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April 29, 2005

Mission Not Accomplished

Genevieve LaBahn

"I think the human race needs to think more about killing, about conflict."
—Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense

      On May 2nd, it will have been two years since President Bush played a disastrous game of dress-up on the USS Abraham Lincoln, assessing that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended," and that, "in the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." Well, it's sure been a fun two years, huh?

      Let's see. . . . How many coalition soldiers—overwhelmingly American—have been killed after this war was declared over? Nearly 1,500. How many have been wounded? Almost 12,000. How many Iraqi civilians have been killed during this war? Over 100,000 according to BBC News. How many photographs of the coffins (or "transfer tubes," according to the Department of Defense) containing the fallen soldiers have been printed or shown to the public? Zero (although some have been leaked, costing newspaper photographers their jobs.) How many funerals of fallen soldiers has President Bush attended? Zero.

      There is a problem with these numbers.

      There is a tremendous crisis with how the public perceives the Iraq War, and it stems directly from how the media has presented and framed its entire visual reporting. This started even before the war (well, it's not quite a war—no formal declaration of war has actually been passed by Congress—but let us not get distracted with such obviously trifling matters . . . ), when the Bush Administration began the propaganda attack on the American people. However, I'd like to focus on one thing relating to how the media presented the war: its visual coverage (or lack thereof.)

      Casualties are not being shown. Oh, sure, during that "Shock and Awe" stage (remember that?), we had CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, and all the other 24/7 news networks showing us non-stop coverage in night-vision cameras of our "humane" bombs (Rummy has a way with words, doesn't he?) blowing up buildings and bunkers. But did we see the civilian and human impact of that operation? No. It was a very sterile, very bloodless presentation of a gruesome campaign. In other words, it was not reality.

      We are visual creatures. Part of the protest movement against the Vietnam War was to show the grisly reality of war to the American public; once the public saw the bloody and mangled bodies of our soldiers and of the civilian casualties, support for the unjust war dropped dramatically. Brilliantly, the Bush Administration has kept the gory reality of the war away from the public by simply not showing them. The result is that the public is not reacting overwhelmingly against this unjust war. No flagged, dragged coffins are shown; there is no coverage of funerals. Perhaps most astonishingly, Bush is the only president not to go to a funeral for the fallen soldiers. In other words, he is participating in the mentality of "out of sight, out of mind." If you don't see it, it must not exist. (Denial is fun!) And it has worked. We are not being reminded that we are killing and are being killed for no reason.

      The end result is that the war in Iraq has been successfully sold to the public as a successful campaign within the War on Terror—as a clean, smooth operation with few casualties. This is, of course, the opposite of reality. One need only to go over the gut-wrenching photos of Abu Ghraib (Go on, do a Google image search of that on an empty stomach!) to see the true face of the war: inhumane, unjust, and completely devoid of the moral clout that President Bush has presented. Is there any reason that the Right Wing Machine worked overtime to successfully silence this shocking scandal? If more people saw these images and saw the faces of the lives that were destroyed for absolutely no reason, I am convinced that the war would be questioned far more than it is currently. And the public would most likely be far angrier than it is today.

      While we were busy bombing a contained nation even further into the ground, the real monster still breathes air on this earth. Remember Osama Bin Laden? I seem to recall him being the mastermind of September 11th. I remember that Bush said he would hunt him down until he was caught, "dead or alive." What happened to him?

"The care that goes into it, the humanity that goes into it, to see that military targets are destroyed, to be sure, but that it's done in a way, and in a manner, and in a direction and with a weapon that is appropriate to that very particularized target."
—Donald Rumsfeld

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