We’re well into the ground offensive in Iraq and I’ve deliberately avoided writing about my feelings about the whole situation before now for several reasons. Firstly, I think it’s a bad idea to wage a war without international support. No country should be allowed to wield such power alone and act with such impunity. That aside, there’s no sense in arguing the point. The reality is that the battle is underway, the decisions have been made and no amount of protesting will stop the war (really). I disagree with the war (especially for the repercussions Britain and the US could face after the Saddam Hussein regime is in pieces, depending on the outcome), but now that it’s underway I want the troops involved to get the job done with minimal casualties. The less loss of life the better in my book.
If it weren’t for a bout of flu, I could quite easily be one of the Royal Marines fighting in the desert. And, sitting comfortably on my sofa watching TV thinking of what might have been, I fully understand the seriousness of the conflict. I watched the video of laser-guided missiles destroying targets in the 1991 war with amazement. It was like watching a video game and I was younger and less worldly-wise. This time around I’ve been watching the news channels on satellite TV in a different frame of mind: more analytically and less like it isn’t really happening.
What strikes me straight away is how more tightly information is being controlled than in 1991. Invading a country is a much bloodier thing than trying to expel a force from one. There were going to be fierce fire-fights, close quarters combat, friendly fire incidents and much worse (such as POWs being bandied on TV). With the amount of media coverage from 1991 on such a grizzly battlefield the public and politicians could find it hard to have the stomach for a drawn-out campaign. This time, however, the press is being kept in the dark. No laser-guided precision bomb video feeds. The military briefers are remaining tighter-lipped about operations than before and the reporters are being kept out of the “areas of interest” by the soldiers they are following. The trouble is though that it’s not taken long for reporters to involved in fierce fire-fights and there’s no way to keep a lid on that sort of horror.
The different news channels I’ve been watching have dealt with the conflict quite differently so far. Sky News have been using technology to let the reporters in different parts of the battlefield interview each other, which has been a bit strange. The BBC News 24 team have been doing (in my opinion) a better job. Whereas Sky has been letting presenters on location lead the reporting, the BBC have been taking a more classically detached approach. They sit in the studio in London, speak to reporters in the field as thing happen and then discuss them in a calm, balanced manner. It’s less close-to-the-bone, but feels less frantic. Both channels have interactive services where you can watch live feeds from Baghdad and catch up on the latest events when you like. CNN is a waste of time as their reporters have been expelled from Baghdad and NBC is just too dumbed down for my liking (no offence, but it is).
I guess that we’ll only really hear about exactly what’s been going on after the event and I’m not going to sit for hours in front of the TV trying to follow every grizzly detail. There’s nothing I can do about it and I’m just hoping that it will all be over soon. But deep down I don’t think it will. I have this sneaking feeling that when the US and UK troops hit Baghdad it’s going to be one hell of a bloodbath. I just hope I’m proved wrong.