Thursday, April 03, 2003

It's been a while since I've posted to my blog. I was set to travel when the war broke out and delayed departure long enough to see that the situation was normal in Abu Dhabi. Once I got to Baltimore I stayed in a hotel for a week where, whenever I was in the hotel, I watched CNN's coverage of the War on Iraq. Here I was reconfirmed in my belief that some Americans will take at face value whatever news happens to be on TV (while many with experience from the Vietnam era tend to discount what they're seeing on TV, or at least that things are going as well as the administration will have us believe). CNN was making opposing views of the war hard to come by, giving scant mention to protestors. Most Americans don't bother to dig for their news, but like me in my hotel, they absorb whatever's on the air waves while shaving, making coffee ... and there was nothing on the news but American troops fighting their way through Iraq.

At one point during that week Wolf Blitzer asked his viewers if CNN's coverage was too critical of the war or not critical enough. By this time I'd watched several days of non-stop US military briefings and play-by-plays with commentators explaining charts with arrows so you thought you were watching the superbowl of all battles, and like a football game, it was being examined from every angle except the most crucial one: no one stopped to question, why are we playing football in the first place? It was all factual and conjectural (is Saddam alive? Will the Iraqis continue to put up this much resistance? Whose fault is it we're getting bogged down here?). Meanwhile CNN reporter Jim Arnett has been fired for pressing that last question a little too closely. As Bush says, you're either for us or against us, and too many politicians are being forced to toe the line favoring political survival, with reporters forced to follow suit. Critical? Wolf, please, a lot of us are too intelligent to take that question seriously.

Here's a litmus test on criticism in American news media. How many times have you heard Israel mentioned in media coverage of the war on Iraq? (Answer, not often) ... though CNN carried footage of UK Parliament debates and one of the speakers actually managed to slip in the taboo question, right there on American television, of when Israel was going to be compelled to get its troops out of the West Bank and remove its illegal settlements. This is the critical question that US lawmakers should be asking, should have been asking in earnest since way before 9-11. In fact, this war is not about oil. There is not enough oil in Iraq to pay the 100 billion plus bill for the war there. American soldiers in this war are essentially fighting and dying so that Israel can perpetuate its occupation of the West Bank. It's strange not only that CNN should focus entirely on one country for a whole week of news coverage (and in so doing reflect the perspective of the entire US government) but that the country that the war is being fought in behalf of is not mentioned in connection with this campaign. This is the antithesis of critique (to get back to Wolf Blitzer's question). Meanwhile according to a Newsweek report (March 24, 2003) there are only two countries in the world where the majority of the people in those countries support the war in Iraq: USA and Israel (from p.22 in the Special Report: "In fact, while the United States has the backing of a dozen or so governments, it has the support of a majority of the people in only one country in the world, Israel. If that is not isolation, then the word has no meaning."). That is, in a war that purports to be fought for democracy, the war is supported in many cases by the governments of countries like Spain and Australia where the PEOPLE in those countries resoundingly oppose the war, and against the express wishes of other democracies such as France and Germany where the democratically elected gov't actually reflects the will of the people.

As an American who values justice and freedom, and who reviles wars of aggression against innocent civilians, I'm wondering how the people of Germany felt when Hitler announced to them he had invaded Poland. People turned out in the streets for him and joined the Hitler youth, but many must have had their doubts about the path he was leading them down as the troops got more and more overextended. True, in Germany or Iraq you could not post a blog giving your opinion as forthrightly as I am doing here. I am exercising my right to do so but wondering if we're nearing the rubicon even in my country. What we need in America is a true spirit of criticism, in the media and in government. As a democracy, we might start by actually electing a president. The current one has us poised on the brink of disaster and delusion.