Friday, August 25, 2006

As proof that some people thought the Iraq invasion was wrong from the start, I give you this column, which I wrote in the Register in MARCH 2003, just after we bombed Baghdad.

War is more than
a dramatic series
for the airwaves
The imminent war is having a profound effect on radio and television content, as it will in the coming weeks and months. Anything that can halt the weapons of mass distraction known as “Meet My Folks” and “Married by America” can’t be all bad, I suppose.
Then again, we know this drill all too well: Regular series will be displaced and/or interrupted; cable news networks will see ratings jump, correspondents will make names for themselves, and television will ratchet up the technology and hyperbole of war coverage to inform and impress and sicken viewers.
War should be sickening, actually. But too many broadcast and cable outlets have been treating its coming like a tasty meal. “Dateline NBC” did a solid job Tuesday night on Iraq stories, but we seem to be on the verge of another YEAR of breathless “Dateline” stories about this topic and no one needs that.
Sick, too, are those who fear the Bush administration policies more than fear itself. They increasingly feel like aliens in a strange land.
It’s not just the determination to wage war, evident since September. But the airwaves are full of harsh sounds and sights that illuminate how much freedom and hope was lost on Sept. 11, 2001. Forget the Dixie Chicks thing: How about the instant vilification of anyone who doesn’t agree with war? The cure (a police state) will become worse than the disease (terror).
The United Nations has blown its chance to be relevant in today’s brave new world, say hawks. Uh-huh. If you don’t agree with us, you’re irrelevant.
On Fox News Channel Tuesday morning, bubbly hosts joined a guest from a conservative magazine in gleefully mocking anyone who didn’t totally support the war call by President Bush. It was a pep rally. Tuesday and Wednesday a retired military colonel excitedly used a graphics device to point out Iraqi airfield targets on a satellite image. He sounded like John Madden before a big game.
A mix of opinions was heard on CNN, meanwhile, and C-SPAN actually gave voice to callers who felt this war would be catastrophic now and in the future. Liberal traitors?
The radio shows, meanwhile, took a more serious informational tone than usual, and were usually careful to give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt. Don Imus on WFAN brought out as much information and analysis in his varied interviews as any national news anchor. Moderately conservative Ray Dunaway and Diane Smith worked similar turf on WTIC.
But a rare liberal voice on AM radio, Colin McEnroe, was sparing no punches in his Tuesday afternoon show on WTIC with Bruce Stevens.
While Paul Pacelli on WELI was exploring domestic-terrorism fears during war, McEnroe was taking Bush to task for his administration’s inaction on the Palestinian issue and policies harmful to civil rights, the environment, the spiraling federal deficit and relations with Russia and China.
“I still regard him (Bush) as a horrific president on virtually every level,” said McEnroe, who said fear-mongering “was one of the ways they run this country.” (Later he interviewed Elie Wiesel, who is for taking out Saddam.)
The war will be brought home even faster this time, via reporters “embedded” in fighting units. Satellite phones and high-tech cameras should take TV viewers to scenes of death and destruction. Death in real time.
You get the feeling that certain business elements (some cable channels?) have been cheering on this conflict for months. Sad fact: Some people in this world profit from war and a world in near-chaos. Bitter Democrats say that describes most Republicans today.
CBS and ESPN certainly don’t care for the timing of this war, with NCAA tournament coverage beginning today for the men and Saturday for the women. Games could be interrupted, shifted to other networks or ignored during breaking news. NBC said it would move its PGA coverage this weekend to CNBC.
No matter. The normal throes of March madness have been joined by another madness and another “reality TV” this week.
Spring fever was put on hold Wednesday night at 8:07 p.m. _ 48 hours after the president’s ultimatum speech. It is time to support the brave troops who have been sent into harm’s way. As we view the terrifying coverage of missile strikes and battles to oust Saddam Hussein, we will withhold judgment on the price of “pre-emptive defensive attacks” that may galvanize the ignorant masses who hate us.
One of history’s biggest gambles will pay off in the short run if Hussein flees before bombs level Iraq. And yet, an invasion is promised either way, to find the weapons. Already we pine for the sports version of March Madness.
Contact Joe Amarante at

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