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11/04/2003 Archived Entry: "Media blackout"

The media continues its blackout on wounded American soldiers and on the ones who are not so "lucky" -- the ones returning to their broken-hearted families in body bags. Oops...returning in "transfer tubes." That's how desperate the Bush administration is to hide the bodies of Americans who die making Iraq safe for Halliburton's profits; there are no more "body bags," only "transfer tubes." And, if you want to read how Americans like Charles H. Buehring finally came home you have to read independent or foreign new sources, like the Toronto Star. It reports on Buehring: "He arrived at the air force base in Dover, Del., in the middle of the night, in an aluminum shipping case draped in an American flag....America never saw Lt.-Col. Buehring's arrival, days after a rocket from a homemade launcher ended his life at age 40 in Baghdad's heavily fortified Rasheed Hotel last Monday. Americans have never seen any of the other 359 bodies returning from Iraq. Nor do they see the wounded cramming the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington or soldiers who say they are being treated inhumanely awaiting medical treatment at Fort Stewart, Ga. In order to continue to sell an increasingly unpopular Iraqi invasion to the American people, President George W. Bush's administration sweeps the messy parts of war the grieving families, the flag-draped coffins, the soldiers who have lost limbs into a far corner of the nation's attic. No television cameras are allowed at Dover. Bush does not attend the funerals of soldiers who gave their lives in his war on terrorism. Buehring of Winter Springs, Fla., described as "a great American" by his commanding officer, had two sons, 12 and 9, was active in the Boy Scouts and his church and had served his country for 18 years. No government official has said a word publicly about him."

Traditionally, American war-dead have been honored with ceremony; their families have been "comforted" by officials, both military and political. Now the dead are hidden, like embarrassments, in order for the Bush administration to continue passing the "Dover test" -- shorthand for the American public's tolerance for wartime fatalities. What the public doesn't see, doesn't exist...or, at least, it doesn't have emotional impact. The cold-hearted armchair-warriors who send young men and women to die in a godforsaken desert certainly don't suffer from emotional backlash because of their unique access to information about the wounded. As Bridget Gibson explains, "It is taking an act of Congress to stop the Pentagon from charging our wounded military $8.10 a day for their meals while they are hospitalized. Will it take another to supply the toilet paper that must be bought during their incapacitation also?"

The only way to learn about the dead and wounded from mainstream sources is to read between the lines. For example, the Associated Press reports: "A new, $30 million military mortuary was dedicated at Dover Air Force Base on Monday, a gleaming, brightly lit, state-of-the-art facility....The new mortuary was built with efficiency in mind. Air flowing through its ventilation system is turned over 15 times an hour to ensure that odors and chemical fumes don't cause problems for workers. It has almost 200 linked computer stations, about 10 times the number of computers at the old facility....The new mortuary has rack storage for 380 caskets and is equipped with 24 autopsy/embalming stations, compared to four permanent stations at the old facility."

BTW, the casualty figures do not include American civilians -- the "contractors" who now abound in Iraq. As Mother Jones comments, "Contractors' deaths aren't counted among the tally of more than 350 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. No one is sure how many private workers have been killed, or, indeed, even how many are toiling in Iraq for the U.S. government. Estimates range from under 10,000 to more than 20,000 - which could make private contractors the largest U.S. coalition partner ahead of Britain's 11,000 troops."

And, in case people believe I am overblowing the angle of "profits for Halliburton" (and other war profiteers), consider merely one news item: "House Nixes Anti-Profiteering Penalties in Iraq Spending Bill." The report reads, "The final version of the $87 billion spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan is missing provisions the Senate had passed to penalize war profiteers who defraud American taxpayers. House negotiators on the package refused to accept the Senate provisions. 'Congress is about to send billions and billions of dollars to a place where there is no functioning government, under a plan with too little accountability and too few financial controls,' said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) 'That's a formula for mischief. We need strong disincentives for those who would defraud taxpayers, and removing this protection is another major blot on this bill'." And the Bush administration refused to accept the $87 billion unless anti-fraud provisions were removed. Like I said...making the world safe for Halliburton et. al.

I promise a happier blog tomorrow, filled with movie reviews rather than transfer tubes.

Best to all,

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