The Prettification of War A Big Dose of Servile Journalism for Memorial Day

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Sunday's NYT, gearing up for Memorial Day, carries a leading front-page story direct from the Afghan front, complete with photos. Does it tell of the 1000 Americans who have perished there in America's longest war or the unknown number of innocent Afghanis to fall or the many more on both sides to be gruesomely injured or the devastation visited on the poor and backward regions of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan by the firepower of the mightiest war machine the world has yet to produce? Absolutely not.

Instead we are treated to a feel-good story about female Marines "bonding" with their Afghan sisters, under the heading "In Camouflage or Veil, a Fragile Bond." Did a NYT writer dream up that sappy headline or did it come from a basement office in the Pentagon or Langley where prowar psyops against the U.S. citizenry are concocted? Or can such a distinction even be drawn, with journalistic ambition and careerism run wild? In my edition of the paper of record the story was adorned with a photo of a young Marine woman holding an Afghan toddler. How nice these warriors are. No killing for them. Just handing out ibuprofen, "giggling" (sic) with Afghan women and playing with kids.

More, we find that the women have done this in the face of skepticism from some of the male commanding officers! Not only are the Marines' fearless females helping the benighted Afghan women and providing fine examples of women imperial warriors, they are striking a blow against male chauvinism in the Imperial army. These humanitarian wars are almost too good to be true. No wonder Medea Benjamin disclosed a soft spot in her very Democratic heart for Obama's wars.

The NYT was not alone. Not to be outdone, the Washington Post ran a piece under the heading "Life Lessons the Afghanistan War Taught Me," wherein we are treated to the usual clichés about war's pinup girls, rough weather and army food. But the writer reminds us forcefully that "American soldiers are here by choice. They want to make a difference for Afghans and provide security for the folks back home." How lucky that the Post did not find one of the many soldiers who hate the wars and got trapped into them with multiple tours of duty. Just the luck of the draw, one might guess.

Out West, the LA Times commissioned a piece by a returned Iraqi vet who writes about a fallen comrade after reminding us why they were sent to that ravaged country, namely to "work on projects aimed at rebuilding Iraq and winning hearts and minds … to rebuild schools, repair the power grid and pass out Beanie Babies." No mention of who caused the destruction in the first place or the lies that were fed to soldiers and citizens alike to con them into that ugly war. No, just humanitarian efforts by well-meaning Americans. And so it goes. There will be more of the same tomorrow from the NYT to NPR, which has a special affinity for this kind of stuff, no doubt because its clientele is more open to imperialism of the humanitarian variety. And although there is an enormous percentage of our citizenry opposed to these wars, on both Left and Right and in the middle, expect none of them to gain access to the mainstream media to voice their opposition, much less rage at the death and destruction wrought by the Empire to preserve its hegemony.

Many say that the media hides the wars now waged by the U.S. in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. But it is worse than that. While hiding the death and destruction and certainly blotting out any graphic images of it, our poor excuse for journalism is awash with feel-good stories about the wars. The war in Korea was televised to a limited extent and contributed to American revulsion at Truman's war and his welcome replacement by the pacific Republican Eisenhower not yet brought under the influence of the rabid Dulles brothers. The same happened with Viet Nam leading to the abrupt departure of another Democrat, Johnson.

But our rulers learned their lesson well. No more graphic images come to us from the battlefield. They are censored by being cut off at their source. Worse, the war is systematically prettified by the media. Such is the function of the servile journalism of the Empire.

John Walsh [send him mail] is a scientist who lives in Cambridge, MA.

© 2010 John V. Walsh

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