During the Vietnam War in the mid-1960s, over 90 percent of US homes had television sets, and on a nightly basis Americans viewed a steady stream of coverage of our soldiers being KIA (Killed in Action), MIA (Missing in Action) and wounded.
This news coverage helped mold the nation’s opinion against the war.
During the Iraqi conflict under President George W. Bush, reporters were imbedded with military units, ostensibly, for their own safety. But in reality it was a fairly transparent scheme to control the coverage and flow of news.
There would be no repeat of the Vietnam nightly body count.
The American public never saw bloodied or dead soldiers. The Bush Administration even forbade the filming of flag-covered metal coffins being unloaded at state-side airbases.
If a shot of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) exploding near a soldier was captured on film, the editor censored the image so that one never knew whether the soldier survived the blast or not.
There would be no imagery of a soldier with a Zippo lighter setting fire to a hooch as was the case in Vietnam. This war was not going to be lost due to bad press.
There is a video montage that can be viewed on YouTube under the heading of “Sniper of Iraq.” I mention this video because while visiting China I tuned into China Central TV (CCTV) Military Channel and watched a program dealing with sniper tactics and weaponry.
The station showed unedited sniper footage from a camera mounted in the scope of an Iraqi fighter’s rifle. The sniper was called “Juba” and was considered the country’s best against America.
American soldiers could be seen patrolling an area on foot or in a fortified personnel carrier as the sniper took aim at his unsuspecting victims. The image quality in China appeared to be much higher than what I saw here on YouTube. Perhaps, the Chinese were better connected and had obtained first generation copies?
The sniper is shown on CCTV, and now on YouTube, taking shots that were graphic and deadly, often resulting in either a flying helmet or smoke emanating from the head of the now slumped-over body.
I sat there slack-jawed as I viewed this litany of disturbing images – death by stealth. The American soldiers had no idea where the fire was coming from, nor did it appear that their body armor provided much protection.
One scene showed the Iraqi sniper zeroing in on a patrol. He felled one soldier and as another soldier came to help, he, too, was killed. A third soldier was executed trying to duck for cover as he literally did a heartbreaking dance in an attempt to stay upright to no avail.
I feel if the American public had seen such images, they would have been so disturbed that they would have brought that war to an earlier end – much like they did during the Vietnam era.
And, what about the Afghanistan war that is now being waged? If America saw similar types of explicit killings from Afghanistan, how much longer would that war be tolerated?
Perhaps, instead of an excuse to barbeque and drink to celebrate Memorial Day, a more somber attitude should be struck to truly pay homage to these deceased soldiers. After all, it is Memorial Day.
(Editor’s note: Gregory Taylor teaches Chinese at the Post. He’s a former Oakland police officer who grew up in East Oakland. He has just returned from China. And will be doing a series of articles. Contact him at www.newsarticlesandevents.com or http://twitter.com/gregoryktaylor)