The war plays out on cable TV |

The war plays out on cable TV

Don Rogers

That star reporter from the last Gulf War, Peter Arnett, got sacked by MSNBC for telling Iraqi TV that the coalition forces had failed miserably. Three weeks and rolling into Baghdad with fewer than 100 losses. What, pray tell, would it take for him to count this a mild success?

Was Peter among those astute journos labeling Afghanistan a “quagmire” just a couple of days into that action? Imagine the reporting from Normandy and Iwo Jima had the current tribe covered World War II.

Then again, we might have sensibly stopped the nonsense in Vietnam a lot sooner. At the very least, the “Five O’clock Follies,” those notoriously upbeat central command lies about how the combat was going in country, would have been exposed.

Today’s secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfield, does a passable imitation, though. Has he ever been wrong about anything? Not in his mind. That’s more frightening than anything in the battlefield, where the much-vaunted “elite,” “top-flight,” “well-trained” Republican Guard are pitching battle with old rifles and a grenade or two in what looks suspiciously to the untrained mind like thoroughly mindless confusion. Or surrendering, as has been laboriously explained they would never do, being the modern equivalent of the Spartans. Riiiiggght.

There’s yet fear of chemical attack, including the use of mustard gas. But Saddam’s very best forces borrowed again too much from World War I and dug themselves in forward positions outside Baghdad where we could pulverize them from the air. Arnett, no doubt, joins the Iraqi minister of information in assessing all this a great victory for Saddam, who either is too scared or too dead to present himself in person, even to disassociate himself from the minister’s lousy prose uttered in his name. I wouldn’t take credit for that gibberish, either.

Saddam’s son, Usay, apparently strayed from his prayers and studied more modern fare: the movie “Black Hawk Down,” which dramatized U.S. soldiers fighting there way out of downtown after a botched helicopter raid on a warlord. His nasty irregulars, the Fedayeen, made some noise in their machine-gun equipped pickups and grenade-firing rifles along the LA-to-San Francisco-long supply route. And he added a most Hussein-style feature: having loyalists go ahead and kill soldiers if they didn’t fight, and citizens for trying to flee. While they’re at it, why not drop bombs on a marketplace or two?

He’s met some success, although he seemed to leave our tanks out of his calculations. Three long weeks into war and that supply line is flowing largely unmolested now, although a few of those cities are still laced with what coalition representatives and “embedded” journalists are calling pockets of resistance.

I’m following what a Los Angeles poll declares a trend in turning to cable for most of my news about the war. The poll says just about 70 percent of us are doing this. The percentage of people who admit getting most of their news about this from newspapers has dropped from about half getting most of their news in general from papers.

The same poll shows support for President Bush and this war jumping. His approval rating has risen from 56 percent before the war to 68 percent now. That’s well below his dad’s Gulf War approval rating of 85 percent.

Two-thirds of self-described “liberals” even approve, according to this poll. How come I don’t know any?

I’m not your vacuous, “give peace a chance” (we did, for 12 years, moron) type. No question, there’s a hallowed place for steel, at home in our police force and judicial system, as well as on the battlefield. I even suspect rolling into Iraq was inevitable.

But I’ll admit bucking the popularity trend and recoiling a bit from our political leadership. The damnable Dems who point out our own clumsy attempts at coalition-building are right. Forget the Russians and Chinese. But the French and Germans would have joined with time and just a few more diplomatic steps if the president weren’t listening more to Vice President Dick Cheney than Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Even I could figure this one out. More weapons inspectors and more aggressive inspections until the dummy threw ’em out again. Or really did break down the weapons of mass destruction system.

But no use pining for a President Powell, who would have teased together a genuine coalition if this came to force. We’re in. Let’s get the job done right, and dare I say move on?

Managing editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or

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