Television and war, both good to avoid
President Bush gave a speech in "prime time" a couple of weeks ago outlining his case for going to war with Iraq andÃ¯Â¿Â½the major networks didn't carry it! ABC ran "The Drew Carey Show" while the president balanced us on the brink, CBS had "King of Queens" while NBC featured "Fear Factor." Which leads me to a question:
Why do they call them "major" networks?
It can't be because they're important, because they're not. I mean, here the nation is, gearing itself up for war and the networks can't tear themselves away from the junk they purvey 24/7Ã¯Â¿Â½not even for a half-hour!Ã¯Â¿Â½in order let us know what the boss thinks?
Their lame excuse was that the White House did not expressly ask for the networks to carry the speech, which was in itself astonishing. (White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said they didn't want to give the networks the erroneous impression that the president was going to declare war or anything.) I don't understand it, not on either end. Edward R. Murrow must be whirling like a dervish in his grave right now.
In any case, the speech was carried by CNN, C-SPAN, MSNBC and the Fox News Channel. It drew approximately 17 million viewers, a terrific number for cable news but a pathetic one for a country that prides itself on being The World's Greatest Democracy.
What is happening to this nation anyway?
There was nothing really new in the speech, but it was by far the president's most coherent attempt to explain his bellicose stand on Iraq. He said that Iraq, "by its technological capabilities, by the merciless nature of its regime" as well as its ties to terrorist forces throughout the world, poses a unique threat to us and to the rest of the world.
Saddam Hussein, he said, has proved himself to be a duplicitous foe who has ignored or circumvented all efforts to monitor the rebuilding of his war machine, including nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs. Unless Saddam agrees to real, verifiable disarmament, complete with unfettered U.N. inspections, we must destroy him.
Which sounds good when you say it fast, but it slides by a couple of significant problems, namely:
If Saddam Hussein has these terrible weapons of mass destruction ready to go, why wouldn't he use them if we attack? And if he doesn't have these weapons, what's the hurry in attacking him?
Even if we do attack Iraq and win easily, what then? Surely we will have bombed hell out of the place, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and leaving the country in ruins. Are we really up for trying to rebuild a very large nation from the ground up, particularly one that hates us?
And won't such an attack, probably joined in by Israel, simply inflame the rest of the Muslim world and inspire even more terrorist attacks against us?
He never answers those questions satisfactorily and probably never will - because he basically doesn't have to.
I believe our brave Congress has fallen sheep-like into line, its members cowed by the prospect of losing the next election to a chest-pounding jingo
Conservatives are always quick to pounce on liberals who dare to oppose wars.
Personally, I have never felt the need to apologize for being slow to support a war. It is not a small thing to commit a huge and powerful nation to armed conflict and it should be done with great deliberation, after all other avenues are exhausted.
Those same conservatives mock liberals for being naÃ¯Â¿Â½ve about the way the world works, for believing that one can reason with an enemy and negotiate itself out of war.
Perhaps, but to me the conservative belief in force is far more naÃ¯Â¿Â½ve.
Despite historical evidence to the contrary, they cling to the belief that if you bully people and smash them, you will prevail.
Oh, it generally works at first, but victory inevitably breeds overweening arrogance and eventually the counter-forces set in motion by the initial victory generally act to bring about ultimate defeat.
Fortunately, the American public will be too busy watching television to notice.