Who did not hear the cheering and clapping of the Baghdad media pool when it was told U.S. bombs had killed elusive â€˜terroristâ€™ Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?
Only extremists would shed tears for the bloodthirsty Zarqawi but the sight of a supposedly neutral media corps clapping as if their favorite batter had just scored a hit in a baseball game was a bitter pill for those of us who still believed journalists in Iraq have no choice but to be â€˜embedded.â€™ It also gave fresh food for those who have been dismissing the mass media in Baghdad as a bunch of pro-American propagandists. And it embarrassed those Christians who still believe nobodyâ€™s death is reason for jubilation.
Perhaps there is some truth to the saying when you live with wolves you become a wolf or when in Iraq do as the Iraqis do. That the entire war has become dehumanized has been obvious to anyone in recent months following the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and the accusations American Marines are ventilating their frustrations - and their vengeance â€“ by running amok and killing innocent civilians, men, women and children.
What the clapping in the media pool room did however was erode further the credibility of those who report the news from Iraq and make clear to those who watch and read that news that living under the constant surveillance, goodwill and protection of the allied armed forces has turned the newshounds into grateful recipients of military largesse and attuned their minds to those of the American Marines who are fed on kill-kill-kill fodder.
Jubilation and a victory atmosphere over the Zarqawi killing permeated all major U.S. media outlets (perhaps with the exception of a sober ABC reporting). Yet that same media has been unusually queasy in showing the deaths of allied soldiers in Iraq and has been patriotically shy to report on the flag-draped U.S. coffins returning from Iraq - or interview crippled American soldiers. But this â€˜queasyâ€™ media was quick and eager to expose the dead head of the wanted terrorist on their screens and make it sound as if the United States went to war precisely to kill Zarqawi, a man who was a nobody in terrorist annals before the U.S. invaded and occupied that country.
Even the death of someone created by the war has to serve Washington these days to justify the war.
There was one more show this week to make oneâ€™s stomach churn.
Americaâ€™s Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld came out with yet another of his arrogant wisecracks. Asked about the decision of Italyâ€™s new left-of-center government to withdraw the Italian troops from Iraq Rumsfeld argued the Italian withdrawal would make no difference to the war. That quip caused great mirth among the assembled media hacks in Brussels where Rumsfeld was meeting NATO. The sad part was Rumsfeld spoke as Italy buried its 31st soldier killed in Iraq. In fact Italians must have felt hurt to hear Rumsfeld conclude the sacrifice of 31 young Italian men, the wounding and maiming of dozens more, was considered by the U.S. of no consequence to the war effort. Is that how Washington pays back its allies these days?