Thursday, May 18, 2006

No Answers, Only Questions

My ongoing war of attrition with my day job will prevent me from composing a post replete with arguments, conclusions and resolutions. All I can manage on my tight schedule are a few questions. Maybe you can help with the answers.

First, I was startled awake in the middle of last night - shaken by the realization of a fear that has dominated my waking thoughts since its inception:

Do the conservatives who criticized Bush so stridently after his nationally televised immigration speech realize that they are helping the terrorists win?

Think about it, everything that weakens our president's popularity in an era of enduring and everlasting war against the Islamoliberalfascistmulticulturalmichaelmoorefeminazipartyofdeath is a victory for our enemies. So my question to these conservatives is: Why do you hate America and secretly hope for the victory of our enemies? Answer that.

Second question: Why is it that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert - who both work for a network called "Comedy Central" - are the toughest interviewers on television? I know that Chris Matthews is supposed to play "Hardball" (chuckle) and the 60 Minutes gang can certainly be probing and incisive in their own polite, professional manner, but Stewart and Colbert are outright brutal. They go for the rhetorical jugular at every opportunity. They don't dance around the issues, or let their guests spout their pre-packaged spin and platitude. They cut to the core of the issues and demand the uncomfortable answers.

If I had to pick the exemplar for Colbert, I'd say check out his back and forth with William Kristol. It's really quite remarkable. Watch for the awkward silence that ensues after Colbert really puts Kristol on the spot. Kristol is admittedly, "Speechless."

As for Stewart, last night's interview of Ramesh Ponnuru - including the relentless pounding over the ludicrous and incindiary book title, Party of Death - was pretty typical of his style. Check out the video when it's posted on the Comedy Central site or watch the re-run if you haven't seen it. Poor Ramesh. He was rattled from the get go. Then again, as Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala had the misfortune to discover, Jon Stewart can be equally tough on his interviewers.

While I'll readily admit that both these guys have a left of center perspective, to their credit they don't exactly go easy on left-leaning guests. For example, Stewart was dogged in his questioning of Howard Dean the other night - trying to make Dean come up with tangible policies rather than just criticisms of Republicans. I almost felt sorry for Dean at one point when he bemoaned the "high hard one to the chin" he got from Stewart.

Not only do they ask the tough questions, and dismiss the canned responses, demanding more of their guests than talking points, but both of their shows also manage to provide the best archival footage around. It is not uncommon for either program to show a clip of a politician directly contradicting a current position or statement. And if you want to see video of some of the stories that only make it to print, Comedy Central provides the goods even if they don't have Katie Couric behind the anchor's chair. If only the rest of our media were so dedicated to revealing hypocrisy and mendacity rather than trying to find the right packaging for their mediocre product.

What does it say about the cozy relationship our media has with the power structure that one has to turn to Comedy Central for the hardest-hitting product?

My third and final question forthcoming, but first some background. Since we're about a week away from the one year anniversary of Dick Cheney's proclamation that the Iraq insurgency was in its "last throes," I thought it would be a good time to see just how defeated that insurgency is.

Let's see: the past month and a half has seen a frightening increase in deaths suffered by coalition forces, Baghdad residents aren't able to actually "live" and move around in their own city, the southern city of Basra has come to resemble Baghdad in that it is spitting out refugees fleeing violence at an alarming rate - and the British are beginning to come under repeated attacks by local forces - and any day you check the updates, there is a widespread pattern of violence throughout the nation. From the southern tip, to the ongoing shelling of Kurdistan by its neighbors up north.

Take, oh, today for example:
NEAR BAGHDAD - Four U.S. soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter were killed when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb northwest of Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement.

BASRA - Major-General Hassan Suwadi, Basra's police chief, escaped unharmed an assassination attempt when a bomb exploded outside his home, police said.

KERBALA - Gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead a high school teacher in central Kerbala, 110 km (68 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

KIRKUK - Najim Abdullah, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), was killed by gunmen in central Kirkuk, said police and party official Mohammed Noshirwani.

NEAR RAMADI - Gunmen abducted 15 martial art athletes near the city of Ramadi on Wednesday as they were travelling by bus to neighbouring Jordan to attend a training course, said Abdul Karim al-Basri, an official of the Youth and Sports Ministry. The driver was also seized, he said.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen opened fire on a minibus carrying labourers, killing six, in southwestern Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Seven people, including four policemen, were killed and four people were wounded when a car bomb targeting a police patrol exploded in northern Baghdad, police said.

KIRKUK - Gunmen shot dead a school teacher and a student in the oil city of Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

FALLUJA - A policeman and two insurgents were wounded in clashes in Falluja, west of Baghdad, police said.

AL-MALIH - Iraqi police found the bodies of two people, handcuffed, blindfolded and shot dead, in al-Malih village, about 75 km south of Baghdad, police said.

BASRA - Gunmen killed Nazar Abdul-Zahra, a former member of in Iraq's national soccer team, in Basra on Wednesday, a police source said.

MOSUL - U.S. forces wounded nine insurgents who were planting a roadside bomb in the city of Mosul, 390 km north of Baghdad, on Wednesday, the U.S. military said on Thursday. A civilian was also wounded in the incident.

MOSUL - U.S. forces killed three insurgents who were attacking civilians in Mosul, the U.S. military said. Another insurgent was wounded by the Iraqi army as he tried to flee the scene. The insurgents wounded three civilians.

BASRA - Gunmen wounded a military intelligence lieutenant- colonel and his driver in the southern city of Basra, an intelligence source said.

ANBAR PROVINCE - A member of the U.S. Navy was killed on Wednesday during a combat operation in the western Anbar Province, the U.S. military said on Thursday. Most U.S. Navy personnel in that area are attached to Marine units as medics.

NEAR NAJAF - A policeman was killed and three were wounded when a roadside bomb went off near a convoy of U.S. military and Iraqi police vehicles near the Shi'ite city of Najaf, 160 km south of Baghdad, police said.
My questions: Vice President Cheney, are these the "last throes" you were talking about one year ago? If so, how much more of these "last throes" can Iraq withstand? Will we have a better idea in six months?

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