Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Why is reality off limits?"

Guest Editorial from Steve Culley, Baker City

The Alleged War In Iraq
Steve Culley
March 2007

When I was just starting High School I saw on television the police dogs attacking black people while they fought to end segregation. It was a new thing for me to see people treat other people that way. I was no stranger to the bloody facts of life. I was a farm kid. I knew why sheep and cattle were being raised. They were for people to eat. We butchered our own meat and it wasn't long before I was killing and butchering animals for our own table. Still when I saw southern police using dogs and clubs on people it was disturbing.

I graduated high school in May of 1966 and was in Marine Corps boot camp on the 7th of July. I was in Viet Nam on the 28th of December as a Marine Rifleman. I wasn't there 2 days when I rode shotgun for a doctor to go out in the field to see about a wounded PF, popular force, Vietnamese. We armed some villagers so they could fight the Viet Cong. He was dead by the time the marines got him out of the field. They put the body in the back of the jeep with me and the bumpy road made his head jar back and forth and he bled all over my boots. We dropped him off at his home village and I can still see the wife and kids bent down over him in the Monsoon rain. I saw dead marines after that and a kid just 50 yards or so in front of me stepped on a mine and it blew him straight up in the air. It killed him and wounded the marines in front and back of him. There were others. My fire team partner's name is inscribed in the black marble of the Viet Nam War Memorial.

When I got back those who weren't involved in the war seemed to live the lives they were living when I left. Some were in college and some were working. They knew there was a war on because the Nightly News showed pictures of dead and dying Marines and soldiers being loaded onto helicopters, napalm dropping on villages and tree lines, and cargo nets slung under helicopters full of North Vietnamese dead soldiers being hauled to mass graves. After TET an ARVN colonel , Army of the Republic of Vietnam, shot a Viet cong in the head and it ran many times. It is still an Icon of the Viet Nam War. Most baby boomers are familiar with the little Vietnamese girl running naked down the road after having her clothes burned off by napalm and the pictures of Buddhist monks pouring gasoline over themselves and lighting it on fire. Viet Nam was broadcast into our homes very night. The press didn't pull punches when telling the story of war. The reality of it most likely fired the anti war movement and brought it to an end. Whether that was good or bad is still debated.

Americans, during the civil war, got the first battle field photos and the reality of World Wars One and Two, although not in real time eventually made it home.

Now I'm beginning to think that there really isn't a war in Iraq. It could be an alleged war, a wag the dog scenario. I hear of car bombings and mass casualties. The press reports that Iraqis are doing unspeakable things to each other. I've heard tell that they are drilling holes in each other with electric drills and other barbaric acts but I've not seen the evidence on TV or even a news paper photo. I see burned out cars and rubble in the streets. Broken glass seems to be everywhere and it would appear the new icon of the second war in Iraq is a close up of someone's shoes and a pool of blood in the street or a car seat. It seems like the cameras don't roll while the actual carnage is there. Do the editors at CNN, and Fox and the Net works choose to wait for that shot of the ambulances rolling away then broadcast the aftermath? The reporters on the scene then tell us what they saw . We get a verbal description but visual reality is off limits. After a couple of years of this war started we are starting to see wounded as they recover in the hospitals and a special or two showing how our combat wounded are cared for in the field but not the raw reality. If there is some actual combat footage then there is a huge caption either with a Fox or CNN footer blocking half the screen usually informing me that the marines are shooting. I could see that for myself. I want to see if they are hitting what they are shooting at. I want to see how my team is doing. If the same thing happened during a basketball or football game where the play was blocked by a huge caption the American people would be up in arms. Cable brings in advertising money with captioning so the practice is not going away. "Captioning brought to you by (Corporate advertiser)" but usually it tells us nothing we couldn't see for ourselves.

I've heard that the press actually had footage of people jumping from the twin towers. The beheading of hostages by Islamo fascists was seen by the rest of the world but not here. We were denied the opportunity to be enraged.

So what am I getting at? Do I love the carnage of war and get a rush when I hear about someone getting their heads cut off? No, it's disturbing. Its reality and it should be disturbing. My question, "why is reality off limits?" Do they teach in journalism school that we are too soft, to sensitive for the world as it is? Who decided that here in America we should displace reality with reality TV? Our kids can play with the XBOX and pretend that is war. The reality only comes after the recruiter signs them up. The warning that "what you are about to see might be disturbing to some people", allows us to be warned to switch to American Idol or some other soap opera and not be bothered with the things that really affect us. There is always a celebrity to be covered. Someone in the news room decided that Anna Nichole Smith or Britney Spears hair cut was news. There is always a wounded puppy or a rabbit to rescue. The Taliban got away with their religious dictatorship for ten years before Christian Amanpour's special enlightened us. Investigative reporting takes a back seat to the car chase or a sex and murder mystery. Michel Jackson got more coverage than our fighting men and women. The question I have is, "does that really help us, inform us, or help us make decisions based on the world as it really is?"

The Fantasy Island that is modern America goes on as before. But if you happen to believe there really is a war because CNN showed a close up of a burning car or a blood spot on the street or broken glass everywhere you might have the idea that the war should be ended or fought much harder, depending on your point of view. But it is a half-assed belief because you are being shown half-assed news. I say that a full dose of reality, the visual reality of the broken and dead bodies, the carnage and the rubble would move us one way or the other. We would either pull out or fight a total war. It would end one way or the other. This new compassionate press will slowly bleed our military and our treasury to death. Our young men and women still go into the fire and feel the heat while on the home front it's just a little disturbing and uncomfortable.

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