Volume 37, Number 6: November/December 2003

Remembrance and Censorship

By the time this commentary appears, another mawkish, duplicitous Remembrance Day will be history.

Editors, writers, producers and photographers will have looked for new ways to honor Canada’s War Dead – though not very hard – and will likely have settled for yet another shot of the dwindling parade of fragile veterans who appear faithfully every year to fill what’s known among journalists as “the November Hole.”

Of course the best way to honor dead soldiers is to make sure there will be fewer of them in our collective future. Journalists could help do this by dropping the sentimental ritual coverage of November 11, and exposing war for what is: the obscenely profitable waste of life which follows the failure of political will.

Editorial writers, columnists and commentators could, for example, have called on The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2003-2004 recently released by the highly regarded U.S. media watch organization, Project Censored.

The latest list of stories withheld from the American (and by extension, Canadian) public illustrates the will of media owners to ensure citizens remain militarily illiterate.

No fewer than fifteen of the top twenty five missing stories this year contain ugly information about military motives and strategy guaranteed to incite more of the intense protest inspired by the invasion of Iraq.

Stories systematically withheld from the public include (at the top of the list): The Neoconservative plan for Global Dominance; US Illegally Removes Pages from Iraq U.N. Report; In Afghanistan, Poverty, Women’s Rights, Civil Disruption Worse than Ever and Bush Administration Behind Failed Military Coup in Venezuela.

Bringing any of these stories with their attendant imperialism to light would show tremendous respect for those who have been sent to suffer and die in the many fraudulent wars of the last century (as well as this one) but if you can find them documented in November’s mainstream media, I’ll eat the futile poppy I bought again this year.

War will certainly continue to be a romantic adventure as long as Canadians have war correspondents like Matthew Fisher, a highly gifted and handsomely paid writer based in Moscow, who covered the invasion of Iraq for the National Post. He appeared on a panel of foreign correspondents called “Live from Baghdad” for journalists in Toronto in May.

Fisher was one of two Canadian reporters “embedded” with American forces on the road to Baghdad.

“I’ve been in 39 wars, but this (Iraq) was the first time I’d been inside the big American fighting machine. When Americans fight, it’s the Superbowl of battles.”

Fisher was embedded with the US Marine Corps, traveling with thousands of boys between the ages of 17 and 19, most of them “nervous and trigger happy.”

“I was very fortunate; I saw three major battles, one in which 300 Iraquis died. I was in a firefight with 4,000 people shooting for 45 minutes. It was a tremendous experience even though it was immediately clear to me that this conflict was like fighting the Flintstones, grotesquely mismatched.” Living, eating and sleeping with the American troops gave Fisher a unique perspective which he admits did not always find its way to Canadian readers.

“Unlike Canadian soldiers, they’re not afraid to say ‘I wanna kill someone.’”

“In Canadian forces, that’ll get you a psychiatric evaluation. In the US army, it’ll get you a good combat record. But they don’t really mean they want to kill somebody, they just want to test themselves. I knew this gunner – he hated everybody – but he was one hell of a fighter.”

Fisher witnessed the death of two of the young soldiers fighting close to him. One of them slept with his gun, forgot to leave the safety on and “blew his head off”. The other had gone AWOL because he was afraid he’d let his buddies down in battle. Army officials found him and dragged him into combat where he committed suicide.

“You find guys like that in every unit, maybe 50 to 100 guys who aren’t up to it.”

Fisher wrote that story but the Post didn’t run it.

“A lot of journalists will be back there soon. Americans have grand, grand designs in the Middle East. It’s absolutely breathtaking, And they’ve only started, baby. I’m opposed to it; it’s ridiculous, but I try not to let that interfere with my reporting. I mean, if someone is going to get whacked, if it’s happening, I want to be there for the whacking.”

“Canada used to be a great warrior nation,” he says. “Unfortunately, all we think about now is peacekeeping.”

Ed. note: CD readers will find the complete list of censored stories (2003/04) at www.projectcensored.org/publications

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