Denial and reality in Iraq

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(Host) Commentator Bill Seamans reflects on recent events in Iraq and what effect they are having on the home front.

(Seamans) It is very difficult to capture the mood of the nation right now. What seems apparent, however, is that the period of denial fostered by President Bush’s urging after 9/ll that we all remain “normal and go shopping” – that denial is fading away. Helen Thomas, the doyenne of the White House press corps, made a good effort the other day when she wrote that it seems, despite our efforts to live that normal life, the pain of reality is setting in.

Indeed, reality is setting in as our G.I. death toll in Iraq continues climbing. Reality is setting in as we see, despite Pentagon censorship, the terrible human cost of the war; the long lines of flag-covered coffins coming home aboard those big cargo planes; the New York Times front page picture of a Marine carrying his dead buddy in a body-bag slung over his shoulder.

And then our sense of denial is again brutally assaulted by those pictures of Iraqis tortured by Americans – torture committed by our young men and women? Reality is setting in and the full devastating story has yet to be told.

When we ask who was responsible we find out that the lady general in command of the prison said she did not know what was going on. That denial went all the way up the chain of command to the Pentagon – it’s called the “Cover Your Anatomy” syndrome. Reality is setting in as suddenly the “D” word is out of the closet. Politicians for whom the “D” word is political poison are actually talking about whether we will need to resume the draft because of the worsening military manpower situation. Reality says definitely not before the presidential election.

Ted Koppel disturbed the TV couch-potato denial world when he read on Nightline the names of all those who have fallen in Iraq so far. For the station owners who refused to broadcast his program and thus denied the reality of our death toll Koppel said, “I am opposed to sustaining the illusion that war can be waged by the sacrifice of a few, without burdening the rest of us in any way…” Thus Koppel touched on the denial of a national sense of guilt as we carry on normally and leave the burden of Iraq only to the families of those serving, and to those who are returning grievously wounded or in one of those flag-covered coffins.

It is beyond denial that so many families of those in the National Guard and reserves who have beenf called to duty, are suffering extreme financial difficulties while the corporations favored by the Bush administration’s no-bid contracts in Iraq are reporting record profits for this first budgetary quarter.

As Helen Thomas said, Reality is setting in…

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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