based Shia faction, won a large share of the original committee, in recognition of the Shias' 60% majority in Iraq. Inside the country, however, few Shias, and certainly not Shia secularists, accept SCIRI's claim to be the party that represents them. In the meantime, Iraq's highly centralised state has disintegrated into a patchwork of fiefs. Local leaders, some self-appointed, others imposed by the Americans or British forces, tread a wary line between claiming American support and shying away from association with the invaders.

The Guardian and Canada's Globe & Mail also had a few cautionary notes, but there wasn't much in the mainstream U.S. press (excluding various lefty journals, blogs, etc.).

Update: Via jfabermit in comments, I overlooked this, by Dexter Filkins and Ian Fisher of the New York Times: "Three weeks after Saddam Hussein fell from power, American troops are straining to manage the forces this war has unleashed: the anger, frustration and competing ambitions of a nation suppressed for three decades." That was May 2.

Another update: May as well note that shortly after the speech, Peter Beinart and Kanan Makiya weren't too happy with the way the occupation was unfolding in TNR, in an issue with the cover, "Mission Not Accomplished."

--Bradford Plumer

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