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March 16, 2008

The Grey Lady Hides Her Best
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Ilan is right, skip the Times' "Iraq Five Years On" section.  But don't skip veteran correspondent John Burns' "Five Years" memoir in the Outlook section. It is beautifully-written and pulls the reader back instantly to 2003, with a reminder of all that was lost that is in some ways more powerful than any of the fact sheets on what has happened since.  Even more, he posits that journalists -- and others -- bear considerable responsibility for how Iraq was covered prior to 2003 and thus some responsibility for how people, including policymakers, thought the war and its aftermath would unfold.  Braver than I have seen many writers or analysts be.


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Didn't someone say something about national security decisions that have "undetermined costs and undetermined consequences" or something like that?

"What was lost" ??? Ah yes, those halcyon days of 2003! So much promise in the air, along with the phosphorous, rocket fuel and body parts! How green and virginal was our crusade! How brilliant our plans, before they all went so tragically wrong! It's so, so, so, sad to be a noble-hearted pilgrim of liberality and democracy like John Burns, and see one's hopes dashed, and illusions hard-heartedly thwarted. Such sophisticated and elevated anguish is even worse, one supposes, than having one's face blown off by a cluster bomb. How could some miserable Iraqi slob, really little more advanced than an animal after all, feel pain equal in quality and value to the exquisite and dainty sufferings of John Burns? I feel so privileged to be an American, where we can read the New York Times, and sit with my Sunday coffee to enjoy the elegant self-flagellations of the wild-maned John Burns, romantique.

There is nothing brave about Burns's article at all. He says nothing the slightest bit new, and is still obsessively and self-indulgently tonguing the same pathetic lick sores that have been the preoccupation of American media and governing elites since this whole criminal enterprise was launched.

Burns was one of the most prominent rooftop cheerleaders of the war in its early days, and is one of those still wedded to the notion that this criminal escapade of butchery, torture, greed and fanaticism failed mainly because those poor, benighted Iraqis were so "traumatized" by life under Saddam that they were incapable or responding in a rational and constructive way to the beneficent American bombardment and invasion of their country. It turns out that those uncivilized and politically immature Iraqi brutes just weren't ready for democracy, and for the dazzling, brilliant nobility of our ideals.

Burns, along with the other 21st century Colonel Kurtzes of the American elite, no doubt sees himself as a tragic figure. But he is certainly lucky that there is no country in the world with the capacity to hold the United States accountable for its actions, and that Americans still get to act with relative impunity in this world. Otherwise, he and other media enabler