Fallujah Appeals to the Voters
by Michael R. Bowen, M.D.
12 April 2004
The terrorists in Iraq have generally left reporters alone because the reporters are useful to them.
Last week my family
was watching Peter Jennings reporting on the fighting in Iraq. There
was dramatic footage of the fighting, and my sons were glued to the screen.
One of them noticed a striking contrast: soldiers and Marines firing their
weapons from behind cover, while news reporters and cameramen strolled freely
among the Iraqis firing on the Marines.
"Dad, how come Iraqis don't shoot the reporters? They're Americans, too!"
Good question. And as I listened to Mr. Jennings carefully pair any
bit of positive news about America with another bit casting doubt on our
progress, the answer came to me. "Boys, they leave the reporters alone
because the reporters are useful to them. It's through the reporters
that they hope to undermine America's resolve. They're not so much
fighting the Marines as playing to the American media. "
Comparisons to the 1968 Tet offensive are hard to avoid. In that battle
the Vietcong shot their bolt, gambling all on a Vietnam-wide simultaneous
assault on American targets. They were slaughtered, and it was a decisive
American victory. The Vietcong were effectively finished as a fighting force,
and thereafter Hanoi was forced to rely on North Vietnamese regulars. But
what America saw on television was a very different picture, and I don't
recall ever hearing how great a defeat it was for the Vietcong until more
than 10 years later. Long before then, of course, the public relations
battle had been won decisively by Hanoi, in a campaign they conducted through
the American media.
The more things change... Today we have headlines reporting the number
of Marine deaths and the location and severity of the fighting but you will
search in vain, in print or on the screen, for any prominent mention of why
we're in Iraq. Bloodthirsty mullahs will be handed a microphone with
no precautionary comment afterward, but every administration declaration
of progress and purpose will be followed with a "balancing" qualifier, or
an opposing quote from Bush's enemies at home.
President Bush's administration will be described as "troubled," or "embattled,"
but no Islamist will be described as "hate-filled" or "murderous," though
the appellations are accurate and fair. Murderers of women and children
will be described as "militants." Any American mistreatment of Iraqis
will be big news, but the destruction of a bus by a bomb filled with nails
and razor blades and rat poison will be no one’s fault; instead it will be
part of the "cycle of violence."
Our media friends strive, or rather flatter themselves that they strive,
to be fair and balanced. But "warts and all" reporting is impossible
when you think the slightest blemish at home is as big as a cancer, and you
can't really see the warts on our enemies.
Or, worse yet, if you think they aren't really warts.
Michael R. Bowen practices Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine, and has a weekly column on America's Voices.
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