Thursday, March 27, 2003

Now, I don't plan to do this every day. I'm not a media pundit, nor do I want to be one. But I am an avid consumer of several mass media outlets, and a few that are not so mass, and one of the reasons I started this log was so that I wouldn't have to send out so many e-mails about funny or interesting things I read, and instead I can post them here. So let me start today by pointing out that in yesterday's New York Times, I did not find a *single* article about humanitarian aid for Iraq.

(By the way, those of you who do not have access to the Times in print may be interested to know that the paper has added a new section, "A Nation at War," as it did after the 9/11 attacks. Like then, too, the Sports section is now slapped back-to-back onto another section -- yesterday it was Metro -- so that when you get halfway through it, you have to flip the paper upside down and turn to the back page to read the rest of the section, which is really not the rest of the section but a different section. If you've seen it, you know what I mine; if you haven't, forget it: It's not *that* interesting.)

Of course there were *mentions* of humanitarian aid. A page-one story titled "U.S. Shifting Focus of Land Campaign to Fight in South" noted, in the jump on page B5, "The American military has considerable combat power, but it also has a multitude of tasks. These included moving to win the battle of Baghdad [by the way, how soon after that battle do you think people will start capitalizing the b in battle?], protecting long supply lines, searching for Scud and other surface-to-surface missiles and caches of weapons of mass destruction, ensuring that civilians have food and water and preventing the breakup of the country." [my emphasis]

A story on page B11, titled "U.S. Officials Say Iraqis May Have Killed Some American Prisoners," pointed out that disputes over the operation of the U.N.-run oil-for-food program, suspended on March 17, have "delayed the authorization of new mechanisms for the distribution of relief aid, including about $2.4 billion worth of food and other supplies being sent to Iraq." (Those disputes in themselves, by the way, are also very interesting. Perhaps more on them later.)

"Saudis Send Proposals to End War to Both Sides," on page B12, mentions that apart from "running its air war from a high-tech command center on Prince Sultan Air Force Base, just 50 miles southeast of Riyadh," the U.S. "is also using two other northern Saudi air force bases, though the Saudi government says that use of those bases is restricted to humanitarian relief efforts."

The most prominent mention of humanitarian relief in yesterday's Times, though, was in a story titled "Decade of Plans to Topple Hussein Yield [sic] Mixed Results," on page B1, the front page of the "Nation at War" section. In the jump on page B12 is a subsection titled "Plans for Aid: A Flood of Relief Has Been Delayed," which reports: "In the weeks before the invasion, White House officials built a strategy that relied on an intelligence assessment that suggested that pacification would come quickly in southern Iraq. Just behind the 'liberation troops,' officials said, would come a flood of humanitarian relief. When the residents of Baghdad saw or heard of how American forces were bringing in aid, providing medical care and turning basic government functions over to an interim government, the thinking went, they would know that a new era had arrived. [new graf] "But that plan has suffered delays. Because the military bypassed the cities, and because the fedayeen Saddam -- the guerrilla units operating in cities and town [sic] across the country -- are still active, American forces have not secured the areas where the occupation was supposed to begin. As a result, the millions of meals and the aid that was supposed to win popular support remain locked in cargo containers. President Bush's declaration on Sunday that the aid would begin flowing within 36 hours now looks optimistic. [new graf] " 'The expectations were wrong,' said Judith Kipper, the director of the Middle East forum here [Washington, DC]. 'This image that the Iraqis would be dancing in the streets, presenting troops with cookies and flowers, was a bit misguided. We need to get a sense of reality about this.' [new graf] "A senior administration official said more than a month ago that one of the great mysteries of the early days of the war was whether 'we will be greeted with cheers, jeers or shouts.' At the end of the first week, the answer seems to be all three." [last graf included only for completeness' sake.]

Not to get carried away with "by the ways," by the way, but does anyone else find it unsettling to see the word pacification used in the story above? What, is this Vietnam?

Given how much weight was and is being attached to the good intentions of the U.S. going into Iraq, why isn't the Times running a story about the humanitarian relief effort *every day*? They've got the people. They could do it. And they should.

Next posting please.