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Jewish World Review March 26, 2003 / 22 Adar II, 5763

Roger Simon

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War is about dead bodies | "In war," Torie Clarke, the Pentagon spokesperson, said the other day, "bad things happen and people die."

That statement is stark, simple and true.

But our media don't want you to believe it.

They want you to believe that war is about spectacular explosions over Baghdad, video-game pictures of tanks being blown up and celebrities like David Bloom riding in that M-88 tank recovery vehicle.

I don't blame Bloom for the latter. He is just doing his job. TV is a celebrity-creating medium, and if you get on TV a lot, you become a celebrity.

But I think a lot of us were hoping that embedding journalists with the troops might lead to more information on and perspective from ordinary soldiers. We are getting very little of that. Instead, we are getting stars.

TV has high-priced talent out in the field, and they are determined to show us that high-priced talent. Every chance they get.

What TV doesn't want to show us is dead bodies, however.

I have covered only two shooting wars, my stay each time was brief, but I did manage to learn one thing: War is about dead bodies.

When you get right down to it, war is not about ex-generals on TV in front of fancy maps or current generals standing behind lecterns and giving progress reports.

War is about death. War is about people getting killed.

But TV wants to sanitize this war, at least when it comes to the American dead. It doesn't want to show us pictures of that.

ABC, which showed pictures of two dead Iraqi soldiers, drew the line at showing pictures of dead U.S. soldiers.

"Anytime you show dead bodies , it is simply disrespectful, in my opinion," said Charlie Gibson, the host of ABC's "Good Morning America." (I guess Iraqi corpses don't deserve such respect.)

"I feel we do have an obligation to remind people in the most graphic way that war is a dreadful thing," replied "Nightline's" Ted Koppel in disagreement.

I agree with Koppel, and for an additional reason: Every one of our troops has volunteered. They all know that when they go into combat, they risk death. But still they volunteered.

That takes a lot of courage, and it seems to me that to pretend death does not exist is to dishonor the risk our troops are knowingly taking.

I am not saying TV should show identifiable pictures of the war dead before families have been notified. I am not saying that it should show gruesome pictures for shock value.

But it is possible to be within the bounds of decency and still show reality. And we should show the reality of this war.

In war, bad things happen and people die, said Torie Clarke.

She is right, and Americans should know that.

War is horrible, and if we do not learn the horrors of war, see the horrors of war, feel the horrors of war, we really will begin to believe it is a video game.

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