Sunday, August 27, 2006

Books: Sadly from Paul Bremer, Every Picture Tells A Story

And if they had the words I could tell to you to help you on your way down the road
I couldn't quote you no Dickens, Shelley or Keats, 'cause it's all been said before.
Make the best out of the bad, just laugh it off.
You didn't have to come here anyway.
So remember
Ev'ry picture tells a story don't it?
Ev'ry picture tells a story don't it?
Ev'ry picture tells a story don't it?
-- "Every Picture Tells A Story" written by Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, title track on the album Every Picture Tells A Story

Saturday morning, C.I. pulled from L. Paul Bremer III's My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope (the struggle by Iraqis and how Bremer snuffs out the hope). Bremer has a collaborator (not surprising) named Malcom McConnel. The self-congratulating, self-delusional book opens with the statement: "Baghdad was burning." It (finally) ends on page 396 with: "'I'm safe and free,' I said. 'And I'm coming home.'" Unfortunately, most Iraqis couldn't make the same claim but, then, it's all about the Bremer.

That point is best brought home with the sixteen pages of photos. Forty-two photos in all, thirty featuring Bremer. Look, there's Bremer on the phone, in the snow, in Kurdistan. Look there's Bremer on the phone in a field in Balad. In the Oval Office with Bully Boy and Rumsfeld, in the Oval Office with Bully Boy, Condi Rice, Andrew Card and Dick Cheney (Cheney's left unnamed in the caption -- MEOW). Seated in front of food at the Women's Center in Baghdad, seated near food with Paul Wolfwitz and John Abizaid, in front of food with Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr, Mowaffak al-Rubaie and Dan Senor. Four photos with helicopters, getting off, greeting those (Americans and Tony Blair) arriving on them, seated in them.

Just not a lot of photos with Iraqis -- twenty-two in all (two of which are photos of Saddam Hussein). Twenty-two out of our forty-two photos. Bremer has all the crooks, Saddam, Ayad Allawi, Ahmad Chalabi . . . Bully Boy, Cheney, Rumsfeld . . . What country was Bremer supposed to be in again?

In photo after photo, Bremer appears brilliantly coiffed. So well coiffed, you may wonder if the hair salon in the Green Zone is next to the Chinese restaurant or the gym?

In a war torn country, Bremer presents photo ops with Iraqi soccer players and

Surrounding the photo section are a bunch of silly words. Such as when Bremer invents an "Abdullah the paperboy" to make jokes about -- his own version of shucking and jiving. What may stand out the most is that he never mentions Dexy Filkins. Is that what got Dexy's dander up enough to pen a scalding review of Bremer's book? The fact that The New York Times' David E. Sanger, Eric Schmitt and Michael Gordon (the latter is depicted as an easy swallower of Douglas Feith's latest impossible narrative -- a point on which we're in agreement with Bremer) get noted by name in the book but the ultimate embed is left unnamed? Press critic Bremer is especially bothered by a story written by Patrick E. Tyler (click here for the story via Common Dreams).

My Year In Iraq is a shallow piece of puffery that's as concerned with Iraqis as Bremer was when he was in Iraq -- which is to say, not at all. You can trudge through every word of the text or you flip through the photos because, truly, "Every Picture Tells A Story." We think photo 42 says it all: A sheepish Bremer "waving farewell" as he boards a helicopter. Some may look at the photo and be reminded of Tricky Dick Nixon's get-away from the White House, others may see similiraties between it and photos of the fall of Saigon. No one should see it as a portrait of success.
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