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The Only Game In Town


When the WTC was hit, there was the expected shock and outrage. There were a lot of people trying very hard to say meaningful, profound things, none of which I can remember right now. There were cries of outrage and recrimination, demands to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

There was a small spate of articles about Osama bin Laden specifically, but a whole lot about the entire Middle East. There have been a lot of articles focusing on specific towns, specific groups and specific people. They have been very enlightening, but the tone has turned.

In NewYorkerland, it is only about six months after the WTC was hit. There has not been a mention of Osama bin Laden for at least the last two months. They've forgotten about him entirely. Instead, they are focused on exactly what the present administration wants them to focus on: Saddam Hussein.

I picked up an issue and while doing my initial perusal, I ran across a photograph of an older man lying in the street, clutching an infant whose head is tipped back and his mouth open. The both of them are plainly dead. When I initially saw that picture, I was so horrified that I couldn't stop crying for several hours, and in fact had put that issue down and read other things instead. I finally read the first half of that article on Saturday, and, as expected, it focused on gas attacks perpetrated by the Iraqi army on the Kurds. The photograph was a man who had tried to get his grandson to higher ground to escape the gas, but failed.

What happened is plainly horrendous. No one argues that for even a second. Here's the part that bothers me:

I don't appreciate being manipulated.

Once the initial horror at having my eyes raped was passed, I was just angry.

The American people were, in the days leading up to the war, fed a steady diet of the horrors of Saddam Hussein's rule, both real and imaginary. I heard stories from people with whom I worked of things that absolutely defied common sense and physics that were attributed to Saddam Hussein as evidence of his cruelty, as though the truth weren't awful enough.

But what about Osama bin Laden? The criminal for whom we were supposed to be searching? The one who was supposedly responsible for the deaths of all those people?

Even outlets that I normally think of as having a more liberal bias and therefore are a little more skeptical in regards to jumping on any administration's bandwagon, there was nothing but a diet of "Isn't Saddam Hussein a rotten guy? Shouldn't we take him out?"

Here's the other thing that jumped out of the page at me. What's the man's name? Saddam Hussein. What's the journalistic convention regarding mention of a person's name? That you use first, last and title if appropriate at the first mention, and last name only thereafter.

With one exception. Saddam Hussein. During the buildup to the first Gulf War, then-president George Bush very deliberately referred to him as "Saddam," diminishing him in the eyes of Westerners, but not in the eyes of his countrymen. The name "Saddam" is not his actual given name, after all. But by calling him by only one name, the marketing juggernaut that is our government has fixed him in our minds.

But what about Osama bin Laden? The criminal for whom we are supposed to be searching? The one who was supposedly responsible for the deaths of all those people?

I have never agreed with this war. I thought that it was a sham perpetrated on the flimsiest of pretexts as a way to keep a man in power who should never have been there in the first place. Not to sound too conspiracy-theorist, and with the full realization that to say so out loud puts me on some sort of watch list somewhere, I would not put it past this particular administration to have orchestrated the WTC bombing themselves. The men pulling the strings were there for previous Republican administrations and obviously have an agenda that is far larger than anyone on the ground (that is, you and me and our neighbors and regular people who don't live in the X Files) thinks about. This particular war has been in the offing for decades.

I'm angry because so many people bought into it, and now that Saddam Hussein is gone, they feel that the whole thing was justified by the fact that he was SUCH a bad man. Never mind that he's one speck on the worldwide "Bad Man" landscape. Never mind that those things continue to happen all over the world every day. Never mind that the things that our own government perpetrates on its own citizens are perhaps less violent and overt, but no less restrictive.

I'm mostly angry because nobody thinks for themselves, and those of us who do are called names.