April 01, 2003



Near the end of the video, Madonna and overweight female dancers in military garb drive a car through the wall and storm the [fashion] show, strutting menacingly and spraying a roof-mounted water cannon at the paparazzi and crowd. The shots are juxtaposed with rapid edits of planes dropping bombs and huge fiery explosions.
--synopsis of the cancelled music video, "American Life"

Posted by BruceR at 09:28 PM

RATHER PATHETIC Media analysis of


Media analysis of this war has been exceptionally poor. Take the Globe and Mail piece today by John MacArthur, who was such an acutely accurate analyst of the 1991 war.

MacArthur tries to criticize the war coverage as being jingoistic, lacking candour. He admits up front, however, that it has far and away "already revealed more about the consequences of organized violence than we saw in all six weeks of the first gulf war." Embedded reporters "have actually described combat and death the way it's supposed to be done," he concedes, grudgingly. So what, exactly leaves him unsatisfied? That the war coverage, you see, isn't violent enough.

Here's what MacArthur doesn't want to see in stories about wars:

"Supplies being loaded and unloaded..."

Okay, nothing about the rear area personnel that make up 90 per cent of any army and never see front line action. Check.

"Feature stories about lonely soldiers far from home..."

Okay, nothing about the actual soldiers' feelings. Check.

"Armoured vehicles and infantry moving from hither to yon..."

Okay, nothing either about the 99 per cent of war that involves soldiers doing things other than combat, like moving. Right. Get all that off the air, no matter how many Americans might be craning to catch a look at their friend or relative who hasn't been killing things today. Got it.

In its place, what would the MacArthur Network carry?

"gruesome footage of U.S. soldiers killed."

"a hideously charred corpse... possibly caused by errant American bombs." (Possibly?)

"death -- the bloody kind"

MacArthur wants this coverage on, all channels all the time, because, he admits, he "would like people to be revolted by it [war]." His feeling is that if there were round-the-clock pictures of Iraqi brutality towards captured prisoners, and of atrocities that at the time of his writing were unattributable to either side, this would lead to American revulsion and withdrawal from foreign wars. I'm certainly not convinced of that, to start with... if anything, extensive coverage of brutalized Americans would likely lead to the final dropping of gloves in this war, and the hardening of every American soldier's heart.

If you believe, as John Keegan, Richard Holmes, Niall Ferguson and others have argued, that warfare is essentially a baseline human activity, warped perhaps by technology and civilization, but still a primal impulse at heart, then this argument makes no sense on its face. You can't by definition turn people away from war by showing it to them. It is not an alien manifestation or aberration. At best, you will only desensitize us to it. CNN's not lingering any more than necessary on the implicit pain and suffering could well be saving more Iraqi lives than it's costing.

Back in 1991, MacArthur argued for journalists to show the face of war, so that wars were entered into with full understanding and democratic participation. That's a noble goal, and his work had a lot to do with the changes in the way Army PR in many western countries deals with the media today. But now he's arguing for something else... a crusade by all journalists AGAINST war. It's a blight on society, he feels, like poverty or AIDS, and its journalists' job to try and eradicate it through education and shaming. There's not even a pretense of objectivity possible if that's your overriding aim. His ideal network, with its Clockwork Orange style constant images of pain, death and suffering, over and over again to the exclusion of all else, would be a debasement of humanity possibly even more than the battle itself.

Posted by BruceR at 06:43 PM



I'm actually surprised the American pause has taken as long as it has... I was sure 3rd Inf still had one good battle left in them. I still think they might... but today was the first day since the war began I can't see anything on the battle map worth updating yet. All the ground fighting is in the cities that have been bypassed, as the Americans try to clear their supply lines. Reinforcements are a minimum of three weeks from engaging the enemy, so it'll be interesting to see if the Americans try one more push before the handoff. There's no real reason they have to, of course... it's unlikely to shorten the war much, and be more costly in lives regardless. A conservative plan would be to wait for 4th Mech, win the inevitable big battle when they arrive, and finish the encirclement of Baghdad by the end of April: that would be almost certain to succeed, even without any Iraqi missteps. It's just odd to see an administration that took such a big first-round gamble suddenly switch to the cautious approach.

Part of the problem may be that there's no obvious intermediate tactical objective that's worth grabbing at this point, preparatory to a Baghdad drive. Pushing the front line past Karbala just gives the Americans another city or two to subdue. Sending the Marines across the river to Kut disperses the American fighting power and stretches the supply lines still further for little obvious gain. No, the Americans are in a good position to start a phase 2 (main force battle and encirclement of Baghdad) right where they are now. They just need either the Iraqis to come out to fight, speeding their own destruction, or for more troops to arrive so they can go in and root them out anyway. One or the other will happen sooner or later, so why not spend a little longer on the supply-line/insurgency problem?

Posted by BruceR at 06:14 PM



Marines patrolling Nasiriyah and other areas of heavy fighting have already detained more than 300 men in civilian clothing.

--Washington Post, today

Posted by BruceR at 06:00 PM



Well, that was an interesting hour... for those who dropped by, no I suddenly didn't change my name to Angela and get a fondness for the colour pink. Something went deeply, deeply, Hal-in-2001-deeply wrong with the Blogger template server... made for some interesting reading, though. Anyway, the site's now a total mess, as I seem to have lost a couple months of template changes... I'm too tired to fix it all now, though, so I'll just put up the battle maps link again HERE and try and fix the rest of the mess in the morning. Sigh.

UPDATE: Up and running again. Kewl.

Posted by BruceR at 01:06 AM