News Coverage of the Second Iraq War

I find the news coverage of this war emotionally confusing, when contrasted with my memories. When we returned to the US in 1972, I had my first exposure to television news. At the time, Walter Cronkite closed every evening’s newscast with a list of American and Vietnamese (north and south) casualties – which ran to the hundreds most days, if I remember correctly. I now suppose that it was his way of protesting, but at the time it upset me; I felt he was being callously dismissive of all those deaths. I had a personal stake: my dad had been in Vietnam (as a civilian, with the US Agency for International Development), and could easily have been one of those numbers.

So it feels odd to me that every news source hurries to reports when one or two or a dozen of ours are killed. I want to scream: “It’s a war, people, what did you expect?” I could well be misinterpreting, but I wonder if the Powers That Be, and/or the media, have tried to persuade the American public that you can have a war without any actual casualties on your own side. That you can be a soldier without actually risking your life in combat.

I don’t really even know what I’m saying here, and am very confused about my own feelings. But, for what it’s worth, I’m sharing them with you.

I find it grimly ironic that the American news media are making a big deal over whether or not to show the Al Jazeera footage of captured and killed Americans. I understand the need for delay, of course: their families should not have to learn about it from television. But all this public soul-searching and breast-beating by the news organizations – so that the decision to air or notitself becomes news – is that necessary?

For better or for worse, the Italian media has no qualms: the footage was shown yesterday on TV, and can be viewed on the website of Italy’s major newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera. Apparently the bodies were edited out of this version, but it seems to show the entirety of the interviews.


In Italy, the protests continue, large and small, organized and not. Saturday there was a big demonstration downtown. Ross and I were on the metro when a number of the demonstrators were heading home, with their rainbow peace flags, scarves, etc. (After many visits to San Francisco, I associate the rainbow flag with gay pride. I was confused when I saw the first peace flags weeks ago – it seemed unlikely that so many gays had suddenly come out in our neighborhood!)

One of the protestors was wearing a sweater with a large “Levi’s USA” label. Mixed metaphor?

I wasn’t paying attention to their conversation, until a guy sitting next to me jumped in, saying: “These Americans have it easy against the Iraqis. If they took on the Russians or Chinese, it would be a different story.” Huh? Does he think the US is doing this just to beat up on somebody? Then he added: “I’m a leftist.” Meaning what? That you’re automatically anti-American? But I squelched my combative nature, and kept all these thoughts to myself.

I would have more sympathy with the protestors if I were convinced that more of them actually knew what they were talking about. I am always willing to listen to an intelligent argument on any side of a question. But I suspect that many are anti-war and anti-American simply because it’s trendy and fun to go to peace marches, hang out flags, etc. And, for the schoolkids, it’s a great excuse not to go to classes. But do they really know anything about the issues?


Berlusconi, meanwhile, manages to have his cake and eat it, too. After a vituperative debate in parliament, US airbases in Italy are allowed to be used for logistical support, but not as a point of departure for bombing runs, “because we are a non-belligerent country.” This after Berlusconi’s many eager protestations of support to Bush and Blair over the last few months. Airbases in Germany are being used in exactly the same way.

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