When the statue of Saddam Hussein fell in Baghdad, CNN likened it to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the liberation of Paris. I watched for an hour in my allergist's waiting room, and while I did the camera position never changed. It fixed on a dozen men trying futilely to haul or bash the statue down and a larger throng that, on closer inspection, were other TV camera crews. Faintly visible on the edge: the American tank brigades that later on would pull Saddam to the ground.
CNN did not pull back from its shot because doing so would have destroyed the image it meant to convey of a grateful populace welcoming American troops. Just then, the populace were nowhere to be seen due to the rampant looting and sporadic gunfire that were the inevitable byproducts of our military success. But on TV a populace is easily conjured by tight framing and expansive commentary.
I don't have a cable or satellite TV subscription, so I was jarred by CNN's insistence that this one obviously staged picture illustrated the righteousness of the U.S. invasion. But that, the anchorman and his retired-general "analyst" agreed, should be our take-away. Apparently, CNN and Fox competed throughout the so-called war to be the more patriotic, or idiotic, of the networks.
Which brings me to No. 11 on LimiTV's list of suggestions for its upcoming TV Turnoff Week: "Cancel your cable subscription. Use the monthly savings to buy a game or a good book."
Cable, obviously, is after that affluent, SUV-driving market slice that skews Republican. But NBC, perhaps tainted by its association with MSNBC, wasn't much better. The low moment for me was watching Tom Brokaw, seated in the "NBC War Room" with five, count 'em, five generals, breaking down over the death of one American solider--I don't have a problem with that--but failing even to mention that Iraqis were dying by the hundreds or thousands, depending on how many Iraqi soldiers are buried under the bunker-busters we dropped on them.
According to Iraq Body Count, a project undertaken by 20 American and British academics because neither the military nor the media would do it, the number of Iraqi citizens killed in the so-called war is at least 1,390. That's innocent civilians, not soldiers; killed, not injured. IBC arrived at that number by aggregating individual accounts by all of the reliable media on the scene. You can access their data via the link on commondreams.org.
First things first, therefore. Mark April 21-27 on your calendar and: "Consider living without TV at all." That's No. 14 on LimiTV's list. At a minimum, "plan alternative activities" (No. 2), "place clear limits on TV viewing" (No. 6), and "don't let the TV displace what's important: family conversation, exercise, play, reading, creating, thinking and doing" (No. 13).
It's that thinking part that needs the most exercise. As Cary's Joann Ingoglia says, touting LimiTV, an arm of the DC-based TV Turnoff Network, "television looks and sounds different after a turnoff," starting with the camera tricks and the canned laughter. "It may be unrealistic to think participants will never watch television again," she adds, "but many will regard it in a much different way henceforth."
For more on LimiTV, Borders bookstore in Raleigh (Six Forks and Wake Forest roads) is hosting speakers Tuesday, April 22 and Wednesday, April 23, at 7 p.m. LimiTV President Steve Jurovics is the 22nd. On the 23rd, meet Marguerite Moore, a Raleighite who's been TV-free since 1997.
Were We Wrong?
Speaking of thinking, time for those of us who opposed the war to consider our position. No doubt, Iraq is liberated from a tyrannical regime. But the fact that it toppled so easily indicates just how hollow that regime was. Iraq had no military power to threaten its neighbors. And if it had any weapons of mass destruction--a big if--they weren't useable, either because they weren't in weapons form or because Iraqi forces weren't organized to use them.
Either way, an intrusive United Nations inspections force, backed by peacekeeping troops--the Russian plan--had plenty of time to turn over the rugs in every palace while diplomats--and spies--worked to remove Saddam in a coup. Meanwhile, humanitarian aid could have been stockpiled, and used, in the vast areas of Iraq where Saddam's supporters were virtually non-existent.
And if, before he fell, Saddam started shooting, the invasion option remained, presumably now with U.N. backing.
So, no, if the objective was to destroy Iraq's WMDs, or liberate Iraq, invasion wasn't necessary.
On the other hand, if it was to seize an oil-rich country, and warn anyone in the Middle East who doesn't like it that their next restaurant meal could be their last, then the invasion was a great triumph.
Hezbollah, are you listening? Osama? Don't mess with Texas now, hear?