When it comes to Iraq, the media loves broad-stroke narratives. In recent years we've watched the pendulum of U.S. media coverage swing from "mission accomplished" to "mission impossible."
Yet the reality has always remained somewhere in between. Iraq’s emergence from devastating tyranny, sanctions, wars and occupation was never going to be “a cake walk,” nor hopeless. The former has already been proven wrong, and the latter does a terrible injustice to all Iraqis as well as U.S. soldiers and international aid workers. It tells them we would rather let homegrown terrorists and foreign fighters speak for Iraq using car bombs and death squads, rather than listen to the needs and aspirations of the vast majority of Iraqis who abhor the killing of noncombatants and want to see an end to violence.
If Iraq’s population included only car bombers, death squads and the victims of both, then yes, the country would be without hope. Fortunately, Iraq has many brave souls struggling to make a difference in every sector of society and every city and province. The problem is not that they don’t exist, but that the media has a difficult time reporting on their efforts without exposing them to threats and attacks from criminal gangs and violent extremists.
Reading the broad-stroke newspaper headlines, sub-headers and captions these days, one gets the distinct impression we’re all presiding over the funeral of Iraq. Every day another nail is driven into the coffin. For example, here’s the blurb that the New York Times Magazine used to describe Nir Rosen’s ace reporting on Iraq’s refugee crisis: “Millions of Iraqis have fled their country, creating the largest Mideast refugee problem since 1948 -- and depriving Iraq of the very people who might have rebuilt it.”
Might have rebuilt it?! Yep folks, the gig is up. Iraq will never be rebuilt: time to throw in the towel and watch the country burn from a safer distance. Good grief!?
While we can all agree (save perhaps one lonely President) that the war in Iraq has created the worst displacement crisis we’ve seen in the Middle East since the formation of Israel, it’s a little premature to declare: “Game Over.” It’s far from over, and as we’ve seen time and time again in places such as East Timor and the former Yugoslavia, even the most hopeless tragedies can be transformed into brighter futures. Perhaps not in time for the 5 o’clock news or the next Presidential election, but eventually a brighter day will dawn.
As Ed Chigliak of Northern Exposure might have put it, just look at Tom Hanks in Cast Away. Lost on an island with nothing to keep him company but his volleyball named Wilson, you’d think the man would succumb to despair. But instead, at that pivotal moment of the film, he says to Wilson: "Gotta keep breathing, because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide may bring?"
Indeed, tomorrow the sun will rise. And who knows what the tide may bring for Iraq?