When bombing of Iraq seemed only hours away, all was calm in the US embassyin Kuwait. Though Iraq’s fearsome weapons of mass destruction were the topicof every news bulletin, US ambassador to Kuwait, Jim Larocco, was nonchalant.We know this because we have before us at this time the report to his companyof a businessmen who was one of those in the local American community summonedto the embassy on February 3 to be briefed on the crisis.
The businessman summarized Ambassador Larocco’s words thus: “Noone at the embassy has gas masks and American embassy does not recommendany. They are not even interested in finding out a source for gas masks.The main reasons for this decision are the new interceptor missiles in placein Kuwait, and the fact [that] the biological and chemical warheads [ofIraq] are very ineffective.”
Dan Goes to War
William Randolph Hearst famously admonished his correspondent that “Youfurnish the pictures. I’ll furnish the war.” Dan Rather tried to combinethe two functions. Amid the countdown to Armageddon, CBS beamed out to itsaffiliates a newscast with an exultant Rather reporting that Cruise missileswere raining down on the Beast of Baghdad. As he spoke, computerized contourmapping of Baghdad streets and buildings flashed across the screen.
“It’s not known how many casualties are being caused by the bombing,”Rather announced portentiously on the bombing broadcast. Moments later itemerged that this was all a rehearsal, with Pentagon correspondent DavidMartin. Rather, who has been having a tremendous El Ni?o winter,looks as ecstatic as he did years ago hanging onto the lampost in Galvestonas he reported the onrush of the hurricane that made his name.
Meanwhile, over at MSNBC, the blighted lovechild of Bill Gates and GeneralElectric, the liberal intellectuals were gallantly fighting their own virtualwar. Viewers on Friday, February 20, were treated to those Rambos of theNation magazine, Eric Alterman and William Arkin discoursing on how thewar should be fought.
Arkin, who barely knows the difference between a tank and a tow truck,savaged the UN’s decision to allow Iraq to sell more oil in return for food.As Richard Pearle gazed on in wonderment, Arkin said the food shipmentswould sap the resolve of the Iraqi people to topple Saddam. Alterman wasas eager as Arkin to see the bombs fly. The petulant pundit lost all patiencewhen a caller phoned in to say that his son was on an aircraft carrier inthe Gulf, and had told his dad that he and shipmates had lost all respectfor President “Zipperboy”, who was playing with fire in Iraq todistract attention from the Lewinski scandal. Alterman snapped back thatthe caller’s son should shut up and follow orders. He had no business, Altermansaid, saying such rude things about the Commander in Chief.
Uncle Sam Eats Crow
In the crisis aftermath, the US press had enormous difficulty in facingthe fact that Saddam Hussein won a great victory and Uncle Sam ate crow.Instead of the glorious satisfaction of dropping bombs and missiles on Baghdad(a project rendered inoperable by the students in Ohio and Minnesota, plusdiplomatic isolation of the US and UK), the war party here had to endurethe smooth-tongued, nattily be-suited UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, reportingthat a satisfactory agreement had been reached with the Beast of Baghdad,described by Annan as “calm” and “well informed”.
It was comical to read the New York Times Wednesday February 25, in whichthe wretched Madeliene Albright had her flack Jamie Rubin try to put a redeemingspin on the debacle. The front page story, by Michael Gordon and ElaineSciolono, was headlined “Fingerprints on Iraqi Accord Belong to Albright”and announced that it was the Secretary of State who had basically writtenAnnan’s negotiating position before he departed for Baghdad.
It was clear that Annan had successfully brokered an agreement that contradictedthe adamant US position enunciated by Albright in her first major speechas Secretary of State on the topic of Iraq-that sanctions would not be liftedso long as Saddam Hussein remained in power.
The New York Times’s two big stories on the Annan mission buried thisall-important concession at the very end of the stories. Christopher Wren’spiece from the UN had thirty paragraphs. It was only in the thirtieth, finalparagraph that Wren got around to reporting that the agreement “pledgesboth sides to cooperate better, to enable UNSCOM to report to the SecurityCouncil that all weapons of mass destruction have been eliminated, afterwhich the crippling oil embargo and other sanctions on Iraq can be removed.”(Last sentence of the entire dispatch, our italics.)
It was the same with Gordon and Sciolino’s piece, which had 55 paragraphs,with “Mr. Hussein’s insistence on a deadline for lifting economic sanctionsagainst Iraq” making a furtive appearance only in paragraph 50. CP