"A little girl running in fear from armed men is killed in cold blood.
… The authorities are trying their best to come up with a reason why this schoolgirl
was shot so many times after she was dead – because that's the unusual
part. But in no way will the Israeli government, nor the U.S. government,
decry the fact that Palestinian civilians like her are being shot on such a
regular basis. Instead, they will decry Palestinian terrorism again (unnecessary
because we despise terrorism already, but it's a good tactic for diverting our
attention) and remind us that soldiers have a right to protect themselves.
"If that doesn't do the trick, they'll bring out the ultimate weapon:
'There are always a few bad apples, and they will be punished.'"
While so many journalists have been killed by
the U.S. military that some have wondered aloud (and
lived to regret it) if media personnel might actually be targeted to dissuade
independent reporting on Mr. Bush's wars, it's nonetheless unusual for a just-freed
journalist, held hostage for a month, to be shot, along with her rescuer, by
Pro-Bush/pro-war Americans are quick to defend "our troops," even
when families are slaughtered and children are orphaned at brutal checkpoints.
But the Italians, a people more in possession of their faculties than the radical
"conservatives" dominating this morally challenged nation of ours,
are less sanguine,
perhaps because they're not in the habit of defending cold-blooded murder.
In yet another tragic blunder, revealing to any sentient human being what the
U.S. military machine has come to represent for people across the world, "our
troops" – no doubt following immoral but quite legal rules of engagement
– shot first and asked questions later. Left dead was brave secret service agent
Nicola Calipari, who had rescued journalist Giuliana Sgrena. Reuters
"The shooting in Iraq on Friday, as the reporter was being whisked
to freedom after being held hostage for a month, was sure to fuel antiwar activists
in Italy and put pressure on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi."
Pressure on Berlusconi? No way! He's a pal of GWB, so not to worry. As I've
noted before, the Bush administration, like the Blair establishment and the
Israeli government, has
turned the "bad apples" excuse for rotten deeds into an art form.
To save everyone the time and trouble (not to mention the emotional ups and
downs) of following this saga from its tragic beginning to its predictable end,
allow me to fast-forward the events of the coming days, weeks, and months.
Damage Control: UIP to the Rescue
Here's what I've determined, from observing the
same scenario numerous times, to be an "Unfortunate Incident Protocol"
(UIP) , used by both the U.S. and Israeli governments whenever news of our own
evildoing gets out:
A tragedy occurs: "Our troops" have killed more innocent people,
only this time the victims aren't Arabs/Muslims (in neocon-speak, the "evildoers"),
thus the potential for public uproar and backlash exists.
Code Blue! Any signs of uproar or backlash must be attacked preemptively.
Immediate public appearances are required by Mr. Bush and the leader of
the victim's home country: Talk extensively about the event, how you're
praying for the families, and so on.
Stress your "regret" for this "unfortunate incident."
Immediately announce "an independent investigation."
If the natives are getting restless, make statements or decisions to
illustrate that this time you're really taking the incident seriously.
of outrage or of "demanding explanations" from the offending
nation may be necessary if
protests are developing; this is the only situation wherein a coalition
partner is not required to present a united front with the Bush
Announce again "the investigation," but add that this
time the investigation will be really thorough, leaving no stone unturned,
and will not end up whitewashing guilt at all higher levels of authority.
Emphasize that both leaders are in full agreement now, that you're both
torn up about it, and that neither is catering to the wishes of the other.
your State-influenced newspapers to allot only one or two days to the
outrageous nature of the incident. They should then shift angles: From day
three onward, they should (1) stop writing about public reactions/protests,
or the situation (e.g., the war or occupation) that gave rise to the shooting,
or the nature of the system (e.g., rules of engagement) that set the shooters
up for an incident such as this one, and (2) start writing about the "bad
apples" who did the shooting, with as much juicy detail into their
lurid pasts or deranged personalities as possible.
Periodically during the next few weeks, have your newspapers write in glowing
terms about the extremely thorough, independent, non-whitewashed investigation
that your military is performing to "find out who's responsible."
(This will end up being, to everyone's "surprise," the individual
If possible, have a photo-op with the two leaders together, looking somber,
possibly shaking hands or with one arm across the other's shoulder. If this
cannot be arranged or would look too cheesy, have other photos published
showing diplomats from the two countries meeting, expressing regret over
the incident, or talking about the thorough, independent, non-whitewashed
After a few weeks, when the public furor has died down, have your newspapers
report that the investigation is about to come to a close. Hint that nobody
higher in rank than the shooters is to blame, and that all military personnel
have been extremely cooperative. Papers should depict the issue as a purely
internal military affair: No stories should link this unfortunate incident
to the war/occupation itself.
A few months later, announce that the thorough, independent, non-whitewashed
investigation has been completed and the verdict is in: there was a miscommunication
or an error in judgment, which the military regrets, but the ultimate responsibility
lies with the troops who fired the fatal shots.
If the public (especially in the victim's home country) is still upset
at this time, make the sentence severe (several years in prison). However,
in the more likely event that the public is less upset and/or has forgotten
this event in the intervening months – during which time many more tragic
events have grabbed headlines and attention – the sentence can be mild (a
few months in prison, or none).
Have your newspapers do some stories showing troops from both countries
Now it's time for the cherry on the cake: have a photo-op with both leaders
smiling, preferably in the Oval Office, announcing that their respective nations
are firmer friends than ever. The admirable ways in which this tragic incident
was handled, with great cooperation on both sides, only strengthens their resolve
to stand by one another in the War on Terror, no matter what the cost.
So for all who fear that this checkpoint killing could have negative fallout
for Mr. Bush or Mr. Berlusconi, allow me to assure you that the 10-step system
above is rather foolproof. It's worked so many times for Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair,
Mr. Sharon, and of course Mr. Berlusconi that there's no reason to believe it
won't work now.
Even now, steps in the UIP are being taken to correct mistakes made, so that
lessons will be learned (FYI: note the passive voice of this sentence, which
is highly recommended for distracting attention or outrage away from the perpetrators
of illegal, immoral wars and occupations). As the Reuters article concludes:
"Berlusconi, who defied widespread public opposition to the Iraq war
and sent 3,000 troops, took the rare step of summoning U.S. Ambassador Mel Sembler
to his office. He demanded the United States 'leave no stone unturned' in investigating
"President Bush was quick to call Berlusconi and promise a full investigation…"