War Commentary, Lou Bourgenicht
Salt Lake City, UT –
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The day the war started I unexpectedly received a copy of the Wall Street Journal in the mail. As a physician I am used to having unsolicited magazines spontaneously appear in my waiting room courtesy of some marketing agency no doubt: Seventeen, Readers Digest, Playstation.
I am kind of guy who, during times of crisis, likes to assimilate information to try to understand both intellectually and emotionally what in God's name is happening, or in this case, what is happening in God's name. I tucked the Journal under my arm as I headed home. During the first Gulf War in 1991 I bought the daily New York Times and read it cover to cover along with The Deseret News, The Salt Lake Tribune, and occasionally Time or Newsweek. I read voraciously and I wrote seven editorials published in The Tribune. Curious, I looked at the first piece I had written over ten years ago: there were clear and ironic echoes of the present in the past.
War now is similar and very very different from the war then. Back then the television media coverage was antiseptic and fascinatingly technological, the video game war. Distance from the human drama of the war was the operative mode. So I gleaned the human side of the tragedy primarily from the printed page. I have a thing about that and always have.
When the War in Iraq began I bought the daily New York Times for five days in a row until I got tired of carrying it and the Wall Street Journal back and forth from my office in the ineffable hope that I would have time to read it. At the end of the day I would turn on the television for ten minutes: Wolf Blitzer, that scion of the Gulf War now sported a silver beard; the news reporters were speculating about what might be news; military consultants were pontificating on the presumed action, hazy videos showed buildings on fire, and the Centcom briefings maintained that the war was going according to plan. But even with 24-7 coverage, I have no clue about human reality of the war.
Discussing this with a friend over lunch the other day he claimed that he would get home from work and watch the television for an hour. His mood was dour, unusual for him. I told him I thought people watched the war because subconsciously they were waiting for the prurient moment when the networks would show the ultimate: dead or wounded. Why do you watch it? I asked him. He suddenly got a wistful expression on his face and his mood lightened palpably, I watch in the hope that it is over.