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N a p a l m   H e a l t h   S p a :   R e p o r t   2 0 1 4 :   A r c h i v e s   E d i t i o n






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

fly into 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 Baghdad 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 



[Originally published in NHS 2004, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs04/Eliot_Katz.html.]