FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Pinocchios of G-Rate War Hide Scars of the X-rated Battlefield

Dehumanizing the enemy is the first unwritten rule of war. The impulse is psychologically excusable, because it is easier to kill a subhuman thing than it is to kill a mirror image of yourself (a father, a lover, a son). Thus America’s rich gallery of slur-infected enemies over the years: krauts, wops, greasers, slants, yellow bastards, yellow monkeys, reds, pinkos, gooks, ragheads, sand-niggers, and, every mom and pop’s current favorite, terrorists. Except in their fixation on race and color, Americans aren’t unique at this. They’re Islamdom’s Great Satan of choice, remember, and the lusty stocks of porn and bared bellies on American streets (not to mention Geraldo and Bill O’Reilly on American airwaves) are a godsend for the other side’s muezzins of poisoned euphemisms.

To dehumanize assumes that the aim is always to make something seem evil. But it’s also possible to dehumanize something by making it seem saintly, by placing it beyond human reproach. Americans in this latest war are managing to be unique in that one respect. They have “positively” dehumanized their own troops, their own campaign, and consequently their own means and ends in Iraq. Soldiers are not grunts or jarheads but heroes on a mission of mercy. They won’t sack or loot on their way to victory like soldiers in every war since Homo Sapiens first took up sticks. They’re liberators who kiss babies and treat enemy wounded. They’re innocents positively amazed that the enemy would shoot at them.

They’re also pawns in the most dishonest reality show since the Vietnam War’s nightly crawl of waste on the evening news. We are told daily of the Ba’ath Party’s total control of Iraqi society from Baghdad down to every village street corner. But the American war effort is a study in total control, too, of a war positively dehumanized at every level: Politicians, military leaders and their media lackeys, in bed with the military rather than embedded within it, are daily producing a scripted war of advances and virtue more divorced from reality than Max’s dream in “Where the Wild Things Are.”

News stories from the front for the most part are clips for the military’s “Army of One” ads, produced in a void of analytical perspective and to the drone of self-important reminders of inflated secrecy: “I can’t tell you where we are…” “I can’t tell you where we’re going” “I can’t tell you what they’re doing” Of course not. You’ve not only been embedded. You’ve been captured. A picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words. In this war, a picture is worth a thousand veils. At home, the networks’ anchored news streams have been closest in kind to porno movies: A little meaningless chatter sets things up, and then money shots of bomb blasts over Baghdad or the Pentagon’s latest dirty videos of things being blown up. The human and emotional cost is an afterthought. There is purpose behind the veil. When war is so positively dehumanized, the possibility of defeat is eliminated. Setbacks become narrative devices, stepping tombstones for America’s moral superiority. It is war as magical realism. But it isn’t real.

Contrary to Donald Rumsfeld’s G-rated previews, the invasion of Iraq hasn’t been a different kind of war, or a more “humane” war, as he put it last week after the “shock and awe” show. The bombs are fancier but the blasts are their same dumb and dumber selves. Civilians are dying by U.S. and Iraqi hands. Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction have yet to make their American debut. But B-52s unloading 2,000- and 5,000-pound bombs by the Dresden-dozen aren’t quite weapons of mannerly destruction, either. And the fiercest duels since day one have pitted Americans against Iraqis in daily briefings of lethal Pinocchios. Between President Bush, Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers on one side and Tarik Aziz, Taha Yassin Ramadan and Saddam’s ghost on the other, it’s difficult to tell whose noses stretch to Sodom and whose to Gomorrah.

Americans are incensed at Al-Jazeera’s broadcasting of piles of bloodied civilians and American POWs. But it’s not sensitivity. It’s self-righteous cowardice. It’s also quite simple: If viewers are not disgusted by the images they see, if they’re not sick to their stomachs and wracked with insomnia, if their faith in humanity isn’t shaken to the core from watching the war news, then they’re not seeing the war. They’re watching a version as dehumanized as those blurry green shapes scurrying across a night-vision device before being evaporated. They’re watching high-tech propaganda. In that sense, the coverage of Al-Jazeera has been more honest than most of American media’s Goebbels-gobbled reporting. Al-Jazeera’s coverage disturbs. It angers. It keeps you up nights. As it should. War isn’t “The Tonight Show” with bombs. Nor is an Iraqi victim any less sacred, any less deplorable, than an American.

It isn’t obscene to report war’s inhumanity no matter how repellent. It is obscene to romanticize soldiers, to sanctify the war and sanitize its consequences in order to make it more acceptable. And that’s one obscenity Americans are happy to live with, to peddle in schools, to hang on the rustle of yellow ribbons, to preach in church or at the next civic club meeting, and to doze off to at night when CNN’s latest from the battlefield is as good as warm milk for a good night’s sleep.

PIERRE TRISTAM is a Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial writer. Reach him at ptristam@att.net.

Today’s Features

Uri Avnery
A Crooked Mirror: Presstitution and the Theater of Operations

David Vest
Can You Hear the Silence?

Anthony Gancarski
Colin Powell Telemarketer

David Lindorff
Takoma: the Dolphin Who Refused to Fight

Michael Roberts
War, Debts and Deficits

Ramzy Baroud
Now That Iraqis Are Being Killed Is Israel Any More Secure?

Jo Wilding
From Baghdad with Tears

Anton Antonowicz
Cluster Bombs on Babylon

Alison Weir
Israel, We Won’t Forget Rachel Corrie

Bruce Jackson
Hating Wolf Blitzer’s Voice

Eliot Katz
War’s First Week

Steve Perry
War Web Log 04/03

Keep CounterPunch Alive:
Make a Tax-Deductible Donation Today Online!

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail