Sunday, July 31, 2005

Iraq Fatigue

The headquarters building in Kismaayo port had a satellite connection, and in the poor-excuse for a dayroom the support staff had set up a TV that was kept on CNN all day. Of course, they watched it. And what they saw was not what they expected: What they say wasn't them.

At first, there had been a lot of updates from Mogadishu, especially after the fiasco of the Marines and Navy SEALs being met on the beach by the press corps that first night of the invasion -- they had watched that from their hotel room in Kenya. But now, prety much nothing. The occasional political report on Somalia from an on-camera journalist who more often than not wasn't actually filing the report from Somalia, and the occasional feel-good film clip showing a minor celebrity on a USO tour visiting the troops. No mention of Belgian casualties, no mention of American casualties, certainly no mention of Somali casualties. The biggest report they saw was when some dumb fuck of a Marine in Baidoa had killed himself -- suicide. That had kept CNN's interest for a whole forty-eight hours.

"Do you suppose it's possibly no one knows we're here?" Trevor asked one night, crossing the quay wall toward the boat. "What's my mom gonna say when they come to tell her I'm dead? `Who? Killed where?'"

The smaller and smaller Somalia became on CNN, the weirder and weirder life got in-country. That's how it felt to Jones, anyway.

The week after the Belgian squad was slaughtered in their own truck, the night Jones and the LCM-8593 had arrived in Kismaayo, CNN had reported a "minor skirmish" in a "southern Somali city" involving "U.N." troops. They did report three Somalis were shot in the port by the Belgians, but not that they had been executed at point-blank range, without a trial. No one know, because no one asked.

--From Christian Bauman's The Ice Beneath You

Major Bob Bateman, in Iraq:

From BOB BATEMAN: Just heard about this whole Natalie Holloway thing. Apparently there are some benefits to being deployed in a theater of war. I am disappointed. I thought I'd noticed all of you making solemn vows here, over the years, "No more." No more pre-teen beauty queens, no more missing white women, no more one-person crimes elevated to a national issue.

There is a Supreme Court seat in play, a UN nomination in stasis, death in the Sudan, death in London, and a few things occurring in Afghanistan and here, and our national news stations choose to run stories on the death of a privileged 18-year old? Here's an idea, if these stations are so short of news: Come here. Send an additional 5-15 reporters and cameramen. We have plenty of 18, 19, 20...25, 35, and 45 year-olds dying every day or three. Pick some. Tell their stories to America. Learn who they were before they came here. Follow up on the latest developments in their units. See how their buddies are doing. Interview (when they are ready, if they ever are ready) their parents, spouses, children. Find out who killed them. (Was it Sunni extremists, former Ba'ath party leaders, common criminals, Syrian provocateurs, jihadists...) Help America understand that we are, no kidding, at war.

And try to do it without Geraldo this time, ok? Please? From Iraq, Bob Bateman.

CNN's Reliable Sources:

Are Media Suffering From Iraqi Fatigue?; Television's Missing Women Fixation

Kurtz: The endless war, with casualties in Iraq day after day, are the American media growing tired of the story? Is there any way for journalists to measure progress there? And do critics of the war draw attention only when they're celebrities like Jane Fonda?

Plus, television's missing women fixation. Is it really about missing white women, preferably attractive and middle-class?


MICHAEL WARE, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, clearly it is very difficult. I mean, I'm sure there is a reader fatigue out there among the public, and editors, I think, are alive to that, and experience a certain fatigue themselves. So the days of the Iraq story getting a run for its own sake are definitely over. Now, it is much more of an even playing field, where an Iraq story has to compete with everything else. So really, it has got to stand on its own merits.