Field reporters on rooftops in fishing vests. Table maps and model airplanes. Endless speculation on what Bush, Saddam, Blair and the troops on the front line might be thinking at any given moment. Ive seen it before too many times, and I grew up in arguably one of the most peaceful eras in world history.
Battles take place. Bombs explode. Generals and politicians hold lengthy press conferences where they spew quotable sound bites and refuse to answer any legitimate questions. People die, but we rarely see the corpses.
We sit in front of the television for hours at a time, shocked and awed by the experience, but no better informed about the conflict. The world hasnt even pinned down an accurate body count from the last Gulf War, and another one has already started.
These are strange days were living in. Youre either for or against; a friend of liberty or an appeaser for a brutal dictator. There are no gray areas anymore, because the case for war is so tenuous that there was no room for debate or doubt.
Because Ive seen it all before, I know that the real story of the conflict will not appear on the nightly news, but will trickle out bit by bit over the next few years. The truth always comes out, and its always too late.
That may sound glib, but my experiences as a war watcher have taught me that nothing is as simple as it is portrayed, that news organizations, politicians and military leaders cant be trusted to tell the truth about anything during these times. If governments were truly honest in the first place, wed never need to go to war.
Here are a few history lessons from the first Gulf War to digest:
In the first Gulf War, the Kuwaiti government and an American PR company planted a fake story in the U.S. media about Iraqi soldiers taking babies out of incubators and leaving them on the floor. The first President Bush repeated these allegations several times while making a case for war at home, winning the support of Congress, the coalition, and the general public in the process.
All those precision guided bombs from the last Gulf War campaign? According the U.S. Air Force, 90 per cent of all bombs dropped were of the unguided conventional type, and 90 per cent of the guided bombs missed their targets.
Another lie we were told back then is that there were up to 360,000 Iraqi troops amassed on the Saudi border, poised. Russian satellite photos purchased by ABC News and the St. Petersburg Times of Florida later proved that the real number was closer to 20,000 a defensive force, not an invading army.