The Guardian 7 December, 2005
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"Yee-ha" vs. "God is Great"
I was astounded to see that more than one local TV news bulletin chose to draw attention to the same aspect of a video purportedly taken by a terrorist cameraman in Iraq. A US Hum-V military vehicle was shown being destroyed by a roadside bomb. Ten servicemen reportedly lost their lives in the attack. The amateur video ended up on Arabic news services like Al-Jazeera.
The local Australian news items showing the footage carried the by now mandatory heavy editorial commentary. Newsreaders noted that the cameraman seemed beside himself with joy at the destruction and loss of life, although all I could hear was him saying "Allahu Akhbar" ("God is Great") over and over in fairly subdued tones. This was offered up as an example of utter ghoulishness and, I suppose, another demonstration of the difference between "them" and "us".
Please, TV journalists out there, spare us the drivel. I think back to the first Gulf War when the coalition or alliance launched its bombing assault on Iraq. US planes flew sortie after sortie and pilots worked themselves into a lather to meet the destructive demands placed on them. One pilot was recorded in one of the reports yelling "yee-ha" like a rodeo cowboy as he took off with another load of bombs to drop on Baghdad, which had already been shown lit up like a Christmas tree from previous murderous raids. I donít recall any disapproving noises from Australian newsreaders.
I also remember documentaries showing that the music of choice of many US military vehicles during the invasion of Iraq was a catchy number entitled Burn Motherf*#ker, Burn. Again, where is the anger from the Murdoch/Packer journos?
Letís be frank, in war the survival instincts are so heightened that participants do draw satisfaction from the destruction of their enemies who, in turn, are gunning for them. During WW2, I doubt whether the sight of a Heinkel bomber going down in flames would have drawn much sympathy from onlookers in London who were being terrorised by the Nazi Blitz. Today, at a distance of 6o years and with the defeat of the Nazis under our collective belt, we are more likely to think that those anonymous Germans had little choice in what they were doing. We are more likely to think about their grieving families at home. These are facts of life and reasons why level-headed people go to great lengths to avoid war.
I believe we should feel sympathy for the US marines killed in that attack even if we disapprove of their cause. Like the Iraqi forces being recruited into the national army now, they are most driven by joblessness and poverty. But if a cameraman from one of the warring parties should let slip with a couple of Allahu Akhbars, please donít pretend to be surprised.
Punitive policing of parents
According to statistics provided by a welfare group, 13 per cent of Australian children live in poverty. One in six children growing up in the same lucky country does so in a jobless household. The figures are provided by the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, hardly a leftist outfit trying to embarrass the present government.
Peter Costello has come up with a "bright" idea to strip "bad" parents of welfare payments. Evidently the Federal Government should start policing parentsí behaviour and if it is thought to be "bad" payments should stop and be redirected to somebody else who presumably would provide a better care.
Evidently Peter Costello got his inspiration from visiting a remote Aboriginal community and decided that it was the way to go. Mind you, he never said a word about what his government actually did for making sure that there are services and jobs for people in those communities, if there are doctors and nurses, childcare facilities and schools. Itís so much easier to blame individuals for a failing system.
Now if he is given half a chance Mr Costello wants to impose his visionary plans for the whole community. How it will make things better for the children is not clear, at least to me. Welfare payments are not exactly largesse and families are struggling as it is. How will it help children if money is not coming in at all? Who decides what a "bad" parent is? Will politiciansí children be scrutinised for their behaviour and their parents made out to be "bad" parents if they are drunks, use drugs etc? Will those parents lose their publicly provided entitlements and privileges?
It seems to me that the government is trying to shift its state responsibility to the private sector and indulge in social engineering ó targeting the most vulnerable first. But they are just the first; the rest of us will be in the same boat if we allow it to happen.