Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Winston Smith Hard at Work at Minitrue

In an effort to spin the news media other than Faux into believing that everything is just ducky in Iraq, the minions of our President Appointee have forbidden the press to visit Iraqi hospitals at all and Iraqi morques without an armed bully boy in uniform accompanying them, guaranteeing that any morque attendent will say only what the military wants him to say:

According to the Oct. 8 Daily Threat Assessment - the Coalition's internal casualty report, which was shown to NEWSWEEK - eight soldiers were wounded seriously enough to be evacuated to military hospitals. Yet at a press conference the next day, there was no mention of the attack. Pushed by reporters, U.S. officials would only say the incident was under investigation. It was as if the ambush, and the casualties, had never happened.

In Baghdad, official control over the news is getting tighter. Journalists used to walk freely into the city's hospitals and the morgue to keep count of the day's dead and wounded. Now the hospitals have been declared off-limits and morgue officials turn away reporters who aren't accompanied by a Coalition escort. Iraqi police refer reporters' questions to American forces; the Americans refer them back to the Iraqis.

Freedom of the press, huh? Evidently no one in the Administration knows of Orwell's dictum that "Democracy, if it means anything at all, means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear," and wouldn't follow it if they did.

Of course the control of the press isn't the only problem. Spinning not over-bright Repug congressthings is another clever Minitrue tactic:

Yet reporters who covered the war say that some of the Coalition's achievements are less impressive than they sound. Paul (Jerry) Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, proudly announced the reopening of Iraq's schools this month, while White House officials point to the opening of Iraq's 240 hospitals. In fact, many schools were already open in May, once major combat ended, and no major hospital closed during the war. But that didn't stop a group of Republican senators from tearing into American reporters covering Iraq earlier this month. "I was not told by the media... that thousands and thousands of Iraqi schoolchildren went back to school," said Larry Craig of Idaho, who recently toured Iraq. The senator neglected to mention that he slept both nights of his trip in Kuwait, not Iraq.

Meanwhile, Atrios helpfully points out that the US military has jiggered the casualty count to refer only to those killed, rather than the traditional definition of killed, wounded, and missing. This conveniently draws a discreet sheet over the number of 20 something amputees rapidly piling up in military hospitals. And, in yet another vile corner of our conduct of Operation Iraqi "Freedom," we have the military's charming treatment of wounded soldiers returning from the war:

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), co-chair of the 83-member U.S. Senate National Guard Caucus, has dispatched a member of his staff to investigate reports that hundreds of wounded or sick Guard and Reserve soldiers -- many, who have returned from service in Iraq -- are living in inadequate barracks and facing poor medical conditions.

All are on "medical hold" while their medical conditions are assessed. The majority of the reservists reportedly have returned from service in Iraq; others were not sent to Iraq while their conditions are evaluated.

According to print and broadcast reports, the Army is housing more than 600 members of the National Guard and Reserve, who are on active duty with the 3rd Infantry Division, in extremely austere conditions at their base in Fort Stewart, Ga. The New York Times Tuesday reported that they are housed in cinderblock training barracks that lack indoor sanitary facilities and showers, air-conditioning, and even window screens. The news stories also reported that the veterans have received inadequate medical attention despite their "medical hold" status.

And Americans continue to put up with this shit. God help us. And God help our soldiers.

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