I read the news today, oh boy. From the Associated Press, the AP no less, on the road, no doubt, to now redoubtable Basra. It seems that there’s trouble in that river city… big trouble. And that starts with “tee” and that rhymes with AP and here now the news. But wait, Oh boy!— the AP is not near Basra, as just assumed. For Nicole Winfield, the AP writer is typing away from Camp As Sayliyah, in Qatar, a country consistently mispronounced by CNN play-by-play miscasters as “Cutter.” Yes, Nicole is 400 miles from the fray, as the tomahawk flies, getting her news from a “spokesman.” Obviously not everyone can be embedded with the troops. I read the news today, oh boy, and here it is—
British to Fight Militia in Basra
By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press Writer
CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar - In an about-face, British forces Tuesday said they have decided to move against militia fighters who have prevented them from securing the southern Iraq city of Basra.The decision to declare Basra a "military target" came after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned of a humanitarian crisis in the city and said that "urgent measures"had to be taken to restore electricity and water. “We’re obviously assessing the situation before we commence operations to take out the non-regular militia which seems to be set to opposing our taking of the objective,” said Group Capt. Al Lockwood, spokesman for British forces in the Persian Gulf.
With more than 1 million people in Basra, “we need to secure the city for the inhabitants and to ensure that their basic necessities in life are taken care of, and obviously that the necessary humanitarian aid, medical facilities are restored as quickly as possible,” he said.
Obviously these Iraqis just don’t understand the situation. I mean, the day of their liberation is near, as Donald Rumsfeld intoned last week in his best imitation of Dwight Eisenhower. And even the ever-quaint and familial cluster bombs dropped on them last Saturday failed to get the masses out shopping for flowers a la Clarissa Dalloway. I guess they’re reluctant to grasp the concept that the English-speaking people who are killing and wounding them in great quantity are really doing so to take care of “their basic necessities of life.” So, once again, the necessities of death take precedence over the necessities of life. We are invading you to bring you humanitarian aid. I mean, couldn’t you just mail it? Oh, boy!
I guess, too, that the already-confused people of Basra are also perplexed to learn that their city is now officially declared a “military target.” And that this declaration was made right after Kofi Annan requested that “urgent measures” be taken because of the humanitarian crisis. Of course, thanks to UN sanctions, the folks of Basra have been basking in a humanitarian crisis for over ten years. And last week, thanks to Kofi Annan’s immediate decision to pull all UN agencies out of Iraq, UNESCO also fled, swinishly abandoning its vital responsibilities for the suffering Iraqi children. And now, Kofi Annan, lacking even an elemental snippet of courage to face down George W. Bush, labels his own excremental doings, a “humanitarian crisis.” And never a nation to miss an opportunity to impose chaos or famine on the oppressed of the world, the British declare Basra to be a “legitimate military target.” All done in the name of humanitarian aid, so they decree, and now, to save the people of Basra, the city will be “legitimately” attacked. So declared the British. They are such sticklers for the law, these British. God better save the Queen, because no one else will. Holy Vietnam! Oh boy!
Yes, it is painfully obvious that the Iraqi people fail to understand the situation. I mean some of the fighters have even failed to run right out to the local mall and buy uniforms. The Allies (a synonym for Coalition-of-the-Willing) lament that it’s just not fair for these Iraqis to be mounting a defense against an invading force without uniforms. One must dress to kill. I mean, in Hollywood, armies always have uniforms.That’s how you know who to cheer for. So there they stand, those thick-headed Iraqis, blazing away with their vintage Czech rifles, downing helicopters, and generally raising hell with the invading forces of the Coalition-of-the-Whining. It’s pathetic that the self-styled, most powerful military force on the planet, has taken to complaining about dress codes and rules of engagement. This is not some computer game, generals! I mean, these people just may be in homeland-defense-mode, CODE RED. Haven’t any of you crisply-starched generals read about the art of war? For openers you might try, Napoleon’s invasion of (and retreat from) Russia, The Turkish War of Revolution, The Russo-Finnish War, Mao’s “Protracted Conflict,” and most familiarly (and painfully), Vietnam (both French and American experiences).
Perhaps they have been so awed by their own Weapons-Massed-For-Destruction that their personal fog-of-war set in early. All the audio-visual pyrotechnics aren’t worth a war council full of politicians when the battle is finally joined, on the ground, house-to-house. Real people dying up-close-and-personal is a politician’s nightmare. (George Walker Bush, refer to Lyndon Baines Johnson). And how interesting to see the under-weaponed, no-frill Iraqi military briefing, replete with real (and wrinkled) maps taped together and hanging on the wall, and red arrows indicating possible enemy strategic movements. They even used old-fashioned pointers with rubber tips. One could almost whiff the grapeshot.
And did the Coalition generals also forget that strategic bombing studies indicate that, while destroying buildings, in fact, bombardment hardens the resolve of the people on the receiving end. And that, in the Koran, destruction from the sky is one of the proofs of the existence of God. “We will not believe in you until you cause the sky to fall upon us in pieces, as you have threatened to do.” I mean, that should harden the resolve of anyone.
It seems, too, that while the Shock-And-Awe-Over-Baghdad product to assassinate Saddam Hussein was impressive, the Coalition just might have run out of targets too early, at least in Baghdad. This is both a marketing and cinematic problem. Nothing to show, and from the same camera angle. Boring for the home-team crowd. But quiet skies mean survival for the people of Baghdad, and that counts for a lot, particularly these days. For survival screws up both a lot of anger, and a lot of courage, that is, resolve. And while few of the shocked-and-awed six million people in Baghdad were guerrillas, militia, non-regular militia, Iraqi soldiers, Republican Guard, militants, or even terrorists, they might be now. With supreme ineptitude, not only has George W. Bush squandered the world’s affection in 18 months, he’s made Saddam a hero. Oh boy!
Reports indicate that most of the Iraqi casualties are civilian. No surprise there. So it has been in every war, and thus will it remain, and so much for smart bombs. The hospitals are loaded with women and children, and interviews with this potent force are all over Turkish TV. And while CNN reports that women and children are being forced to the front line to act as shields, perhaps they too are defending their homeland. Besides, the Coalition generals are complaining about the lack of front lines, and that the Iraqis are dirty fighters, popping up all over the place, even feigning surrender and then opening fire. Yes, these seem to be desperate people. And what they’re desperate about may no longer have much to do with Saddam Hussein.
Unfortunately, the leaders of the Coalition-of-Overwhelming-Force seem to have underwhelming imaginations. For example, how would you behave if your beloved homeland was being invaded and your women and children brutalized? What would be your rules-of-engagement? Imagine being threatened repeatedly with the horrific prospect of aerial bombardment. Then being, as the Koran says, “pursued by fiery comets,” all of this pre-packaged and delivered as “Shock-and-Awe.” But the people of Baghdad are still there, surviving. And in a scene that could have been in “The Mouse That Roared,” a farmer takes a pot shot and bags an Apache attack helicopter. It’s enough to give anyone a real surge of real patriotism, and not the lapel pin variety either. So that seems to be where the Iraqis are now, tough and fighting as if hell is at their door. It is. And while the Coalition will surely win the war, they will never win the peace. Oh boy! Oh boy!
Finally, TV can indeed be highly educational. It’s most instructive to see the war from another perspective than that portrayed by CNN and BBC. Particulary during translations. Last weekend, when the Iraqi Information Minister Ramadan lamented about the role of the UN, he made a criticizing reference about Kofi Annan’s decision to have the UN flee Iraq in deference to the United States. Immediately, the BBC bottom-screen streamer reported that Ramadan, speaking in Arabic, “curses Kofi Annan.” I was surprised. Is this so, I asked my wife, fluent in Arabic, Turkish, and English?
No, she said, the Arabic word he used translates as “blame.”
And thus I learned wherein lies the entire problem.
So who’s to blame for this latest unGodly mess?
George W. Bush? Saddam Hussein? Kofi Annan? The UN? The French? The American people? The Iraqi people? Tony Blair? CNN? Israel? SUVs? Zionists? The New York Times? The POWs? Wall Street? The weapons inspectors? Hollywood?
Osama? Terrorists all over the globe? Micronesia? People in general? The sick? The hungry? The powerful? The powerless? You? Me? The fellow hiding behind the tree? All the living and the dead?
The answer is…Yes.
For I read the news today, oh boy, and…
Amen. James Ryan writes and lives in Istanbul, Turkey. 25 March 2003
*A Day in the Life (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, 1967)
I read the news today oh boy About a lucky man who made the grade And though the news was rather sad Well, I just had to laugh I saw the photograph He blew his mind out in a car He didn't notice that the lights had changed A crowd of people stood and stared They'd seen his face before Nobody was really sure If he was from the House of Lords.
I saw a film today oh boy The English Army had just won the war A crowd of people turned away but I just had to look Having read the book I'd love to turn you on
Woke up, fell out of bed, Dragged a comb across my head Found my way downstairs and drank a cup, And looking up I noticed I was late. Found my coat and grabbed my hat Made the bus in seconds flat Found my way upstairs and had a smoke, and Somebody spoke and I went into a dream
I read the news today oh boy Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire And though the holes were rather small They had to count them all Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. I'd love to turn you on