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Gambling with Human Chips


No matter whether the war ends easy or in horror

One thing is certain:  It was launched with lies

by a president looking drugged into the TV cameras


"Should Saddam choose confrontation," Bush noted,

"the American people can know that every measure

has been taken to avoid war," plainly lying


about who it is choosing the military option and

who has been narrowly intent on war despite a rainbow

of alternatives offered from every corner of Earth


Bush says "the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal

some of the most lethal weapons ever devised," forgetting

those thousands of US nukes & our own biochem weapons


Although Bush has pulled the U.S. out of the International

Criminal Court, he is now announcing which Iraqis

when captured will face war crimes trials


No U.S. reporter asks the question of how many Iraqis

can be killed before Bush is eligible for a seat

in the defendant's chair for initiating this illegal war


Because Bush cannot explain his policies, William Bennett

appears on every cable news station reciting the triumphs

of America in Europe West and East


Bennett  claims democracy, not imperialism, has always been

the result of American militarism, but he leaves out El Salvador,

Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Chile, Angola's UNITA


Vietnam's 3.6 million dead, decades of  South African apartheid

unknown millions dying middle passage slave ships

early American blankets mixed w/ smallpox & holy wars


Every nation has its progressive and regressive traditions

The question now is how will bombs affect 5 million in Baghdad

& will the dead applaud the U.S. as liberty's troops


If the Iraqi death toll exceeds the WTC, will the war still be

considered moral victory? How many Iraqi civilians

does the Bush gang think add up to one American life


Even if the war is short and the death toll low, even if

concerns of millions marching across Earth were overblown

will it have been right to have taken such a gamble



NYC, 3/03





Shock TV, Day One 


After a night of embedded TV reporters

            riding atop U.S. military trucks

                        modeling ziptight chemical jumpsuits

after a slow night of videotaped tank races

            running Iraqi deserts toward Basra & Baghdad

                        a mid-east version of the televised OJ chase

a night of illusion making it seem this would be an easy war

            requiring little of the bombing      

                        that had been threatened & feared

today the "shock and awe" operation was launched

            and it was truly shocking

                        watching fireworks & shooting stars

moving thru Iraqi night skies

            watching smoke & mushroom-shaped fires rising

                        o'er the city's ancient skyline

but not a single report or picture showing effects

            on city's 5 million residents or asking whether

                        this sort of unsanctioned awe is illegal terror.


On ABC News, a young reporter named Richard Engel

            is perched atop Palestine Hotel's 14th floor

                        his personal shock evident: "I am watching

half of Baghdad being destroyed" as 300+ cruise missiles

            flyinto buildings a few miles away

                        Pentagon has confirmed this is "A-Day"

Engel is stunned and stumbling, he has never seen

            anything like this before, he hopes his colleagues

                        in the Al Rashid hotel across Tigris River okay

Peter Jennings back home assures him generals

            say 90% of missiles falling are smart bombs

                        & Engels in a line of journalistic poesy

expresses hope the other 10% are a bit clever as well

            Jennings once again reassures the Pentagon

                        is committed to keeping this modern city intact

even though the dropping of cruise missiles & bunker bombs

            the burning of offices & archaeological ruins

                        is a strange way to create urban glue.


Peter Arnett, vilified twelve years earlier

            for reporting Gulf War I on CNN from Baghdad

                        is back in town working for NBC

Watching the fireworks of Gulf War II, Arnett notes

            this is bigger than the last one

                        "they are taking out whole buildings

with these explosions." Arnett estimates 25 buildings

            have been destroyed in last 10 minutes

                        I wonder whether these buildings waited

for civilians & young draftees to leave before exploding in flames

            before they crumbled to ground

                        crushing their inhabitants

After the WTC, isn't this kind of attack even the least bit

            worrisome to America's press--can we hear

                        what concerned New Yorkers are saying?


CNN stays with pictures of Baghdad smoldering

            in flames and rolling black smoke

                        Would it be possible to turn cameras

to the ground and see whether any bodies are visible

            running from falling ash and leaping heat

                        or perhaps lying peacefully in the street

We are told operating electricity and open phone lines are signs

            of U.S. accuracy--so doesn't anyone on CNN have the number

                        of an Iraqi family or peace witness to dial up

When a new bomb falls, Wolf Blitzer indeed seems awed

            "Look at that explosion!"  Even on right-wing Fox News

                        a young correspondent in Baghad is unnerved

says he felt shock waves running across Tigris River

            to where he's standing. He has counted

                        about 30 missiles fallen

As his phone line is going dead, the guy notes

            he has no reason to believe his situation is

                        worse than __________

an unfinished, postmodern line just waiting for viewers

            to fill in the blank--what do you think dear reader

                        about this beautiful spring day of shock and awe?


Flipping channels, I notice one reporter get carried away

            saying the pictures & explosions from Baghdad

                        "really did look like Dresden"

a comment which Donald Rumsfeld apparently saw as well

            and disputed during his press conference, noting

                        the vast difference between dumb & educated bombs

According to Rumsfeld, carried in the opposite direction

            the hundreds of cruise missiles dropped this afternoon

                        exhibited "the humanity that goes into the targeting" today

The mass bombing and depleted uranium-tipped missiles

            are thus part of a "humane effort" that was begun

                        after every single other option had been tried

Why do American reporters accept Pentagon war logic

            that once battles have begun

                        it is too late to ask root questions any longer

Why doesn't a single American reporter ask when such options

            as these were tried: flood of human rights observers,

                        continued inspections, the endless nonwar imagination

following UN-sanctioned international law to maintain moral

            & practical precedent on this ever-shifting Earth

                        Will the tough questions be arriving any time soon?


The president's spokesman Ari Fleischer holds his own conference

            and claims our unelected president regrets Saddam       

                        has put innocent people in harm's way

Ari asserts "use of force is being used to help settle this

            in the most peaceful way possible"

                        & not a single reporter vocalizes the obvious

though crowd does express surprise Bush doesn't care

            enough about their daily work or war's damage

                        to bother watching televised pictures this historic day

Flipping channels, a young pilot returning to his ship

            from first bombing mission

                        reports it was "really neat"

and a "heck of an experience" that he wasn't sure

            he would ever have chance to enact

                        after consigned to TV watching Gulf War I.

Wall Street apparently agrees that shock & awe was neat--

            market up 230 points! Anything, even death & destruction,

                        is better than uncertainty for investor confidence!


On CBS News, Dan Rather notes we are seeing war

            "with its million horrors, as Shelley once wrote"

                        and it is nice to see a poet in day's linguistic mix

Rather observes Baghdad is burning,

            "but only in specific places" as if

                        that would offer total comfort in NY or Chicago

On NBC, Tom Brokaw interviews mother

            of a U.S. Marine early casualty

                        Before she says goodbye

she wants to make a point about television coverage

            the technology that brings war to the nation

                        brings 24-hour anxiety to parents & families

Brokaw nods sympathetically, promising to remind viewers

            more often that war is not about technology

                        but real human lives

and in another moment we are back to flashes and fires

            and pops and smokes and tank treads and rationalizations

                        of former generals and right-wing hacks.


This is a war whose core legality & morality hasn't been questioned

            by a single US reporter all day any channel-- they are wearing

                        Pentagon's label "Operation Iraqi Freedom"

and half day later still no investigations on American TV

            into civilian casualties on "A-Day"

                        "a spectacular light show"

We will have to check internet next few days

            www.iraqbodycount.net to find inquisitive reporters

                        who bother to dig into such questions

At 7:30 New York time, CNN  notes there are still

            a few more hours of darkness in Iraq

                        for bombs of shock and awe to drop

What if this entire war, no matter how quickly it ends

            no matter whether those bombs pass their IQ tests

                        no matter whether only a few

western working-class troops are lost, no matter whether Iraqis

            who do not lose family & friends eventually greet

                        American troops with dancing yellow roses

what if nonetheless this war was a callous gamble with human lives

            launched in violation of international law & ethical ties

                        how hold our leaders & "free press" democratically accountable

Perhaps the antiwar movement growing daily in creativity & size

            can sprinkle some visionary seeds & long-term strategies

                        how choose a better one, of the many other worlds still possible?



NYC, 3/21/03