Saturday, November 13, 2004

Bridget Jones' Fallujah diary


Haven't received this photo as an email attachment for ages ...
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The news has been dominated by two big stories this week; the assault of Fallujah and Bridget Jones' Diary II.
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Dealing the least important of the two first, the assault on Fallujah appears to be proceeding to plan. The news is full of desperate Iraqi Red Crescent Aid workers begging for food, water and medical supplies. Apparently, thousands of civilians are starving and bleeding but no relief supplies can be trucked into the town because of fighting.

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Yes, that's what winning hearts and minds is all about. Blowing the daylights out of mosques, hospitals and water treatment plants then watching the civilian population die from starvation, blood loss and cholera. I imagine the survivors will put on a party for their liberators as soon as they can get their hands on paper hats and bunting along with food and bandages.

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One expatriate Iraqi mournfully pointed out that the UK Government wouldn’t dream of launching a full scale military assault, with 20,000 soldiers and armour, on Hackney just to clear out a few hundred foreign criminals.

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No, but it's a bloody excellent idea though. I think I might stroll over to Green Lanes tomorrow with a GPS, compass and my free Happy Meal pedometer and start drafting a rough fire control schematic, on the off-chance we get a change of government.
After Hackney they could start on the Oval/ Kennington/ Brixton Triangle of Death here in South London. I'd happily pick up a radio and call in airstrikes and close fire support.
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'Zulu Zulu Tango. Your target co-ordinates coincide with your own location. Please confirm. Over'
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'Yes, affirmative. We are in an over-run situation. Repeat over-run situation. Drop everything you have on my position. I'm gagging for your full load of Snake and Nape, Agent Orange, Depleted Uranium, bolied sweets and anything else you might happen to have in your glove compartment. Over'
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It's difficult to know what's going on in Iraq at the moment as all the news stories are subject to military censorship. I do wonder what the more intelligent journalists think they're doing out there. Clearly, at least some of them are in harm's way, but why? What's the point of risking an RPG round in the chest just to report stories that are double-filtered by the military and the news organisation ownership?
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'Yes, I'm in the centre [boom] of Fallujah now [rata tata tata]. Lots of insurgents [kablam] have been killed [crunch], coalition casualties are light [badading badading badading] and the civilian population appears to be hosting a celebratory street festival … [kapow]'
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Those same journalists are reporting that the US military controls 80%+ of Fallujah yet for some reason is unable to get humanitarian supplies or party hats into the town. Mmmmm, I love the smell of bullsh*t in the morning.

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It's a shame about the military reporting restrictions because that means we don’t get to see any footage of white phosphorous (WP) munitions in action. Apparently, the marines are dusting off surplus Vietnam stock and pumping it into Fallujah. I like phosphorus, not only because it is a key ingredient in Coke, but because it also makes pretty patterns when it explodes. There's a classic clip of Vietnam footage that is frequently shown in documentatries; taken from the back of a bomber than is dropping alternating napalm and WP ordnance onto a jungle. The 'palm blows up all orange and globular, the WP blasts are white with lots of smoky tendrils scattering off in all sorts of directions. The WP is my favourite.

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The US Military likes WP because:
  • Even though it's just as effective (i.e. lethal) as napalm on soft targets (i.e. human beings) in wide area (i.e. indiscriminate) scenarios it doesn't have quite such a bad reputation in the media
  • You can’t put out a WP fire with water. In fact, water makes it burn hotter. If you get peppered with one of those babies you're in a world of pain. The rationale being that if WP doesn’t kill people immediately they'll writhe in agony for a few hours, distracting their comrades' aim a little
  • In sufficient doses, WP melts people
  • WP rounds make pretty patterns when they explode.
Yup, 'Willy Peter will make yuh a believah'
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Just like meeting someone with an obvious wig and feeling powerfully driven towards making oblique reference to that wig in conversation, I just know that there are middle-ranking officers throughout the Marine Corps just itching to say:

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'We had to destroy Fallujah in order to save it'
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The first American to use that line was referring to village called Ben Tre in Vietnam and the number of parallels between Iraq and Vietnam are multiplying daily. At the start of the Fallujah assault an American general at the first press conference wisely refused to discuss preliminary Vietnam-style body counts as they were not meaningful. Five days later the newspapers are packing headlines like:

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'600 insurgents killed in Fallujah. US reports 18 combat fatalities'
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Oh dear, guerrilla warfare reduced to the level of a football result. Unfortunately, the game doesn't work like that. The final score in Vietnam was something like 57,000 to 1,000,000, on the Eastern Front in WW2 the result was 6m to 25m when the final whistle blew. In both instances, the side with the greatest casualties won, decisively.

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Anyway, for a more accurate account of what's taking place in Fallujah, everyone would be better off grabbing a copy of Despatches by Michael Herr and read his account of the fighting in Hue in 1968. This is easily the best description of Americans at war post WW2. Believe me, I've read them all.

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One book I haven't read is Bridget Jones' Diary

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For most of this week the UK media has consisted solely of the following two messages:

  • The fighting in Fallujah is going well
  • See the latest Bridget Jones movie
... punctuated by commercials, many of which are for the Bridget Jones movie
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Over the last couple of days I have been exposed to:
  • The making of Bridget Jones II documentary
  • Free Bridget Jones promotional CDs with today's newspapers
  • The title song from Bridget Jones on Top of the Pops, even though it hasn’t charted yet
  • Numerous interviews with cast, crew and author of Bridget Jones on TV, Radio and newspapers
  • News programs reporting on surveys (commissioned by BJ PR people) about Bridget Jones type lifestyles in the context of being 'hard news' stories
  • Tonight, Channel 4 is showing … the first Bridget Jones Movie
Given that I'm not operating a Cheltenham style spy facility that is simultaneously monitoring all communications traffic, I must conclude that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
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Aside from the inevitable contrast between the inane and the shocking that comes from watching coverage of a war followed by plugs for a trivial movie, I have several problems with this assault on the senses.
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Firstly, by all accounts, the movie sucks arse. Secondly, we pay £130 a year for a TV licence; the justification for that is that it supports a non-commercial national broadcasting company, the BBC. By blatantly plugging a movie in its 'news' programmes and music chart shows, the BBC is taking the piss out of each and every licence payer. Presumably, several senior BBC execs got a nice rubbing-off in a massage parlour in West London somewhere in return. I'm pleased for them, but they are paid enough through a monopolistic tax to fund their own horizontal refreshment. Thirdly, the Bridget Jones PR campaign makes me despair over the stupidity of the British public. Clearly this kind of media blitz works, otherwise it wouldn't happen. All over the country, thousands of people will pay money to watch a pants film, specifically because the puppet masters told them to.
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Coming soon …
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Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts star in 'Turd in a Paper Cup', the romantic sequel to 'Dead Hamster in a Paper Cup'. This year's 'must see' movie
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You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll fork out nine quid to see it. You're a Muppet

2 comments:

Musafir said...

Great post and blog, as if you have been reading my mind. It happens all the time when there is a movie out.

I am very pleased that there are people like who care about important issues.

You may find this site interesting /http://www.iraq-war.ru//

I wish you all the best, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Stef said...

Thanks for the kind words

Yes, I like the link a lot. It's definitely one for the bookmark list.