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February 4, 2008 5:00 PM   Subscribe

Bombs Away Over Iraq: Normalizing Air War from Guernica to Arab Jabour.
posted by homunculus (20 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting. I felt the opinion gracenotes weakened the piece overall. For example:

To American reporters, this seems neither cowardly, nor in any way barbaric, just plain old normal.


Well, sure easy to say, but why not call one of these reporters and ask them how they feel about covering Guerica redux? A quote wouldn't be that hard to get, surely.

On the other hand, the call for greater direct reportage from the planes themselves is well-taken, and something that certainly should be/have been on the to-do list of most news organizations, given that the draw-down has been a certified, well-documented requirement of the surge since Day One.

Only one reporter, as far as I know, has even gone up in a plane -- David S. Cloud of the New York Times, who flew in a B-1 from an unnamed "Middle Eastern airfield" on a mission over Afghanistan. Thomas Ricks traveled to Balad Air Base and did a superb report on it in 2006, but no reporter seems to have bothered to hang out with American pilots, nor have the results of bombing, missile-firing, or strafing been much recorded in our press. The air war is still largely relegated to passing mentions of air raids, based on Pentagon press releases or announcements, in summary pieces on the day's news from Iraq.

For all its' flaws, a call to action for war reporters. Let's hope it's heard.
posted by mwhybark at 5:52 PM on February 4, 2008


guh. Guernica, of course. Mea culpa.
posted by mwhybark at 5:52 PM on February 4, 2008


I always wonder about comments like:

Some of this, of course, comes from the Pentagon's success in creating a dismissive, sanitizing language in which to frame war from the air.

..which leads in to the usual talk about buzzwords like 'collateral damage', 'surgical strike' etc. Perhaps I'm just of a media-aware generation, but when I read about US bombing campaigns I am appalled. The buzzwords don't really sanitise anything for me. I can only try to imagine how terrifying it would be to be bombed from the air. I've been near one bombing, and that scared the shit out of me, and it was just one explosion, which I felt but didn't see (or hear... it was louder than sound). Seeing planes continuing to drop bombs must be absolutely terrifying (and galvanising, if one had any tendency to join the resistance).

Perhaps I'm just odd.
posted by pompomtom at 6:27 PM on February 4, 2008


>Let's hope it's heard.

And jeopardise access? Unlikely.
posted by pompomtom at 6:42 PM on February 4, 2008


You're always writing 'bombing, bombing, bombing'! It's air support!"
posted by pax digita at 8:05 PM on February 4, 2008


The problem with this war--well, one of the several thousand--is that it's culturally asymmetrical. (Militarily, too, of course, but that's a different set of problems.) Spain is a Western European nation with a history of well-developed journalism and art. Iraq has greatness in its history, but its recent stories have not included things like "great artists" and "great journalists," so we don't get the equivalent of the symmetric reporting from the World Wars. You saw the same thing in Vietnam: each U.S. casualty a tragedy, the (millions?) of Vietnamese dead never mentioned.

It won't improve, and it's not even really about journalistic integrity. How could a western reporter move freely amid the locals to get the other side of the story? Who among the locals will step forward with a painting on par with Picasso or incredible photojournalism?

Not that we'd see any sort of "furrin" journalism, of course. Even the white phosphorous fiasco was quietly hushed up. Weird how that outrage just sort of drained away.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:15 PM on February 4, 2008


The bombings will continue until peace is achieved.
posted by Ritchie at 8:47 PM on February 4, 2008


A few years ago I was in Ottawa on Nov 11th. They flew a jet right over Elgin street as a I was walking somewhere. I never really appreciated the kind of terror those planes could inflict until that day. It was like death roared over me that day and I could feel it in every cell.
posted by srboisvert at 3:14 AM on February 5, 2008


It was like death roared over me that day and I could feel it in every cell.

Here in Chicago we call that the Air and Water Show. 2 days of jet-fueled screeching airpower scraping the skies - plus the Friday before for practice. USA! USA!
posted by ao4047 at 5:12 AM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is a political war and it calls for discrimination in killing. The best weapon for killing would be a knife, but I'm afraid we can't do it that way. The worst is an airplane. The next worst is artillery. Barring a knife, the best is a rifle — you know who you're killing.
-- John Paul Vann

Wikipedia, Vietnam War casualties: approximately 1.1 million soldiers; 4,000,000 civilians (North and South Vietnam).
posted by kirkaracha at 6:11 AM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


A powerful reminder of facts too often glossed over. Thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 6:23 AM on February 5, 2008


The best weapon for killing would be a knife,

I really think that there is a lot of truth in this statement. Our technological ability to distance ourselves from the people killed by our decisions only allows us to be that much more caviler about continuing conflicts.

But, while I'd like to suggest that perhaps if it was more up-close and personal, our desire to end the lives of others would be offset by our revulsion at our actions; like that of plunging a knife into another person, and robbing them of their life.

Unfortunately, history has demonstrated, that there will always be people willing to wield this power.

The one reason that a knife would be better is that it would take a lot longer and force us to exert a lot more effort to accomplish the same amount of damage. And it would be, therefore, that much more difficult to hide from the public.
posted by quin at 8:59 AM on February 5, 2008


The best weapon for killing would be a knife ...missile.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:06 AM on February 5, 2008


The Iraqi Refugee Mess Just Got Messier
posted by homunculus at 9:45 AM on February 5, 2008


Reporting Iraq: A new book takes a close look at the triumphs, challenges and regrets of reporters working to cover the first three years of the Iraq war.
posted by homunculus at 4:33 PM on February 8, 2008


Iraq's Tidal Wave of Misery: The First History of the Planet's Worst Refugee Crisis
posted by homunculus at 7:45 PM on February 11, 2008


The Man on Both Sides of Air War Debate: Bomb Targeter-Turned-Human Rights Advocate Lobbies for Greater Restraint
posted by homunculus at 5:59 PM on February 13, 2008


Killing "Bubba" from the skies: Inside a secret high-tech control center the U.S. Air Force targets enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan. But can they bomb them legally, and without killing innocents?
posted by homunculus at 8:12 PM on February 14, 2008


Photographer Lori Grinker on Displaced Iraqis
posted by homunculus at 10:48 PM on February 15, 2008


Defining Victory Downward: No, the surge is not a success.
posted by homunculus at 11:29 AM on February 25, 2008


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