Saturday, November 08, 2003

Rambo No More

From Frank Rich:

But through no fault of Private Lynch's, she may not be the antidote to bad news in November that she was in April. The steady drumbeat of casualties is making it harder for those who pushed her into the limelight at the time of the rescue to control the stories butting against her happy ending. In broadcasting the first reports of "Chinook Down" last Sunday morning, the normally unflappable Bob Schieffer of CBS News raised his voice as he said, "If this is winning, you have to ask the question: How much more of this winning can we stand?" Later that day, on ABC's "World News Tonight," the correspondent John Berman captured a "M*A*S*H" moment when a military medic attending the American wounded looked directly at the camera and said, " `All major combat operations have ceased' " — after which he winked and, with a roll of his eyes, added a sarcastic, "Right!"

The Bush administration tries to shut down pictures as effectively as it has stonewalled Congressional committees and the bipartisan commissions looking into intelligence failures surrounding 9/11. On the day of the Chinook's fall, the president stayed off-camera on his ranch in Crawford, resting up for his next round of fund-raisers, and sent out only a written statement of grief. Reuters reported on Monday that journalists seeking access to Ramstein, the American air base in Germany to which Private Lynch was first taken, had been told that the defense department would not lift its policy prohibiting photographs of flag-draped coffins, even for the Chinook casualties. The president did not go to the funerals of the nine fellow soldiers who died in the same ambush that led to Private Lynch's capture; he hasn't gone to any funerals for soldiers killed in action, The Washington Post reports.

Two weeks ago, after spending the day visiting the wounded at Walter Reed, the same hospital where Private Lynch recuperated upon returning to the United States, Cher, of all people, crystallized the game plan. She called into C-Span to tell of her experience talking with "a boy about 19 or 20 who had lost both his arms" and then asked: "Why are none of Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bremer, the president — why aren't they taking pictures with all these guys? Because I don't understand why these guys are so hidden and why there aren't pictures of them."