War is hell, and having to listen to the droning monotone of Wolf Blitzer 24 hours a day makes it even worse.
There is no escape, since flipping the channel to escape Blitzer brings the twin bores Donald Rumsfeld and General Myers, one with his evil grin and the other with no expression whatsoever. Another switch ”” or 10 or 20 ”” gets you nothing but the flavor of the day in a retired general of some sort, blathering about something he is not privy to and doing it with the smugness built of long military command.
I have had all the ex-generals and green screens with fuzzy figures I can handle, and all of the static shots of the suburb lights of Baghdad I can tolerate, and all of the wide-eyed wonder of Paula Zahn I can suffer. As for Ari Fleischer, he proves only that legends of the living dead are true, and that zombies still walk the earth.
This orchestrated war and its programmed coverage may mesmerize those who live and die with their boob tubes, but it has done something else to television. It has raised senseless chatter and inane "fill" to a new high art, as talking heads are forced to fill 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with noise, courtesy of a government that has doled out only what it wants its citizens to hear. Listening to Rumsfeld talk about Iraqi generals beheading disloyal subjects is a throwback to the atrocity propaganda of World War I, picturing the Hun as slobbering beast.
Before some guy with a 21-inch collar and a beer in one hand and flag in another tells me to love what’s happening or leave the country, I’ll note that family shadow boxes on the wall contain a Distinguished Service Cross, a French Croix de Guerre, a Silver and Bronze Star, a Legion of Honor, a certificate citing heroism on D-Day in Normandy, and two Purple Hearts. No apologies are needed here.
There was no question from long before it started that this war would be won, and there is no question that the young men and women fighting it have displayed the heroic qualities of Americans in all wars.
But this one was unnecessary, and those fighting it need not have been subjected to what they have been asked to endure, in sand and wind and heat and mud and fire.
This war, and the phony controlled coverage of it, need not have happened.
If, when it is over, it turns out there were no weapons of mass destruction except ours, the dead will be just as dead, whether American or British or Iraqi. Saddam Hussein will be gone, but the agonies inflicted on the Iraqi people, the destruction of homes and homeland, and the scores of American families bereft of fathers or sons or brothers will be just as painful and permanent as the thousands of Iraqis gone from the same roles there. They have had to pay for 9/11, even though it was 15 Saudis ”” our good friends with oil ”” and not 15 Iraqis, who caused that horror.
The dollar cost, in billions and billions, will fall on us, not on them.
And beyond all that, the loss of prestige and friendship and respect that this country has suffered, and will suffer, will last long beyond the flag waving of the moment.
It is 40 years now since John F. Kennedy stood in Berlin and gave his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, and tens of thousands cheered him and America in a moment so inspiring that it brings a lump to one’s throat these four decades later.
It is 40 years since Kennedy was killed, when tens of thousands carried candles of mourning on midnight vigils around the world.
It is hard for any who lived through those dramatic days and nights to see American flags being burned in Europe and Asia today.
It is one thing praying for and taking pride in the kids fighting in Iraq.
It is quite another getting accustomed to the idea that we are despised by millions everywhere. Let’s pray for that to change, too.