Perspective, as any artist can tell you, is depicting objects in their proper relationship to one another. Thus, objects that are closer to our eye appear to be larger than objects that are at a greater distance. While artists mastered perspective centuries ago, modern news media still have great difficulty reporting events in perspective.
I enraged one of the Fox News chatterers while a guest on his show by accusing him of being a fearmonger on the subject of terrorism. I pointed out that the same year terrorists killed 3,000 Americans, ordinary criminals murdered 12,000, and the usual 90,000 or so died in accidents. For some reason, he thought that was an outrageous statement.
Actually, it's just putting matters in perspective. We are all in far greater danger statistically when we drive than we are from any terrorist act.
If the American news media reacted in the same way to the deaths of more than 100,000 people wiped out by tsunamis in Asia as they did to the attack on the World Trade Center, then they would all be talking about how the earthquake had "changed the world forever." They won't, of course, because the tragedy occurred far away from them and involves primarily Asians and European tourists. We in the news business are xenophobic to the extreme. It wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to imagine a headline that said, "Seven Americans, 100,000 Others Killed by Tsunamis."
The only reason America changed after Sept. 11, 2001, was because the attack shook Americans out of their complacency, which was unrealistic in the first place. Several people, including me, had warned that we would eventually be hit by terrorists if we continued to involve ourselves in Middle Eastern quarrels. The other reason America changed was because people in Washington seized on the event to do things they had wanted to do anyway, such as invade Afghanistan and Iraq. It is no accident that the current president of Afghanistan and the current U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan were both employees of the oil company that had unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate a pipeline deal with the Taliban.
As for the war in Iraq, that, too, should be viewed in perspective. We've been there since March 2003, and we've lost about 1,300 soldiers. To be brutally realistic, that is not a particularly high toll for a guerrilla war. Far more Iraqis are dying than are Americans. The news media are in a no-win situation. If they report individual deaths, people will get the impression that the war is more intense than it actually is. If they don't, they will be accused of a cover-up. What we have to realize is that a certain number of Americans are going to die as long as we stay in Iraq. That is the price of an imperialistic foreign policy. The insurgents cannot drive us out in open battle, but they can nibble away at us indefinitely.
What ought to enrage Americans is that all this blood and treasure is being spent at best as a favor for the Iraqi people. Other than the usual war profiteers, the American people will receive no benefits at all from this war, even if it is declared a success. I wish everyone health and happiness, but if it had been my choice, I'd have been damned if I would have spent 1,300 American lives and $200 billion just to relieve the Iraqi people of their homegrown dictator. Iraq was never a threat to America, and never would have been a threat.
However, if the American people wish to lavish lives and treasure on a crusade to relieve other people of their own evil governments, then rejoice, for there are plenty of hellholes in which we can bleed out. I expect we could spend and die in the Congo for several years, and that's only one of several places where people live a hellish existence.
But if you apply the perspective of history to our present situation, you will clearly see that empires don't last. They exhaust themselves fiscally and morally in their endless wars and occupations. My prayer is that we will eventually come to our senses and spend our lives and treasure trying to make the good old U.S.A. as good as any country can be. The internationalists call it isolationism, but George Washington called it a sensible policy.
January 3, 2005
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.
© 2005 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.