Sunday, April 06, 2003

Black white gray

There's an article in today's New York Times Magazine.

I think that article expresses a key characteristic of what's going on in the US now -- the complicated, mixed feelings and opinions I hold and, I suspect, more than a few people hold -- at least those who are letting themselves think about it.

There have been a couple of key points over the past 40 years in American social-political life. One was the realization that the justification for the Vietnam War that they'd been given wasn't valid. Another was Watergate, when whatever trust people had in American politics was shattered.

In a way, however difficult those two were, I think that both were simple compared to the thinking that Americans are facing and will be facing as the active war phase of current events comes to an end. Maybe that's why people are watching FOXNews ... whatever else FOXNews is, it presents things as though they were simple, and in the face of nothing being simple, maybe that's part of the appeal.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

War reporting

With the war in Afghanistan in late 2001, the complaint was the limited access to military sources that reporters had. And, as they recalled the 1991 Gulf War, the media had the same complaint. So, this time, there are embedded reporters ... reporters who went through a training program and who agreed to the military's rules of embedding, and in exchange, travel with a unit, file reports, and transmit what's billed as real-time video. Thus, from this, we're supposed to feel as though we have a true view of the war, and even the things the military doesn't allow the reporter to say or show at a particular time will be available as a record of the war after it's over.

Maybe that's true, who knows. But, nevertheless, one of the interesting things with watching this war is the information war that's going on.

Last night seems particularly telling. We see Walt Rogers filing audio and video supporting the impression that the US has control of the Saddam/Baghdad International Airport (you know... the US admits they don't have *secure* control of the airport, but they're already renaming it... propaganda is part of war, I don't fault them for that, manipulation is a tactic, but we still have to recognize it as a tactic and not necessarily a reflection of anything else).

US Central Command starts saying they have military in "central Baghdad" or "the heart of Baghdad" (depending on what time it was you heard them talking). Simultaneously, we see the static video shot of somewhere in what's presumably central Baghdad with cars, taxis, buses, all moving in what looks like a normal manner.

The Iraqi information minister does his daily briefing, and says they've defeated the US military at the airport and once they finish cleaning up, they can take the press out there to show them they have control of the airport.

Nic Robertson calls in to say his sources in Baghdad have seen some of the US military in the streets, not a lot, and not seeming to be doing a lot, but there. But Nic is in Jordan. But it's Nic, who we would ordinarily trust to provide an accurate report.

Rula Amin reports that the Arabic press has reporters in Baghdad who don't really contradict the Iraqi information minister, at least as they report on the Arabic language media. But she's in Jordan too, and working for CNN, but she's also filed in past situations (e.g., re: Israel and Palestine) with an Arab slant.

A few days ago, the topic of reports was selling water to Iraqis in the south. Reports varied: the UK were selling water and the US deplored it. the US was selling water and the UK deplored it. Maybe they both were selling water. Maybe neither was.

The point is, who knows what the reality is.


I notice that, now that things are starting in the north, it's Brent Sadler who's with the Peshmurga and filing on their activities with US Special Forces as they approach Mosul. I really don't have a sense of him as a reporter, just that he's been the CNN Beirut bureau chief for some time.

But, with Brent with the Peshmurga, the question is, where's Ben Wedeman? Is he not with the Peshmurga because they're with the US Special Forces and so embedding rules would apply? .... ah ... well, Brent in a filing at this moment (1:27 pm CST) mentioned Ben as being with another group of the Kurdish army. Man, it seems like whatever is the more dangerous situation at a given time, that'll be where Ben Wedeman is. God bless his wife (I'm assuming he has one).


Now, the US military is using the offer of citizenship to people with green cards if they enlist. Who needs a draft if you can bribe people into drafting themselves? Sheesh.


It's reported that some among the US citizenry complain that 24/7 war reporting is causing them anxiety, interrupting sleep, generally making them uncomfortable and unhappy. So, the advice is that they not watch. Duh.

Yet, it's outrageous that they're complaining. They *can* just turn off the TV, or at least change channels. But more importantly, for them, turning off the TV is actually an option. Consider the people who are in the middle of the whole thing: armies on both sides, reporters, citizenry. Its seems like the least we can do, here in the calm, prosperous, safety of our living rooms, to watch the war, become involved in whatever unpleasantness we're shown, to live the war in our imaginations while others are forced to live it in real life. How else can we have any idea of what's really going on. How else can we develop and maintain some sense of understanding of the human conditions there. How else can we keep ourselves from the propaganda that's coloring media reports from both sides.

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