by RIP RENSE
All those reporters! All that
"embedding!" All that cooperation from the military!
And still those liberal ingrate
scribblers dared to report unpleasantries from Iraq.
Can't trust 'em!
So, more or less, raged
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld---hands in the air, voice up a half-octave:
"I picked up a newspaper today and I
couldn't believe it! I read eight headlines that talked about chaos, violence, unrest. And
it just was Henny Penny--- 'The sky is falling'. I've never seen anything like it! And
here is a country that's being liberated, here are people who are going from
being repressed and held under the thumb of a vicious dictator, and they're free.
And all this newspaper could do, with eight or 10 headlines, they showed a man bleeding, a
civilian, who they claimed we had shot - one thing after another. It's just unbelievable
Let's examine this.
By the overwhelming majority of
press accounts in this country and abroad, Iraq is in chaos. A country that has just had
its government forcibly deposed is supposed to be in chaos. The president so much
as admitted this in his Sunday morning Rose Garden press conference, in which he snapped,
in response to a question about widespread disorder in Iraq:
"Well, no kidding!"
Yet Rumsfeld objected. Because the country is
"liberated" from the maniacal clutches of Saddam "Gone to Maui"
Hussein, the press, he suggests, should ignore: nationwide looting, revenge killings, gang
warfare, homelessness, accidental and sometimes pre-emptive shooting of innocent victims
by U.S. soldiers (including a ten-year-old boy last week), and lack of water, police,
adequate hospitals, electricity.
Hell, by this logic, those darn reporters
should have focused on the 99 percent of Los Angeles that was peaceful during the Rodney
King riots. So what if the central city was being burned and looted. . .
"It's untidy, and freedom's untidy,"
Yes, it's untidy, what's happened
in Iraq. It's "untidy" that the U.S. supported---created, really---Saddam, with
CIA backing. Untidy that the U.S. sold Saddam chemical weapons during Iraq's war with
Iran. Untidy that Rumsfeld spent two years negotiating with Saddam to run an oil pipeline
through his country in the '80s, knowing full-well the brutality of Iraqi leadership.
Untidy that Dick Cheney, while head of Halliburton, did business with Saddam in the late
'90s, claiming that he didn't. Untidy that the U.S. was aware that Saddam lived like
Elvis while he gassed the Kurds, and terrified his country into "peace."
that the U.S. knew Saddam set up neighborhood torture chambers the way Ray Kroc used to
set up McDonald's franchises. Untidy that the attack on Iraq has killed yet-untallied
thousands of innocent people. Untidy that children were blown to bits, or orphaned, or
left doomed to a life without arms and legs. Untidy that families trying to drive through
U.S. military checkpoints were machine- gunned to death because they didn't slow down in
time. Untidy that 33 of 35 Baghdad hospitals are non-functional (Red Cross figure.)
that suicide bombers will continue to blow up young Americans and Brits serving their
country. Untidy that POW's have been tortured and perhaps executed.
Untidy that soldiers
will return to the States with missing limbs and terrible ghosts in their heads. Untidy
that the National Museum of Iraq was stipped of priceless artifacts from the dawn of all
Who are these people who can live with such
"The images you are seeing on
television you are seeing over, and over, and over, and it's the same picture of some
person walking out of some building with a vase," said Rumsfeld, "and you
see it 20 times, and you think, 'My goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible
that there were that many vases in the whole country?'"
This is the kind of petulance you'd expect from
Bill O'Riledup, not the Secretary of Defense. For the record, though, yes, it is possible
there are more than 20 vases in Iraq. In fact, there were probably thousands of
vases among the 170,000 antiquities smashed and looted from the National Museum of Iraq,
which was left unguarded--- while, funny thing, U.S. Troops secured the Iraq Oil Ministry.
Apparently, Rumsfeld and the
administration are so proud of having deposed Saddam that they don't understand why the
press doesn't get out the flags and openly celebrate with them. The neon-letter irony, of
course, is that a lot of the TV press, led by 19th Century Fox, has done exactly that
since well before the undeclared "war" began. Perhaps this is why Rumsfeld was
so shocked and awed. Perhaps he was so used to John Wayne-movie images of happy little
Iraqis kissing giant U.S. soldiers; so accustomed to Fox busting its buttons to tell how
"we" are doing in Iraq (and making cretinous cracks like "the Shiite hits
the fan") that the sudden outbreak of actual reporting---the sudden departure from
rah-rah, yay-team jingoism---caught him by surprise.
Or maybe Rumsfeld's remarks were intended
to cow the media back into lobbing red-white-and-blue softballs, and dutifully reporting
every non-statement from D.C. as if it were news. After all, this is the "all you
gotta know" administration, to borrow the president's frequent sentence opener.
Those who share Rumsfeld's
outrage would do well to remember that news is not when a happy kid buys an ice cream
cone. Former CBS newsman Joseph Benti used to say that news is "like two guys
fighting in a bar---you can't look away." News is problem, conflict. Why are problems
and conflicts reported? Because they pose a threat to peace and order. Why does the press
report threats to peace and order?
Because this is its function.
Why did the press report the "chaos"
in Iraq? Because it was "conflict," and a threat to restoring peace and order in
Iraq. Because a population amok in a Middle East country just invaded by the United States
poses a threat to peace and order in the region, and the world. Especially considering
Rumsfeld's deeply expressed concerns of wayward weapons of mass destruction.
Because the whole volatile situation
concerns every single person on the planet.
Much of the U.S. press, however enthralled with
the moral victory of having rid Iraq of Saddam, could not ignore this.
Henny Penny? Rumsfeld had the wrong fairy tale.
Better to have invoked the story of the naked emperor whose minions dutifully, fearfully
lavished praise on his grand attire.
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