Wednesday, February 16, 2005

War News for Wednesday, February 16, 2005 Part Five of Six – Commentary and Media Critique

Interview with Christian Parenti

MJ.com: Why, in your opinion, has the U.S. made such a mess of Iraq?

CP: The clique of wise men around George Bush felt, and still feels, that the U.S. is in a unique position, that this position allows them to solidify a type of global control and reverse the Clinton years, which they see as marked by a failed strategy of humanitarian interventionism and alliance-building. They want decisive, aggressive, and unilateral action that demonstrates, on a global scale, that this is Planet America and this country is in control. They basically took leave of their senses in Iraq because they were completely high off their successes elsewhere. They did not want to listen to anyone who told them otherwise. For example, they didn’t want to read the State Department’s one-year, $5 million study, which stated that invading Iraq would be incredibly difficult. And now they are in serious trouble.

I don't think we totally understand how bad the situation is in Iraq or that the entire region is primed for instability. The lessons they learned in Vietnam -- stay out of guerilla wars and do not engage an enemy with a full-fledged military force -- worked well for them in Central America and elsewhere. But they abandoned that strategy and are now lost without any strategy in Iraq.

MJ.com: How are mainstream American media outlets performing in their Iraq coverage?

CP: They're failing us, the citizenry, but [they're] doing a damn fine job of keeping people in a position where they are willing to spend $5 billion a month on this war and tolerate thousands of casualties. They are doing an incredible job of making the Iraq war work for this administration. But how many people have actually been injured in this war? We know that over 10,000 people have been seriously injured, but how many amputees have there been from this war? That should be a standard number from this war. We know that thousands have been wounded, many returned to service, but many horribly maimed. So they’re both failing and succeeding -- depending on the perspective you have on their mission.

Speaking of the Media...

Opinion: “The Iraqi people gave America the biggest 'thank you' in the best way we could have hoped for." Reading this election analysis from Betsy Hart, a columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service, I found myself thinking about my late grandmother. Half blind and a menace behind the wheel of her Chevrolet, she adamantly refused to surrender her car keys. She was convinced that everywhere she drove (flattening the house pets of Philadelphia along the way) people were waving and smiling at her. "They are so friendly!" We had to break the bad news. "They aren't waving with their whole hand, Grandma--just with their middle finger."

So it is with Betsy Hart and the other near-sighted election observers: They think the Iraqi people have finally sent America those long-awaited flowers and candies, when Iraq's voters just gave them the (purple) finger.

Opinion: The conservative media will never recover from its role as Chief Sycophant for the Bush administration. Journalists who demanded that Clinton be held accountable for a minor sex scandal (Monica Lewinsky) and a minor financial scandal (Whitewater) now serve as apologists and propagandists for the Bush administration's major war scandals.

The Republican House of Representatives saw fit to impeach President Clinton for lying about sex. The same Republicans defend to the hilt Bush's lies that launched America into an unjustified war that has killed and maimed tens of thousands of Iraqis and Americans, cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars, ruined America's reputation, and lost forever the hearts and minds of Muslims.

No decent or sensible person can have confidence in journalists and politicians who take partisanship to such extreme lengths.

This next story needs to be put in perspective. Fallujah was a thriving city of 250,000 people, almost all of whom left prior to the attack. It was flattened, literally. Only about 60,000 residents have returned. It is the middle of winter, there is no power, no municipal water or sewers, no food except for what the occupiers supply. Sporadic fighting still occurs. And this story is what your media wants you to know about it.

Fallujah: Marines said that when they started patrolling the streets, residents were standoffish and rarely smiled or waved. Children were the first to approach them, and once they learned that the Marines would give them candy, footballs and soccer balls, they began swarming the patrols. "Saddam bad, George Bush good," one boy said, repeating a phrase the Marines said he often uses to get candy from them. It usually works.

Another small girl has learned to follow the Marines throughout their hour-long patrol, pausing to shed crocodile tears when she does not get a piece of "chocolata, mister." When she tried to pick the pocket of a visitor who was with the Marines, the visitor swatted her hand. She simply smiled and ran to a Marine ahead. "Chocolata, mister?" she asked, peering up at him.

Hattam Jasam Hussein, 50, who stopped the Marines on their patrol to show them a pile of empty artillery shells in a muddy field littered with trash, said he was happy the Americans were there.

"We're all very happy, everybody," Hussein said, pulling his leather jacket tighter around his gray dishdasha. "We're relaxed. The Americans protect us. We feel safe."

This is where our media is going: It is far from entertaining for the people living it, but the Iraq war is becoming a staple of prime-time entertainment television.

During the Super Bowl, the Iraq conflict was the unstated theme of a wordless Anheuser-Busch spot featuring American troops in desert gear walking through an airport -- and receiving a standing ovation from civilians.

In recent weeks, prime-time TV has featured wounded veterans getting home makeovers (A&E's "Home of the Brave"), professional wrestlers taking their show to Iraq (UPN's "WWE Smackdown!"), and poignant letters home written by soldiers killed in the war (HBO's "Last Letters Home"). Even Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" offered advice to a soldier who was about to leave for combat.

Now the cable channel FX, home to edgy dramas such as "The Shield" and "Nip/Tuck," plans to launch "Over There," a weekly series about a group of soldiers in Iraq -- and their loved ones at home. The show, scheduled to air this summer, will be the first prime-time series produced while the war in which it is set is still being waged.

The Fox network, too, is developing an Iraq war series. As-yet untitled, the sitcom, created by veteran comedy writer Mort Nathan ("The Golden Girls"), is planned for next fall. Set at a U.S. government-sponsored television station in Iraq, it has overtones of "WKRP in Cincinnati" meets "MASH" in Baghdad.

Fox is developing Iraq - The Sitcom. Why am I not surprised. Maybe they can get Bush and Rumsfeld to moonlight as writers.

No, wait – it’s already there: The sound of gunfire echoes inside a minaret as a U.S. Marine shoots a wounded and apparently unarmed Iraqi.

Members of the camera crew remove their earplugs and discuss whether the scene went OK or needs a retake. It doesn't.

"Death at the Mosque," shooting in this suburb north of Los Angeles, will air as an episode of "JAG," the military law series that's on at 8 p.m. Fridays, WCCO, Ch. 4.

Reality Check

Letter to a two-year-old: The following is a copy of the letter Aaron Weaver wrote to his daughter before he was killed January 8, 2004 in the line of duty. My Dearest little Savannah, I miss you so much. It seems like I had so little time with you before I left. Though we will have many fun times together over the next few years, I can't wait to see you again. I always knew that having children is special to a parent, but it means so much more than I ever imagined. I believe that I am probably the proudest dad ever. You are such a beautiful little girl and I can't wait till you call for me over and over. It is so hard to believe your mother and I could make such a special little thing. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. You are the meaning of my life, you make my heart pound with joy and pride. I love you and want you to know that daddy will always be here for you. No matter what happens to me or where we go, you will always know that I love you, mommy loves you and your family loves you. Remember that family is the most important thing and all you may have to fall back on to in times of need, Your family loves you. Love your family. Daddy

Casualty Reports

Local story: Names released of three 3rd Infantry Division soldiers who died in a vehicle accident near Balad.

Local story: Zanesville, OH, soldier killed near Fallujah in vehicle accident.

Local story: Des Moines, IA, soldier killed in vehicle accident in Balad.

Local story: Milan, IL, mother receives birthday card from her daughter, killed in Iraq last week.

Local story: Ocala, FL, soldier killed in vehicle accident in Balad. .


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