Tuesday, March 25, 2008

4001, 4002, 4003...

Milestones are news--the fifth anniversary, the 4000th death--and news shield us, as any drug does, from the pain of reality. We swallow some words and images about Iraq and turn to newer news--about Hillary and Barack, the economy, March Madness, storms and flooding, the HBO miniseries on John Adams.

"People don't actually read newspapers," Marshall McLuhan said half a century ago. "They get into them every morning like a warm bath."

This week we wash away our consciousness of the continuing dying and killing in the Mideast with soothing words from Bush and Cheney in Washington, John McCain in Baghdad and the muffled sounds of impotent anti-war Democrats.

"One day people will look back at this moment in history," the President tells us after a roadside bomb kills four US soldiers, "and say 'thank God there were courageous people willing to serve' because they laid the foundation for peace for generations to come."

"The president carries the biggest burden," Dick Cheney says. "He's the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans, but we are fortunate to have a group of men and women...who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm's way for the rest of us."

"We're succeeding," John McCain insists, "I don't care what anybody says. I've seen the facts on the ground...I don't think I would change the strategy now unless General Petraeus recommended it. I think he's trusted by the American people, the president and by me."

Meanwhile, Shiite militia are shutting down neighborhoods in west Baghdad, the Mahdi Army is fighting police in Basra and cease-fires are starting to "unravel." But there will be no anniversaries or milestone deaths next week to make news from Iraq.

As far as we will know, none of it is happening.

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