What news feels like

Bush Announces Iraq Exit Strategy

I was walking down the street today when I glanced sidelong at a newspaper box and caught the words “Bush Announces Iraq Exit Strategy”.

A fleeting moment of relief came over me and I thought to myself, “Finally.”

But sometimes we believe into existence that which we want to see. And sometimes that belief, though powerful, proves false.

Upon further investigation I suffered the let-down of all time: just like always, the Onion was not reporting real news, but merely made up fantasies that were too good to be true.

What’s interesting about this has nothing to do with The Onion, though. Instead it has to do with the medium and with the message.

For one thing, the fact that what I thought I saw was in newsprint still carried with it a certain kind of psychological weight or trustworthiness… it wasn’t like reading Tailrank about some spoofed headline… if it was in print and on the street in one of hundreds of thousands of newsstands around the world, surely there must be some truth to it. Alas, the medium betrayed me.

As for the message — it is revealing to me how sharp the sudden sense of relief was at that the thought that “the war is over”. I mean, facing fact, this is the largest war that my generation has ever seen. We’ve now seen more soldiers and coalition forces killed than went to my high school. More than ten times that have been injured or wounded. And yet the thing keeps dragging on, to no certain end.

Y’know, I’ve always liked war movies — especially ones about World War II. If there was ever such a thing, history has recorded this affair as the feel-good war of the century — where boys were turned into men, women filled the factories and smoking and Coca Cola became icons of the American psyche. The same can nary be said for the current war.

And, whatever the reality of earlier wars, this one seems even further away from reality — even more impossible — and even less certain about its ultimate goal than the previous black-and-white conflicts.

…which I suppose is why the faux-headline in the Onion caught my attention and gave me a sense of, well, hope. Because that’s what this war seems to lack — there is no real villain anymore, no hero, there is no sure outcome, there is no obvious way to end this black hole that’s been unleashed. My dad and my grandfather were both enlisted men and if either were involved in active duty today, I’m not sure that I could really understand what they were after.

Oh sure, protecting freedom; certainly, saving face after removing Saddam without a plan for winning the peace; planting democracy in the Middle East? Um, okay? Saving the world from terrorism? Making the world a better place? How does making war make things better?

Y’know — I live a very privileged life. I’m so grateful to have the things I have: to live in a fantastic city with a fantastic woman; I help run an amazing upstart business situated in a terrific space with some incredible individuals. I work on things that I love and that I’m passionate about. I’m pretty much in touch with my family and I have the most fabulous friends all over the world.

So when it comes to this four-year-old war — with all the good things that I have in my life — I guess I’m just stuck wishing for a headline that indicates something other than that it’s just got to keep going for sake of… keeping going.

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: Molly.com (YC W18), Uber, Google.

2 thoughts on “What news feels like”

  1. This is actually one of those issues that I’m really torn on. On the one hand, I want the troops to come home. On the other hand, I know that we’re stuck in a no-win situation.

    If we leave the troops there, thousands more will likely die and many middle eastern coutries will resent us for having troops there. But, our invasion of Iraq has absolutley destroyed the country’s infrastucture. Leaving now would likely result in the current situation for the Iraqi people becoming much worse. Then we’re the bad guy for leaving a nation half destroyed and helpless.

    I think that best solution to get out of Iraq is to actually work with other nations. Distribute the job of rebuilding the infrastucture to the other nations, especially middle eastern countries. Then we can scale back our troops without leaving the country helpless.

    Unfortunately, this solution would require that the US administration say 2 things that they’re unwilling to say. “We were wrong and we need help”

  2. I agree — and I’m torn on it.

    There just doesn’t seem to be a great way out of here, but I know that reading a headline (for real) like the one above would start to give me hope… and, in spite of all the issues that it might create, would begin to create the conditions for real change — instead of continuing to slog on in fear of the things you mentioned.

    I mean, no matter how many “surges” we go through, I don’t see things getting better. If we pull out, it won’t get better either. So — I hate to say it — but perhaps it’s time to remove the US splinter in the Middle East and let the locals begin the healing and recovery process on their own terms.

    After reading this headline though and feeling what things *could* be like, I just don’t see how continued US involvement could really makes things better.

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