Under The Rug
By A.D. Freudenheim

23 March 2003

If you have been obsessively watching the news on television since the war started, my advice would be to stop. It isn’t just that such constant (visual) news of the war is likely bad for your psyche (and if you do not feel that it is, let me assure you, you probably have deeper issues to deal with), but that the news on television is a little too focused on one thing – the war – to the exclusion of what is happening in the rest of world. And make no mistake, other things continue even as we work to capture Iraq.

The networks have lost interest in showing us that Israel continues to retake territory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while the attention of almost everyone but the Palestinians themselves is diverted eastward. The Associated Press, for example, reported today that Israeli troops have retaken the Jenin refugee camp, and moved some 15 tanks into Gaza.[1] Certainly this is being done – as always, right? - in the name of security, but how much more pleasurable it must be for the Israelis not to be in the limelight while it happens. Most of the TV news about Israel offers Americans reassuring images of Israelis practicing how to use their gas masks, mixed with occasional shots of their joint anti-missile operations with the U.S. military. Even the alleged murder of International Solidarity Movement protester Rachel Corrie by an Israeli bulldozer, which was in the headlines quite recently, has been completely subsumed by other news.

In case you were wondering, the North Korean situation has not improved either, despite attempts by both sides to ratchet up the pressure. The U.S. continues to conduct “war games” with South Korean forces, while maintaining that there are viable military options for “solving” the North Korean nuclear crisis – a plan the North has now taken to calling an “anachronistic fantasy” (a phrase whose meaning I can only guess at, given that we’re hardly being anachronistic in our attack on Iraq).[2] Agence France-Presse reports that India and Pakistan continue to kill each other over the contested region of Kashmir,[3] while various sources report that Cuba, too, seems to be taking advantage of the wartime news blur to crack down on critics of the Castro regime – arresting more than 70 of them.[4] (No doubt Miami Cubans are, right now, wondering once again just why it is that the U.S. is able to invade Iraq, a country the size of France that is half-way around the world, but cannot seem to topple Fidel’s crumbling Banana Republic only 90 miles from Florida. Whether or not you agree with the idea that Castro should be toppled, it is definitely an interesting question.)

On the home front, yesterday’s New York Times contained a few gems, including an editorial on the collusion between certain members of Congress and the Pentagon to formalize the Pentagon’s right to side-step environmental regulations. It seems that while the existing law allows the military - when justified in times of national crisis – to avoid restrictions designed to prevent pollution, unnecessary harm to wild life, etc., the fact that these exemptions must be requested is not good enough. As the Times wrote, “A blanket exemption would be easier and quicker, and the administration is using the climate of war and the ideological fantasies of conservative members of Congress to get it.”[5] That description nearly sums up the situation across the board, actually: the Times also reported yesterday that Congress is pushing ahead with President Bush’s foolish $726 billion tax cuts, even as most seem to acknowledge that this will ensure the U.S. runs a budget deficit for at least the next decade – and also while admitting that the costs of our current war cannot yet be accurately tallied.[6] (Warning: don’t try this kind of complicated accounting at home, folks. Leave this to the professionals.) And if you have not read today’s op-ed by Maureen Dowd, on Pentagon adviser Richard Perle (or Friday’s more detailed report on his lobbying gig for Global Crossing), do so.[7]

You should not believe everything you read, but neither should you believe everything you see on TV. Yet I have the sense that America is tuned in because it is easier and less taxing to watch CNN’s war coverage than it is to digest the printed words - on Iraq or any other subject. The war news is an easy distraction, and it has a plot, it has action, and a huge number of players straight from central casting. So, to return to other serious subjects, I have one last rationale for suggesting that you switch off the TV: until the news cameras are able to show us the guts of this war – and not just the glory – the pictures we are presented with are misleading in their night-scope cleanliness.

Despite the unleashing of a massive air campaign against Baghdad, precious little information has been delivered to the American public about the number of dead Iraqis (and several stations, carrying statistics and images of wounded men from the pan-Arab network Al Jazeera, have been careful to call them unsubstantiated and unconfirmed). Does anyone think that people have not been killed? Surely we are not bombing empty buildings. Considering that President Bush has said so clearly that our quarrel is not with the Iraqi people but only with Saddam Hussein’s regime, one might expect greater clarity and explanation about exactly which Iraqis we think we have killed, and in what numbers. Instead it seems that for the U.S. media as well as the Bush White House, the color of blood is only visible when it is the red in red, white, and blue.

[1] “Palestinians Consider Interior Minister,” by
Ibrahim Hazboun, Associated Press, 23 March 2003
[2] “North Korea slams U.S. military option in nuclear
standoff as ‘anachronistic fantasy’,”
by Jae-Suk Yoo,
Associated Press, 23 March 2003
[3] “Eight die in cross-border firing, encounter in
Agence France-Presse, 22 March 2003
[4] “Cuba's Castro Sends Signal With Crackdown,”
by Anita Snow, Associated Press, 22 March 2003;
“Cuba Arrests More Dissidents,” by David Gonzalez,
The New York Times, 22 March 2003
[5] “Invoking War to Ease Rules,” The New York Times,
22 March 2003
[6] “Both Chambers Back Tax Cuts,” by David E.
Rosenbaum, The New York Times, 22 March 2003
[7] “Perle’s Plunder Blunder,” by Maureen Dowd,
The New York Times, 23 March 2003; “Pentagon
Adviser Is Also Advising Global Crossing,” by Stephen
Labaton, The New York Times, 21 March 2003
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