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Gore, Decorum and Humanity
by Maximilian C. Forte
30 March 2003 03:45 UTC
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These are just some of my preliminary reflections on the recent "outrage"
(as per CNN, Fox "News", US military spokespersons, and the NYSE which
refuses admission to Al Jazeera reporters), over the broadcasting of images
of US and British POWs and dead soldiers. Incidentally, much of this was
also shown on CBC television while I was in Canada a few days ago, without
as much of the sanctimonious outcry.

For me, the problem does not seem to be one of the inappropriate display of
gore, or lack of decorum. Showing interviews with US soldiers does not count
as inhumane treatment (if so, tell me how), nor does it warrant the kind of
indignation and duplicitous cries about the Geneva Conventions voiced by
Paul Wolfowitz. It wouldn't even be inhumane treatment to expose the POWs to
the same risks experienced by ordinary citizens of Baghdad: perhaps they
should be housed in the luxurious and comfortable surroundings of one of the
presidential palaces. As for showing the dead, well, that's actual war
coverage, not sanitized press briefings used as a means to broadcast lies to
"the enemy".

I think that what irks most pro-war American and British viewers is that
what is being shown is the destructability of Anglo-American forces, their
vulnerability, and their mortality. The "progress" of this whole war has
been jarring to their sensibilities: "they're not surrendering", "we were
told they would welcome us as their liberators", "these aren't the people we
war-gamed against", "we never expected so much resistance". The aura of
invincibility has been shattered, just as easily as four or more soldiers
were shattered by a suicide bomber that provoked one retired US Army officer
to "comment" on Fox "news": "these are the types of sub-human species we are
up against".

The almost ballet-like execution of the attacks on the World Trade Center
and Pentagon--incidentally, what might also be called a "shock and awe"
attack, a "pre-emptive" strike by Al Qaeda--almost demolished this sense of
invicibility and supremacy. Box cutters, only 19 men? And yet, seven
buildings demolished, one damaged, four planes hijacked, and almost 3000
dead--and those were just the most immediate, measurable results. No wonder
then that, soon after, all footage of the events were almost completely
expunged from US networks, and remain off air to this day. You don't want to
remind the "lone superpower" of how alone and penetrable it really is.
American military spokespersons and analysts loved to use phrases, in Kosovo
and elsewhere, about "getting up close and personal", "getting in their
face", or "reaching out and touching someone"...little did they imagine that
as they spoke these phrases someone else was about to get up close and
personal with them. The arrogant and brash announcement of plans for an even
taller WTC will allow others sufficient time to plan for its re-destruction,
I would not be surprised at all (not any more anyway). It may be the tallest
building in the world, but for how long? Buildings, in this world, will soon
have to be measured in units of time, rather than height.

The pictures shown on Al Jazeera, no more shocking than the video of the
beheading of Daniel Pearl (incidentally, the online video of that was linked
to by some US newspapers online), reverse the complacency fostered by what
actually does appear to be a renewed colonial racism against Arabs. In
political chat rooms it was not uncommon to hear individuals laugh at Arabs
as "pussies", "Arabs can't fight", "they surrendered even to journalists in
'91!", exclaimed with real gusto--the effeminate Arab, savage, yet soon to
be domesticated by "shock and awe" and "overwhelming firepower".

We are constantly told that the outcome of this war is a "foregone
conclusion". Is it? I am not so sure anymore.

PS: An update on a personal boycott: in one day alone, insolvent as I am,
the equivalent of $10 US went to France and China instead of the US, just
from groceries. I hope the other 33,000+ signatories at www.adbusters.org
are even more successful on a daily basis.

All the best,


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