Friday, Apr. 11, 2003
Yep, as an American politician once said, "The first casualty when war comes is the truth".
As weird as this sounds, although I'm greatly relieved that this war is winding down I kind of miss the Iraqi Information Minister's virtuoso riff on the Black Knight scene in Monty Python's Holy Grail. If he had said, "George Bush, I'll bite your leg off" I probably would have peed myself.
Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahhaf could put the truth into the intensive care unit in under twelve words.
I find it harder to enjoy the American version of "Let's Hospitalize The Truth" because, well, their briefers decided not to go over the top and used a more Stephen Wright type approach. For a while there I actually thought they were telling me the truth because the delivery was so deadpan.
I mean, when they looked into the camera at the beginning of the war and said, "We've taken Um Qasr" well, *I* thought that meant that they had, you know, taken Um Qasr.
Silly me for not realizing that it actually meant, "Look, we have troops at Um Qasr and we're going to psyche the Iraqis by telling them that we have the town so maybe they'll just give up and we can minimize the number of our soldiers killed or hurt there." That's laudable, and that's part of the job of military briefers--minimizing their army's casualties, confusing their enemies--but really, couldn't the reporters have let us know that The Briefers Were Just Pulling Our Legs?
Oh, wait, an unembedded CBC tee vee news crew kind of did that when they went into Um Qasr a few days after the U.S. announced they had taken the city (but hadn't) and barely got out alive.
Ooops, my bad for not remembering that.
There were several points where the American briefers could have shown that Iraqi guy that they could one-up his Black Knight riff. I mean if the first time they had said, "We've taken Um Qasr. No. Really. We Have" well, then, they had the potential for a catchphrase. And really, going for what was it, six, seven days in a row saying, "We have Um Qasr" when it wasn't taken? I mean, couldn't we have had a little variety there? Punch up the writing a bit?
"We have Um Qasr. Behold the power of cheese."
"We have Um Qasr. Would you like fries with that?"
A punch line, a punch line, my kingdom for a punch line.
Oh, and the Basra situation? When the briefers said that Iraq's second largest city really wasn't of military importance and it didn't matter that they were having a hard time taking it? I would have been so Margaret Cho at that briefing. "Basra?" I would have said. "Girlfriend, who wants THAT tacky tourist trap?" and then sashayed right off the stage.
Oh, and that "I misspoke myself" when the briefer admitted that there really hadn't been fire from the lobby of the Palestine hotel, the hotel a tank fired on, killing one journalist and wounding others? I would have totally Cheech and Chong-ed that one. Showmanship. What we need here is some showmanship.
Never let it be said that I don't want to give the U.S. military intelligence its props, however. While the writing of the briefings was at times uninspired, production values were extremely high. That $250,000 movie set they transported into the desert for the briefings? Bravo.
Oh, and the U.S. military releasing a video game so The Kids At Home Can Play At War Right Along With The Soldiers?
Pure. Marketing. Gold.
Yet despite high production values and a brilliant marketing tie-in, as I see it right now Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahhaf's low budget, yet virtuoso Black Knight riff trumps the Americans for the justly coveted "Most Creative Hospitalization of the Truth By a Source of Military Intelligence in 2003" Trophy.
However, I think it's only fair to point out that his adversaries have given him a run for his money and done it well enough that I wager it will be a few years before "the fog of war" dissipates enough for us to know what really happened.
Oh, and speaking of war, is it just me, or do you also hear that announcer's voice from The Price Is Right every time Donald Rumsfeld mentions Syria? I mean, I sweartogawd, every time he tells Syria to knock it off I hear Bob Barker's announcer booming:
"Syria, c'mon down. You're our next contestant on The War Is Right."
Just me, eh?
Goal for 2003: 500 miles - 804.5 kilometers
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