Yesterday, the Columbia Journalism Review scolded the mainstream media for not reporting on Barack Obama’s deliberate distortion of John McCain’s remarks on Iraq. Today, the Boston Globe gives a great example of CJR’s complaint. Rather than point out the obvious — that McCain hasn’t called for a hundred-years war in Iraq but a security arrangement we still employ decades after World War II and the Korean War — Brian Mooney consults the ubiquitous “some … analysts” to double down on Obama’s distortion:
Almost daily, Democrats hammer John McCain for supporting a 100-year war in Iraq, putting their spin on McCain’s answer months ago to a voter in New Hampshire to draw the starkest distinction possible on one of the defining issues of this year’s presidential election.
The presumptive Republican nominee says that his Democratic rivals are distorting his views. He explains that he never favored such a long war, but rather envisioned an open-ended military presence of peacekeepers, similar to US military commitments in Korea and Bosnia and even Japan and Germany.
But some academic and political analysts say McCain’s argument fails to distinguish between other US occupations and an extended presence in a disputed, volatile flashpoint.
One historian who opposes the war said yesterday that the Arizona senator’s analogy has no true precedent in those earlier conflicts.
“Were the US to succeed militarily in Iraq, yes, US forces will remain in Iraq for decades to come,” said Andrew J. Bacevich, a Boston University professor of international relations and US history and retired Army colonel whose son, an Army soldier, was killed last year by a suicide bomb there. “My difference with McCain is I don’t think we will prevail militarily in Iraq.”
Of course, McCain addressed that issue in the same appearance from which Obama draws his hundred-years war distortion. McCain clearly said that staying in the region for an indefinite period where no Americans were killed or injured in combat, as with Germany and Japan, should give no one any concerns. He then said if the US did not prevail militarily, that would certainly change the calculations, and that he did not favor endless combat operations without hope of victory.
Mooney also allows Bacevich a bit of a historical fudge as well without challenge. Bacevich claims that the analogy between Iraq and Germany/Japan isn’t reliable because Germany and Japan were recognizable nation-states, while Iraq isn’t. That’s patently absurd. Germany didn’t survive WWII as a recognizable nation state; it split into two states, which didn’t unite for another 40 years. Japan had its centuries-old monarchy all but decapitated, and wound up adopting an American-written constitution and an American-constructed government that had far less popular origin than we’ve seen in Iraq.
Instead of pointing all of this out, Mooney uses the distortion as the basis of his reporting, and never bothers to show the original context until well after the jump. Even then, Mooney offers it only as the response of the RNC and McCain’s supporters. CJR took the media to the woodshed for this gutless approach to covering Barack Obama, wondering at what point journalists will start reporting the truth rather than just regurgitating dueling talking points and calling it news.