The Blob

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Chalk one up for the little guys

Leave it to the mobility of bloggers to move faster than the vast media organizations covering the war in Iraq. If you want a digest of the latest news delivered in succinct fashion, check out The Command Post, a blog site that is aggregating the latest news faster than any major news outlet Web site. One side effect of the war in Iraq will be that blogging is quickly establishing itself as a viable way to share news and information. That's not to say that blogging isn't without faults, as it can virally transmit lies, innuendo and opinion. But don't shoot the messenger: blogging can be as good or bad as we humans choose to make it. As a currency for sharing information however, it shows a unique potential.

Blows against the pundits

I'm so sick of the warmed-over agendas, shortsightedness and outright cowardice of the pundits we're forced to endure on TV and in print. But instead of ranting and blathering like I did below, someone genetically superior to me whose prose runs circles around mine has done a better, more scathing job. Please take the time to read History or Hysteria by Victor Davis Hanson. This article is spot-on.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Recommended reading: The war over the war, separating the facts from the spin

Like so many other Americans, I have found myself glued to the TV and the Web in the past week, anxiously channel surfing for salient tidbits of news about the conflict in Iraq. Last night, while watching Aaron Brown on CNN, it hit me: we are being bombarded increasingly by noise, not news, and even worse, noise posing as news with an agenda. That is why I recommend an excellent article by Michael Moran, War over the war, on

The noise, spin and negative innuendo I saw last night on CNN is poisonous at best. What many of us hoped would be a quick and decisive conflict is showing signs of a much longer and more painful war than breathlessly optimistic blathering from the major news outlets would have had us believe but a few days ago. Much worse, I am now seeing the pundits kick in, elbowing their way in for face time on the tube to tell their side of the story. I would not be surprised if many of these so-called "experts" have never had a day of military experience. Or, many are a bunch of retired or turned-out full-bird colonels or generals with an axe to grind.

The facts are getting lost amid noise and spin. As they say, truth is the first casualty in a war, and even with 24/7, instant access to the battlefield and even the streets of Baghdad, the facts are getting fogged behind opinions and slanted views packaged as expert analysis. In a battle of information, soundbites and scoops, news is losing the battle to noise.

No more depressing an example could be seen than an interview between Aaron Brown and a New York Times reporter, (David?) Broder last night on CNN. The entire dialogue was a downward spiral on what the US military leadership had done wrong, why it could not work, and why it was doomed to fail. By the end of the conversation, my blood boiled and my heart pounded. I turned off the TV simply because I could not take it any more. I could barely sleep last night just thinking about it. What I saw contained no facts, only assertions and assumptions, mixed with the venomous and insidious death-by-a-thousand-paper cuts undermining of why we are in Iraq in the first place. I have no sons or daughters in Iraq, but I could only assume how any young soldier's parent must have felt.

This is not to say that I want to see all media presentations be like that of the Iraqi military and leadership. I am more than a little patriotic and despite deep misgivings about war of any kind, am sadly convinced that war was the only option left to resolve this terrible conflict, given the lack of progress of diplomacy over the past 12 years (and that includes the failure of the UN to do anything constructive about this). I do want to know what is going on, even if the news is bad. I have worried from the start about the strategic assumptions of the US offensive. I worry that the 4th Infantry Division should have been in Kuwait prior to the start of hostilities, and that we may have outrun our ability to supply our front line troops. I want to know that things aren't going swimmingly, and why. But what I don't want is to have someone opposed to the Bush administration to begin with, or with the war in Iraq to use their power and influence on-camera to undermine the credibility and morale of the young men and women tasked with resolving what diplomacy failed to do, not to mention their families and the spirit of America.

Like it or not, we are in a war. There is no turning back. Anyone, including the media, pundits and purported "experts" alike who think that war can be antiseptic either has failed to read a single page of history or has watched too many Roadrunner cartoons. War is real. War is ugly. War is slow, unfair, painful and horrible. War is imperfect, and no amount of high tech weaponry will allow it to be otherwise. It was not that long ago that terms such as "rules of engagement" were unknown. Instead of worrying about collateral damage and loss of innocent lives, belligerents would simply lay waste to cities, firebomb them and all inhabitants rather than bother with messy house-to-house battles. That is not to say that I nostalgically hark for "the good old days" when it was okay to commit any atrocity in the name of your side. Quite the opposite.

I would only hope that the reporters sitting in air conditioned studios thousands of miles away from the battles (as contrasted to the embedded journalists, who are a badly needed dose of reality, as they are suffering alongside the soldiers), many of whom never served in the military, would get a clue. I hold equal contempt for the pundits and self-proclaimed experts with an agenda. Please, in the rush to get a scoop or sell more beer commercials, think twice. This isn't the Nielsen sweeps. There are human lives at stake. Cut the crap. Squelch the noise. Please give us facts and real news.

It's ironic that in the age of 24 hour cable news channels with live reporting, that it seems that the reporting of today is of a much lower quality than the masterful work of an Edward R. Murrow. We could take a lesson from the past. And it is for this reason that I am critical of CNN’s portrayal of the war, and in this particular example, Aaron Brown’s subtle innuendos and direction of a very negative viewpoint of the conflict and its progress. And CNN is but one example. Please, less noise. More news. Less analysis, opinion, spin and assertion. Let the truth be told. And worry less about filling every available second with noise for the sake of filling time. The American public and the young men and women on the battlefields of Iraq deserve no less.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Michael and Me

Michael Moore. Author, filmmaker, political activist. Love him or hate him. I have been both amused and outraged by his antics and opinions. Never afraid of making a fool of himself to pursue his own ends, Michael Moore did so at the recent Academy Awards when he used the occasion to lambaste President Bush. Some might cheer what he said, declaring the moment as an act of patriotic defiance. Others, including myself were not surprisingly outraged. I knew that Michael Moore would use his 45 seconds to polarize the world.

Taking the stage to accept his award, Moore spoke out:

"I've invited my fellow nominees on the stage with us, and they are here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction. We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in a time when we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president," said Moore, who was greeted with both booing and cheering. "We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons, whether it's the fictition (sic) of duct tape or the fictition (sic) of orange alerts, we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush! Shame on you!"

Personally, I was outraged, but hardly surprised. It's what I figured Michael Moore would probably do. But I didn't like it. So I propose a solution: If you feel that Moore was out of line, let him know how you feel. Send Michael a roll of duct tape.

Note: To learn more about Michael Moore, click here.

If War is Hell, What Will Peace Be Like?

The coming days and weeks could be terrible. I'm filled with anxiety over the battles to come in Iraq, and the battles raging as I write this. I've stated previously that I agree that Saddam Hussein, his sons and those who follow him all must go. The sooner the better. And with extreme prejudice. There is no comfort in being for the war, only the conviction that the status quo was far worse. Living in denial is a sin as much as ordering two countries into battle.

I'm convinced that all this will come at a terrible cost. I'm appalled at the images of killed and tortured American soldiers that I saw on the Web site of al-Jezeerah. I worry over the loss of lives and terrible injuries to American and British soldiers, young men and women who have been asked to settle what the diplomats from the nations of the world lacked the courage to do for many years. I take no comfort in the stories I have read on British newspaper Web sites of the injuries suffered by the children of Baghdad who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And I am outraged by the utter arrogance of Saddam Hussein and his inner circle, the followers in his Ba'ath Party, his secret police, his military and the Saddam Fedeyeen to subject the ordinary people of Iraq (Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurds alike) to a life of misery. They are willing to destroy Iraq to continue their arrogant grip on power. And I am appalled that the world would stand idle for so many years to let this fester as long as it has. We are not without deep conflicts of interest.

So I want this to end soon. I want the inevitable conclusion to take place with as little suffering as possible. Except of course, to Saddam and those like him. I want the Iraqis to get their country back, for the first time in decades.

But as much as I worry about the horrors of war, I am also as worried about the peace to come, if you want to call it that. Like the American south following our Civil War, I wonder who will be next to exploit Iraq. We can expect to see the Iranians, long a traditional rival to Iraq, taking advantage of this moment of weakness, to become the new power in the region. We can expect ethnic cleansing and revenge. We can expect powerful interests from America, Europe and the Middle East to act like so many carpetbaggers, all wanting a piece of the action in rebuilding Iraq and getting a share of its wealth. And I expect the hatred to continue, as radical Islamic elements try to exploit the suffering of the Iraqis to their own ends.

I see nothing pretty in this. Securing a lasting peace will be much more difficult than winning the war.

Think hard: can you name a single Islamic country that is truly a democracy? I can't either. Left to its own devices, can the people of Iraq craft a democracy in the inevitable vacuum following the era of despotic rule by Saddam Hussein? Can Iraq survive intact in a land of three different peoples, different tribes and different religions? Or will the forces of the West act cynically and install a new dictator that would fit under the description, "he may be a bastard, but he's our bastard"?

In the last war for the Persian Gulf, the incompetence and selfish interests that make the United Nations an oxymoron and a bitter sham snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. At the time, the assembled coalition could have forced a regime change in Iraq, and I believe the world would have been in the mood to support it. The world stopped short, and an opportunity was missed, one with horrible consequences. Saddam took violent revenge on the Shi'ite Muslims in the south and the Kurds in the north who believed at the time that the United Nations would back their efforts to revolt. The United States lost its nerve at a time when the world backed their efforts. Out of the ashes of war grew al Queda and Osama bin Laden. Will we make the same mistakes again? We do so at our own peril.

If we approach the rebuilding of Iraq in cynical fashion, or leave the people of Iraq to their own defense, the vermin that are the remnants of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Party could re-emerge. These monsters must be hunted down and brought to justice, be it frontier justice or through a long, painful legal process. If we don't invest in post war nation-building, chaos and new wars could rise from the ashes of the current conflict. A Pax Americana won't work. The Iraqi people have to have a strong hand in making a nation of their own, and that may mean a resulting Iraq that might not be to the satisfaction of every American. This won't be easy. War is Hell. But peace can be even harder. Are we ready?

Memo to the war protesters: I don't like war either. But wishing Saddam away would only deepen the suffering of the people of Iraq, suffering we don't see, suffering you refuse to acknowledge. So here is my challenge to you: If you feel so strongly about peace, then put down your protest signs and prepare instead to help with the rebuilding of Iraq. That takes more courage than a march down the streets of New York, Paris or San Francisco. A lot more. Are you ready?

I have the answer

Wherein this intrepid author proposes a solution for the War in Iraq

I've given this a lot of thought. And I've got the answer. I've figured out a way that America can win the war in Iraq in only one day. Without the loss of the life of an American soldier. A way to get the residents of Baghdad fleeing for their lives. And a way to bring Saddam Hussein to his knees, begging for mercy.

Call in Kenny G.

Trust me. The Iraqis would leave skidmarks.

The Oscars: An Observation

This is a subject that's been talked to death. But my biggest memory of this year's Academy Awards will be of what didn't happen: there was no Joan Rivers.

Who said that miracles can't come true?