Desert Storm

The quality of patriotism, like sex, should not be measured by the size of one’s flagpole. This is a monthly publication. God only knows what the world will be like six weeks from today when you read this. But today is January 24, 1991, and the United States has entered the second week of Operation Desert Storm. Please permit me a few observations as the war drags on.

ALL TIED UP. . . As my friend Gary noticed, the country is ribbon crazy. It all started in 1979 during the Iran Hostage Crisis. Americans tied yellow ribbons everywhere. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAADD) is responsible for the proliferation of red ribbons that decorate car antennas. One wonders how many drunks rushed to place the ribbons on their cars in hopes of escaping detection.

Now, in support of our servicemen and women overseas, people are wearing orange ribbons. Plans are underway for green and orange ribbons for people who support the troops and vote Democratic, purple and orange for Republican voters, and black and orange for the vast majority of Americans who don’t bother to vote at all.

WRAPPED IN GLORY . . . Many Americans have decided that the only things more valuable than ribbons are flags. AMERICAN FLAGS. Tie tacks. Collar Pins. On houses, businesses, and cars. Old Glory is everywhere. In 1988 we had a candidate wrap himself in the flag. Today the entire country is wrapped in red, white and blue bunting.

And Bush. . . it seems that every time I hear a Republican say, “Support our boys overseas,” they also add “and our President George Bush.” Are Bush’s handlers counting on today’s flag wavers to fuel 1992’s re-election? I hope not. Support of our soldiers and patriotism in general are not synonymous with either party or any candidate. There is a difference between being wrapped in the flag and being choked by it.

SHAW TO HOLLIMAN TO ARNETT. . . Was CNN’s coverage from ground zero a milestone in journalism? I don’t know about that, but it was damned good T.V. As the bombs fell that night and the security people pounded on the door to their hotel room/broadcast center, three men overcame their fears and gave the reports of their lives.

My son, Phillip, and I were glued to the set. We wondered if they were going to see the light of day as the ani-aircraft fire and tracer bullets lit the sky. It was morbidly exciting. American aircraft were overhead bombing specific (?) targets. The pilots didn’t seem to be nearly as vulnerable as the three reporters. Holliman, unable to control his curiosity, kept looking out the window to see for himself and to tell us what was happening over Baghdad that night.

When Phillip awoke the next morning, his first question was about the fate of Shaw, Holliman and Arnett.

Television has had a tremendous effect on this war. A Pilot boards his plane in Saudi Arabia a stone’s throw away from a reporter. He flies to Baghdad and drops his bombs on the Presidential Palace. The press runs out and take a picture of the damage, and you and I and the pilot’s commander see the results before the pilot can get back to the base.

PILOT: “Two direct hits, Sir!”

COMMANDER: “Wrong Soldier”. Saw your sortie on CNN. One hit on the side of the target, major damage. Your second hit the glass factory next door!”

Could you imagine having your boss know that precisely how well you’re doing? This is the first war in history fought both on and with T.V.

It is just about midnight. I turned on the news eighteen hours ago when I awoke and I’m catching the evening wrap-up before I go to sleep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga), the legendary warrior (verbal only), is standing on the steps of the Capitol describing how we are to “. . . kick Saddam’s butt”.

Congress has, for the moment, lined up behind the President. The weapons manufacturers are thrilled that all this expensive hardware seems to be working. And our troops are in a strange place, far away from home, counting on their equipment, their peers and their leaders to get them back safely.

As Thursday becomes Friday I wonder if, by the time you read this, the war will be over. Will most of our soldiers be on their way home? Will governments more to our liking be installed in both Baghdad and Kuwait City? Will Israel again be safe? That would be nice, but I think unlikely. No, this one’s just starting. I wonder if anyone today really knows how and when this war will end.