Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Letter From Elsewhere: War Games

Letter From Elsewhere

War Games

By Anne Else

This time last month, waiting for the invasion of Iraq to begin, I failed to write a Letter from Elsewhere. I just couldn’t think of anything that seemed worth saying, apart from “Don’t go there”. But of course, they went anyway.

It’s hard not to get the impression, even from the major network dispatches, that the people most responsible for the invasion – Rumsfeld, Perle, Cheney, and all the other CEOs and neos, as the New Zealand Listener called them recently – are fundamentally incapable of seeing any country the USA is even remotely likely to invade as a real place, with real people. They seem to have thought of this war as some kind of ultimate video game (with great special effects, and amazing prizes, like real oil wells!) and they can’t quite grasp why it hasn’t all gone according to plan. They certainly don’t seem to understand why the “liberators” were not warmly welcomed. The only explanation for this blindness is that they cannot imagine these unreal, cartoon people having the same feelings they themselves would have about foreign invaders.

Even Lieutenant General William Wallace, commander of the US Army’s V Corp, is reported as saying, “The enemy we’re fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against…” The problem, he said, was the paramilitary forces: “We knew they were here, but we didn’t know how they would fight.” Now there are loud complaints that they’re fighting dirty, and breaking the rules, and that having to be so careful not to kill too many civilians is just too hard, especially when you can’t easily tell who’s a civilian and who’s not. It wasn’t meant to be like this. It never is.

Others’ reality is hard to grasp, even when you’re in it. But it seems to be a little harder when you come from the greatest power on earth. And most of the fearsomely kitted out marines we see driving tanks through dust storms and running across streets (and sometimes lying dead) are barely out of their teens. I remember seeing a news item about US forces (an honest word, forces) in Somalia. (Remember Somalia? Hot, dusty, mostly black people, a lot of famines. Had some bad guys in charge who had to be taught a lesson.) It was Christmas, and the troops were just sitting down to their turkey dinners, when in came a triumphant soldier. He had managed to find what was almost certainly the last spindly tree for miles around, and he had cut it down and brought it back to be a Christmas tree.

For lucky audiences, protected from the noise and the smell and the mess, reality quickly gets boring. Already the media are reporting viewer “war weariness” and turn-off. Slowly the coverage is shrinking. While the war still looms large, the front pages of our dailies and the lead items on our television news are no longer exclusively devoted to it. I wonder how long it will be, newswise, before Iraq turns into another Afghanistan. How long is it since you saw any in-depth coverage – or any coverage at all – of what’s happening, or not happening, in Afghanistan?

Unless something pretty spectacular is going on, broken buildings and people in the middle of deserts don’t make good footage. When the bombs stop falling and most of the forces come home, will Iraq cease to exist for most of us? This war is so public and so contested that it might be different this time. I hope so, because otherwise it seems horribly likely that more and more of the people who thought they were safe in the audience might suddenly find the war flaring up beneath their feet.


© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news