BAGHDAD UNDER WATER
OR NEW ORLEANS UNDER FIRE?
By: Jim Moore
I’m not sure how death and destruction in New Orleans can resemble anything like the death and destruction in Baghdad. Especially if you?ve never set foot in either city.
But this afternoon some TV mumbler was able to make the connection when he off-handedly said that New Orleans looks like “Baghdad under water.”
I find this analogy a bit of a stretch, since nobody I know would think to say that Baghdad looked like “New Orleans under fire.” Or would they? And how would they know? But hold everything. There are similarities, aren’t there?
Both cities have homes, businesses, schools, churches, and utilities blown apart and destroyed.
Both cities are filled with thousands of people wandering around in kind of a “where am I” daze.
Both cities have citizens with loved ones who were killed, injured, or are missing.
Both cities are steaming hot in the daytime and frighteningly dark at night.
Both cities have some people running amok, waving AK-47’s, and itching to use them.
Both cities use helicopters (but there aren’t enough) to rescue the sick, injured, and crippled—-if they can get to them.
Both cities have swarms of terrified people trying to adjust to the sudden chaos around them.
Both cities are plagued with disruption in oil production which will negatively affect them, and other areas as well.
Both cities will cost the U.S. taxpayers many billions of dollars over many years.
Both cities do not have enough military or civilian manpower to handle major emergencies and restore order.
Both cities will take months, maybe even years to rebuild.
Both cities have lost confidence in their government’s ability to protect them and prevent violence.
Both city administrations have totally failed to provide their citizens with security and basic services.
Both cities are on the verge of mass lawlessness and anarchy.
If even only half of these “boths” are true, you might reasonably assume that the tragedies in Baghdad and New Orleans would get somewhat near equal coverage in the mass media.
Far from it.
On August 31, the headline in the Tallahassee Democrat was one huge word: HEARTBREAKING. On Sept, 1, the headline was: FROM BAD TO WORSE. And on Sept 2: MISERY, MAYHEM.
These eye-catching headlines were followed by six or seven pages of descriptive, visual anguish: angry, desperate people mashed together in crowds of unspeakable devastation, litter, filth, and human waste. And page after page of agony in progress; the search for loved ones; the rush for what little food and water there is, the hell of not knowing where to go, what to do, where to get first aid, how to escape the mosquitoes and the madness, or if anybody even cares.
This has been the heartbeat of news coverage in the immediate aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
That it’s the job of media to report on tragedies like this, goes without saying. It’s their responsibility. Moreover, to suppose that anyone looking at the horrific pictures, and reading the riveting accounts of this calamity would not pity these hapless victims, would be to divest thought of all human empathy and compassion, therefore unthinkable.
But if the grisly situation in Baghdad is at all analogous to the death and destruction taking place in New Orleans, might it not also deserve more than a mere mention on page 8 of the local newspaper?
Yet, that “communication lapse” is exactly what is happening in our media as the war in Iraq goes on: New Orleans, devastated by Katrina, is a fresh tragedy, so it gets booming headlines with tons of compelling copy, probably for weeks to come. While Iraq, which has been a living hell since 2001, and is daily being ripped apart, its citizens—-American troops among them—-killed, maimed, or traumatized, is relegated to what amounts to “pick-up” copy on the paper’s back pages.
What’s worse, these days the horror in Iraq often doesn?t even make “back page” news anymore, unless a talking head from Washington condescends to visit Iraq and “assess” the damage; or a devastating stampede, caused by a “false alarm”, panics a crowd crossing a bridge, causing the death of a thousand Iraqi citizens.
Maybe, just maybe, some day this grossly insane war in Iraq—-and the dead Iraqis and Americans it produces—- will be given as much daily coverage as being afforded to New Orleans, a city stupidly built beneath sea level, and filled with citizens too poor to evacuate, too dumb not to, or too wealthy to care.
Meantime, the very least we can do is bring our National Guard home where they belong. So instead of fighting a senseless, un-winnable war in Iraq, they can serve our citizens, as the National Guard was created to do.
Maybe that way we can save both cities.
“Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”
Jim Moore is a political writer and a regular columnist for EtherZone. His latest book, Marketing the Messiah, is a short, satirical look at how an adman sold Jesus? “story” to the public. $12.95 (S&H included) gets you a copy. Send check or M.O. to: Jim Moore, 1008 Landings Loop, Tallahassee, FL 32311.
Published in the September 6, 2005 issue of Ether Zone.
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