Saturday, November 20, 2004

The shooting in Fallujah

I don’t watch any American TV here or much of any TV for that matter. (Just local news to keep up for job reasons.) Most of my news I get from the US on the Internet. I check into news websites at odd times during the day so I can keep up with what’s going on there. I haven’t gone native so things in the US still concern me. I followed the election closely, for one thing, probably too closely. It was an addiction for a time. It never got to the point where I was refreshing the page every few minutes to get the latest. But it almost did. The point is that I get my news by reading it and not from the TV. That keeps me away from the hysteria but I also can’t tell from the coverage, except from the numbers of articles on the subject, just how important a story is.

But one of the stories that has seemed to occupy the attention of American news recently is the shooting of the wounded Iraqi in Fallujah. This story has had a number of articles on it and it has been an issue in the blogs but it is hard to tell if it has more legs than that. Some reports have it that the shooting has caused some Arabs in the Middle East to become more inflamed, though it is hard, as one writer at National Review has said, to understand how much more inflamed they could possibly be at this late date.

Things are not as easy here as they are back home—we tend to lose our hot water on holidays and a good pizza, though not absolutely necessary, would make life a little more enjoyable-- but we still have it pretty easy here and it is better now than when I was here 2 years ago. So here I am sitting in relative comfort with some time on my hands thinking about something that did not happen in comfort and ease but in the midst of war. There is nothing easier than making moral judgments watching it unfold on TV-- maybe waiting for a commercial break for a sandwich or something to drink? And sitting there, if we don’t like what we see, we can switch the channel and watch “Roseanne” reruns or whatever it is they’re playing in syndication these days. Moral judgments under these circumstances are easy. “You should not kill a wounded soldier.” And the coverage might even be accompanied with a question posed by the news channel so we can join with others and vote on it. “Do you think the Marine should have shot that wounded Iraqi? Log in to take our online poll. We’ll have the results later on Dateline.” Then the commercial. All nice, all easy. No pressure, no sweat and none of the fear that grips the pit of your stomach in a fight for your life.

War is easy this way. Yes or no, right or wrong and pause for a word from our sponsors. But war is not nice and neat and there is no pause for anything until the danger is over. There is no sandwiching it into our schedule, if we can, in place of the noontime lunch meeting or racquetball with guys. It is mean and ugly. It is a roiling, chaotic fury that chews up human beings by the bulk. Hopefully the great majority will be on the other side but you can’t necessarily limit it that way. It can chew them up just as effectively and just as completely on your side. In this war, we have been more fortunate in this. The American army is better trained and better equipped and that has prevented masses of casualties. But the dead and maimed are there still. And the fear is there.

We may make a judgment about this but how competent are we in making the right one when it involves no risk to us?

The mainstream media ought to give this guy an award instead. They use this sort of thing for better ratings and better ratings mean higher advertising revenues (not to mention Pulitzers and Emmys) and higher advertising revenues means etc. etc. And it allows them to take more shots at the war. So they all get to be morally superior and get paid for it too-- not to mention the potential awards. So to paraphrase Cyrano de Bergerac, you can wag the finger of your right hand in righteous indignation while your left hand takes the fee. All this with no risk to life or limb.

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