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Good press absent in election year

Mar 2, 2004 6:53 AM

There are a lot of scary things happening in Washington these days, but the scariest of them all happened last week.

If Americans do not understand that we are losing our freedom and liberty, and if we continue to allow the chipping away at the Constitution, we are going to wind up exactly like the people we went to war to supposedly save.

Bush got us into the quagmire in Iraq supposedly to restore liberty to the Iraqi people. Now he is emulating the guy he drove out.

When the U.S. government says it does not trust the free press to report what is happening in Iraq, as it did last week, and sets up its own propaganda machine to feed us Army-approved news, we’re on the verge of something supremely dangerous.

An Army captain named Randall Baucom, identified as "a spokesman for the Kuwait-based U.S.-led Coalition Land Forces Command," says the American public "currently gets a pretty slanted picture" of what is happening in Iraq.

Army captains don’t make national policy, or speak for their governments. That normally is left to guys with a lot of fruit salad on their jackets and a lot of stars on their shoulders, guys like Colin Powell.

But here is captain Baucom, sitting in Kuwait and complaining that Iraq-based media focuses on catastrophic events such as car bombs and soldiers’ deaths, while giving short shrift to U.S. rebuilding efforts.

The reason the press in Iraq reports on car bombs and soldiers’ deaths is simple. That is what’s happening.

With a national election coming up, the reporting of bad news is especially bad news in Washington.

Now it will be sugar-coated, flavored with saccharin syrup about stringing new electric lines to replace those that we destroyed, building new bridges to take the place of those we blew up, having Halliburton construct new palaces in place of those we knocked down.

Captain Baucom says, "We want them (you and me) to get an opportunity to see the facts as they exist, instead of getting information from people who aren’t on the scene."

This from a guy in Kuwait, whose unit there will replace news from correspondents in Iraq, who see the car bombs and the bodies in the street. This is like the Alabama National Guard reporting on events in Vietnam.

The unit that will grind out the sweet talk for us carries the wonderfully euphemistic name of Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System, or DVIDS. It will, the report on its work says, "give the Pentagon more control of the coverage when calamities do happen."

Take that one to your nearest bookie and bet your beer money that it will give the Pentagon more control when calamities happen. Don’t trust reporters on the scene to tell us about it. Trust old DVIDS. You don’t think your government would fool you, do you? Certainly not about a country with weapons of mass destruction.

So here we are, with our own Pravda, happy talk from the front. Get that ironic title: DVIDS. Toss in a couple of vowels and it spells DIVIDES, and it will, dividing news from propaganda and spewing out the latter.

"Army camera teams," the AP story on all of this read, "will be able to use their access to battle zones or military bases to film the aftermath of rebel attacks on U.S. troops ”” or U.S. raids on insurgent targets ”” and then offer free pictures to news outlets within two hours."

Or not offer them.

"We’re going to be able to get closer to the incident and provide better spokespeople to give the right information," captain Baucom says.

Sure, captain. Don’t trust those guys from the New York Times or Washington Post, or Time or Newsweek. They’re dangerous, particularly in an election year.

So here we are, the greatest democracy on earth, neatly packaging and shipping canned fish to the natives. The last time I heard that stuff I was in a war myself, and the guy peddling the fish was a real pro. His name was Josef Goebbels.