Firstly let me state for the record: I have been against this war all the way. But now that it has started, I just hope that it's over quickly. There's no doubt as to which side will be the victorious one, so from now on the best outcome is one which involves the least number of casualties.
I tried to look up "the first casualty of war" on Googlism, to follow up to Mike's competition, but used Google instead when Googlism didn't reply. Which is how I came across an article by Terry Jones, published in the Telegraph in December 2001: Why grammar is the first casualty of war:
The other thing that worries me about Bush and Blair's "war on terrorism" is: how will they know when they've won it? With most wars, you can say you've won when the other side is either all dead or surrenders. But how is terrorism going to surrender? It's hard for abstract nouns to surrender. In fact it's very hard for abstract nouns to do anything at all of their own volition - even trained philologists can't negotiate with them. It's difficult to find their hide-outs, useless to try to cut off their supplies.The whole article is well worth a read.
Moreover, in its current usage, terrorism cannot be committed by a country. When America bombed a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory under the impression that it was a chemical weapons establishment, that was stupid. But it was not an act of terrorism because the US Government did it officially. And it apologised for it.
That's very important: no self-respecting terrorist ever apologises. It's one of the few things that distinguishes legitimate governments from terrorists. So, it was difficult for President Bush to know whom to bomb after the World Trade Centre outrage. If Bermuda had done it, then it would have been simple: he could have bombed the Bahamas. It must have been really irritating that the people who perpetrated such a horrendous catastrophe were not a nation.
"Gulf War I was done 11 years ago, and war-making technology has advanced tremendously since then," Rumsfeld said. "From the guns to the planes to the missile-guidance systems, what you'll see in this one puts the original Gulf War to shame."I mention the above because, dammit, I'm trying to not be cynical - but it's hard not to notice, as others have done, that with the first bombs being dropped at 0230GMT, this translates to 2030EST for the east coast of America, which just happens to allow prime-time ratings for the news coverage of the event.
"The budget for Gulf War II: The Vengeance is somewhere in the neighborhood of $85 billion," Rumsfeld continued. "And every penny of it is up there on your screen."
The first round of bombing seems to have been surprisingly minimal - Kevin regards this as a positive sign: "It gives me more faith in the idea that we are going to help rebuild Iraq afterwards." However, Shelley has pointed out that: 'With the whole world watching, waiting to condemn, the US was not going to go in and drop 2000 missiles all at once on Baghdad. In prime time news hour no less. Besides, what did one former general say last night on TV? Something along the lines of, "We can't use all our missiles in this conflict. We have to save some for the next war." '
I was pleasantly relieved to wake up this morning and learn that instead of the catastrophic bombing raid expected there had only been a relatively minor one. Iraq Body Count has so far reported only sixteen civilian casualties, which, although sixteen too many, is still far fewer than had been predicted. Still, I imagine the US is just breaking us in gently, and saving their "Shock and awe" tactics until later.
Coming back to the point about the bombing starting in the prime time news hour, questions have already been raised about media coverage of the war, particularly in America. There have been reports of a huge influx of American readers to online European news sources, suggested to be because of the number of Americans who do not feel that they can obtain sufficient unbiased media coverage from US sources. And now, a recent report from Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting has found that the four major nightly network newscasts (from ABC, CBS, PBS and NBC have largely acted as mouthpieces for the Bush administration's propaganda, completely abdicating their responsibility to provide balanced coverage of opposing viewpoints leading up to the war in Iraq.
More than two-thirds (267 out of 393) of the guests featured were from the United States. Of the U.S. guests, a striking 75 percent (199) were either current or former government or military officials. Only one of the official U.S. sources-- Sen. Edward Kennedy (D.-Mass.)-- expressed skepticism or opposition to the war. Even this was couched in vague terms: "Once we get in there how are we going to get out, what?s the loss for American troops are going to be, how long we're going to be stationed there, what?s the cost is going to be," said Kennedy on NBC Nightly News (2/5/03).The report analysed two weeks of news coverage from the four stations starting from the end of January.
Half of the non-official U.S. skeptics were "persons in the street"; five of them were not even identified by name. Only one U.S. source, Catherine Thomason of Physicians for Social Responsibility, represented an anti-war organization. Of all 393 sources, only three (less than 1 percent) were identified with organized protests or anti-war groups.
Last week, 12 Republican congressmen, including Duncan Hunter, the Californian who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, signed a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, raising pointed questions about his policy of allowing journalists to travel with American troops. The congressmen said journalists - specifically Peter Jennings, the ABC News anchor - were asking soldiers "inappropriate" questions, like what anxiety they had about fighting. The congressmen asked Mr. Rumsfeld to explain why he was not imposing "censorship."So much for the ideals of freedom of speech in the press.
Now for two rather contrasting sources - an intelligent article from The Times - "Why we are really at war" - which explores some of the false propaganda put forth by the Bush administration and examines probable key motives for the war.
A second unstated objective is simply to demonstrate military power. Even before September 11, key members of the Bush Administration were convinced that America should demonstrate its immense military might ? and its ability to use it. This, they believed, would help to preserve global order by intimidating potential enemies such as China, Russia and North Korea.And a blogger in Baghdad - no, not Kevin Sites, the other one - Salam Pax, who offers an insight into the situation first-hand. It makes for very poignant reading, and what's being impressed upon me at the moment is the awfulness of not being able to do anything except wait for the bombs to hit, somewhere.
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As the war begins, I can therefore share an aspiration with the anti-war lobby. Let us hope that Saddam is gone by the end of next month ? and George W. Bush by the end of next year.