TV News: A Militarized Zone

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Norman Solomon’s Column

When the bombing of Afghanistan resumed Monday night [Oct. 8], retired generals showed no fatigue at their posts under hot lights at network studios. On CNN, former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark teamed up with Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd to explain military strategies; they were sharing their insights as employees of AOL Time Warner.

Far away, missiles are flying and bombs are exploding — but in televisionland, a sense of equilibrium prevails. The tones are calm; the correspondents are self-composed. News bulletins crawl across the bottom of the screen, along with invitations to learn more. “Take a 3-D look at U.S. military aircraft at CNN.com.”

At Pentagon briefings, carried live, the secretary of defense bears a chilling resemblance to a predecessor named McNamara. But the language of Donald Rumsfeld is thoroughly modern, foreshadowing a war without end: “In this battle against terrorism, there is no silver bullet.” But there will be many bullets, missiles and bombs. We hear the customary assurances that air strikes will be surgical, and Rumsfeld echoes the metaphor: “Terrorism is a cancer on the human condition.”

The reports about the bombing are laced with references to airborne food drops. Details have been sketchy. But self-congratulation has been profuse on television, now a free-fire zone for war propaganda.

Sunday night [Oct. 7], on “Larry King Live,” a bipartisan panel of senators affirmed their loyalty to the president. The ranking GOP member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a former secretary of the navy, illuminated our goodness. Sen. John Warner said: “This, I think, is the first time in contemporary military history where a military operation is being conducted against the government of a country, and simultaneously, with the troops carrying out their mission, other troops are trying to take care of the innocent victims who all too often are caught in harm’s way.”

Hours after Warner’s explanation of American saintliness, the UN’s World Food Program halted its convoys of emergency aid to Afghanistan because of the bombing campaign. Meanwhile, private relief workers voiced escalating alarm. A news release, put out by my colleagues at the Institute for Public Accuracy

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