David Vest
Television as Weapon of Mass Destruction
Tue Apr 22 20:56:58 2003
208.152.73.219


Television as Weapon of Mass Destruction
Smoking Gun? You're Watching It
By DAVID VEST, April 9, 2003


News that the first C-130 Hercules had landed at
newly-secured Saddam International Airport outside
Baghdad, and that U.S. Marines have been told
they can dispense with the charade of lugging their
chemical protection suits around in the desert, could
only mean one thing: the window for a credible
discovery of weapons of mass destruction was rapidly
closing. Had Bush, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz slammed the
window shut on their own fingers?

Discovery of WMDs in a country controlled by Saddam
Hussein would be one thing. Discovery of WMDs in a
country controlled by "coalition" forces would
be quite another. Could anyone ever be convinced the
evidence hadn't been delivered by the people who were
looking for it?

First try convincing international observers that a
country that didn't use WMDs to defend its own capital
city was a threat to use them on another continent.
Exactly how did a regime unable to mount a credible
military defense of its own headquarters pose a
present
danger to Washington, Los Angeles or Dollywood?

WMDs were never really an issue until Colin Powell
needed to throw together something to talk about when
he took his case to the United Nations. The
U.S. has been trying to supply supporting evidence
ever since the day of Powell's unsuccessful
presentation. Since the Security Council didn't buy it
and since the U.S. and its coalition partners (Great
Britain, Rwanda, etc.) ignored most of the planet and
launched their attack anyway, the question arises as
to why the U.S. even bothers to go on looking for
"smoking guns."

A decent respect for the opinions of humankind can't
be the answer, or the U.S. wouldn't have ignored the
will of the U.N., the pleas of the pope and
the advice of its oldest allies. Even among the
Coalition of the Willing, only in Romania did pre-war
polls show those in favor of using military
force against Saddam Hussein outnumbering those
opposed -- ironically, because Romanians deposed their
own iron-fisted dictator (Nicolae Ceausescu)
all by themselves, without U.S. military assistance.

Could the search be motivated by something so banal
as the desire to say "you were wrong and we were
right" to the UN? Why would Bush care? He has
already declared the UN "irrelevant."

No, the target audience being lined up in the
cross-hair of the quest for a "smoking gun" is the
American (and British) electorate. If Tommy Franks and
company could produce even one or two rusting
barrels of "weaponizable" chemicals, as long as they
didn't turn out to be nothing more than farm
pesticides or mosquito repellants, then Bush and
Blair could run as the men who saved civilization,
whether they find Saddam or not.

Even if no "smoking gun" is ever found, it's to
Bush's advantage if the mainstream media keeps
concentrating on it. Every moment of airtime spent
discussing WMDs is a moment less that can be devoted
to stories like the one about the Red Cross announcing
that casualties (including civilian casualties) in
Baghdad are "too high to count" and that the wounded
are reduced to trying to get themselves to hospitals
on
foot.

Who's more out of touch with reality? Saddam's
spokesman, claiming that Americans aren't even in
Baghdad? This, remember, was a regime capable of
putting Saddam Hussein on TV almost daily, even with
American tanks cruising the streets of Baghdad. Or
American television, with its depiction of a
nearly bloodless war, with all the action occurring
offstage, as in Greek tragedy? Aaron Brown told
Democracy Now the other day that he won't show
pictures of casualties because he finds them
"pornographic."

Thus has television itself become the real smoking
gun, an auxiliary weapon of mass destruction, helping
to kill people by refusing to show what is happening
to them.
----------------------------
David Vest writes the Rebel Angel column for
CounterPunch. He can be reached at:
davidvest@springmail.com
____________________________
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