Remembering the “Shock and Awe” Macabre Show of 2003

18 years ago this spring, the American people were subjected to an obscene form of TV disguised as news coverage, as the US brought war to the people of Iraq. We were invited to take a seat, pop the corn and watch the explosions on TV, meant to desensitize us to the criminal devastation of a country. 

The CNN cameras were well situated in Baghdad, the producers knowing in advance the safe zones to catch a good angle of the incoming tomahawk and other missiles ($1.8 million each) raining on Baghdad and the resulting fire balls. The sky was alight with them, quite a show!  

In our living rooms, offices and bars we were being “awed” by the explosion, invited to cheer, the cameras never too close for US to  see the carnage. 

On schedule, advertisement breaks paused the show, giving us time to go to the bathroom, refill the popcorn, all the while celebrating we were bringing “freedom to the Iraqi people.” We had already been assured that evilness half way around the world had to be cleansed by virtuous US fire. 

One could almost imagine the CNN producers and their military PR handlers debating whether the Stars Spangled Banner should be playing, but that would detract for the sound of the explosions, and standing up would be uncomfortable back home. All we had to do was kick back and admire how beautiful war can be! take that memory and file it under “Iraq war, awe-some.” 

Soon after it would be “mission accomplished,” and “don’t ask how it’s going, we already showed you all you needed to see.” That was the narrative we were fed and the show we were meant to watch — cameras and questions no longer invited. Journalists satisfied. The curtain down. “Go shopping.” 

But, to anyone with a smidgeon of empathy those were not fireworks. And this wasn’t a video game. It only takes a little compassion to imagine the situation in Iraq. The Iraqi body count had started (it would get up to 2 million over the course of the war). Soon, emergency vehicles would be wailing, picking up broken bodies and the hospitals would not have enough blood to replace that spilled on the streets. The first responders who weren’t blown up would find there was nothing they could do to relieve the screams of those whose limbs were shredded or were caught under the ruble. US missiles designed to break into chunks of hot iron on explosion, intended to blow off heads and limbs, raining on a city full of innocent people. 

Children would cry and hide in the arms of parents not able to explain what or why. The people of Iraq were the “shock,” part of the “shock and awe.” The onslaught was a horror show for millions; billed as patriotic entertainment for us, lucky US!? 

(So “entertaining” that now video games of the invasion are available now available)

Do corrupt elected officials and the merchants of death believe the US society is so sick that people would not realize the horror being committed, and not be appalled at the macabre manipulative production? That people would not care after they found out the fraudulent pretext used for this war? That public opinion, once again, could be controlled, appeased, lulled into conformity? We are horrified when we see old black and white photos of crowds going to see a lynching as a public event. The macabre show on CNN was our digital version of the lynching of a nation.

In the US we are good at inventing “special days.”  We have ice “cream month” and “national day of banana cream pie.”  Let’s make a special day to reflect and remember the anniversary of events like the display we witnessed on March-April 2003 in Iraq. To be silent about the tragedy the US brought to Iraq, and to ourselves, to remember only the guilty excitement of the “awe” we were fed, would be tragic acquiescence, a stain on our national soul, and an invitation to many encores.

Let’s take a day to mourn. In private or with others. And let’s resolve to put those who plan these events on notice that we reject their manipulation. We have not forgotten the tragedy in Iraq, and we declare we want no part in these wars for resources. Let’s commit to change. 

Written by Rod Brana | Creative Commons

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of The People’s Party.