Political Animal


TEARING DOWN THE STATUE….PART 3….Remember those two photos of the statue toppling in Baghdad that I posted on Thursday? One is the scene on TV, a closely cropped shot that seems to show a large crowd, while the other is a wide angle shot posted on IndyMedia that shows the square virtually empty, with no more than a hundred Iraqis present.

On Saturday I followed up based on a critique of the IndyMedia photo from “M.D.,” but I was still skeptical. It turns out that M.D. is Michael Dunham, a Yale student, and last night he wrote me an email pointing to a follow-up post of his own, which you can read here. Most importantly, he has a picture of CNN’s coverage of the statue toppling that’s time stamped 6:53 PM, and it pretty clearly shows a larger crowd than the IndyMedia photo. My conclusions:

  • The photo that was posted on IndyMedia was definitely misleading. It’s now obvious that it was taken well after the statue was toppled and much of the crowd has dispersed.

  • The size of the crowd in the CNN shot looks to me to be around 200-300 people, some of whom are American soldiers. The major media coverage, therefore, still strikes me as deceptive, clearly giving the impression of a hug mob of joyous Iraqis in central Baghdad when in fact it was a fairly modest gathering, especially for an hour-long event in a city of 5 million.

Once again, I’m not suggesting there was any serious chicanery on the part of the major media. They like drama, they like closely cropped shots, they like showing the United States winning, and that’s what they ran with. Nevertheless, it was a less than honest performance.

IS SYRIA NEXT?….Robin Wright seems

IS SYRIA NEXT?….Robin Wright seems to have pretty good insight into the Washington diplomatic scene, and her front page article in today’s LA Times makes it clear that she thinks Syria is in the crosshairs:

President Bush again ratcheted up the pressure on Syria amid growing signs Sunday that Damascus will face punitive action unless President Bashar Assad takes swift action on issues ranging from supporting terrorists and acquiring deadly weapons to aiding and abetting Saddam Hussein.

….If the U.S. discovers that Syria is harboring [fleeing Iraqi officials], that could be the last straw, administration officials indicated Sunday.

….The U.S. finally confronted Damascus with intelligence detailing specific officials, ministries and commodities implicated in the illicit trade….”We warned them: ‘If we’re headed to war and it looks like we are, you’re going to be seen as aiding a combatant of the United States. This is zero hour.’ ”

….Throughout Washington, there is a growing sense that the Assad regime must be held to account.

On the other hand, the New York Times ran nothing on its front page and has only a Reuters dispatch on its website at the moment, suggesting that we are considering nothing more than sanctions of various kinds. Likewise for the Washington Post.

Is Wright reading the tea leaves better than her colleagues? I dunno, but the administration is clearly ratcheting up the talk, despite the fact that nothing new seems to be happening. As the LA Times article notes, Syria has been on the State Department list of terrorism sponsors since 1979, and the cross border trade with Iraq has been going on for years. So why start getting tough now, at the very time when there’s no longer a regime to trade with?

It sure looks to me like they’re searching for an excuse to send a battalion or two of Marines over the border. You know, just a mile or so, a police action designed to “protect our troops,” knowing it will provoke a response. If this does happen, Britain almost certainly won’t go along, and that will be the end of the coalition.

Time will tell.

UPDATE: Sam Rosenfeld is officially terrified. On his suggestion I’ve turned on the news (I’m writing this on Monday at 10:30 AM), and sure enough, it’s all Syria all the time. More later.

THE DEMOCRATIC RACE….Ronald Brownstein has

THE DEMOCRATIC RACE….Ronald Brownstein has a very good quickie review of the Democratic presidential race in the LA Times today. He briefly covers all the major candidates and their views on several subjects, suggesting which ones are likely to cause them trouble with (a) Democratic voters, and (b) other candidates.

Highly recommended, especially if, like me, you’ve only been paying attention to the race with half an eye so far.