Originally published in the Vanier Phoenix, 1991.
It seems to me that the President of the United States of America, a.k.a. the “leader of the Western world,” should be able to afford at least one advisor well-versed in Middle Eastern affairs and diplomacy.
Take James Baker… please. The man flies all the way to Baghdad to ‘negotiate’ the United Nations’ ultimatum, without once stopping to consider that just maybe a man like Saddam Hussein will be reluctant to relinquish his nineteenth province without some way to save face. Instead, Baker and all of his counterparts from the UN and individual nations walked into these ‘negotiations’ prepared to discuss things with another Western mind.
How does one negotiate an ultimatum, anyway?
Was it lack of savoir-faire, or was it a deliberate action, one they knew was destined to fail? The same question can be asked about imposing sanctions on Iraq. Saddam Hussein and his followers would rather starve to death than give in to the “Satan in the White House.” Besides, how effective have years of sanctions been elsewhere?
And another thing – why is it that everyone, media included, seems to share Hussein’s belief that this, um, conflict, is between George Bush and Saddam Hussein? Granted, the U.S. does have the largest contingent of troupes, etc., involved, but that does not remove the fact that there are British and Canadian pilots, French and German money, and Saudi Arabian soldiers contributing to the fight for a “new world order.” But one’s perception may be a little muddled after seeing news reports cluttered with still of the star-spangled banner and Millie the Dog. Has our society become so cynical that it really can’t believe that the UN is trying to make a better world, albeit through questionable means?
Of course, media coverage is not always what it should be. We all giggle at the fantastical reports we are shown from Iraqi television and the propaganda pushed on Baghdad radio, but how much more reliable is our own media? On top of the usual bias, we are now constantly reminded that all reports must be screened through the military. As for an unbiased perspective, keep in mind that this is journalism from a Western point of view, a point of view that seems incapable of recognizing that there is another side to every story.
Is a network like NBC, which is owned by General Electric, which in turn is a major supplier to the U.S. military, likely to present anything other than clap-your-hands-for-our-brave-American-boys reporting? The effects of this sort of one-sided information can be seen in such things as Saddam Hussein voodoo dolls – so if the army can’t get him, you can, right from your living room.
I don’t know if I’m ‘for’ or ‘against’ this “war.” I don’t know if that’s even possible. I do know that there are a lot of things I see and hear that outrage me, and not all of them are from the “enemy.”