Pike County watches war

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 20, 2003

No matter which news network they tuned into, Pike County residents were thrown headfirst into mass media war coverage Thursday.

The familiar green-hued pictures of Baghdad filled screens and information was poured from television sets into the hearts and minds of those concerned about America's latest war.

&uot;That's all we watched on TV last night - especially the last two hours,&uot; said Dan Smith, head of the Troy Recreation Department. &uot; I was surprised how the initial strike took place - I expected it to be a barrage of fire.&uot;

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In many workplaces, televisions were left on throughout the day so that the sparse news of American cruise missile strikes and mysterious explosions on the Iraqi horizon could be seen.

Several people were debating about the video tape shown last night of a man claiming to be the Iraqi leader.

&uot;That wasn't no Saddam Hussein,&uot; said Sam McVey as he purchased snacks at a Troy gas station. &uot;He was too pale. Saddam is still alive.&uot;

&uot;He might be dead though,&uot; countered Jean Williams. &uot;All we know is what the TV tells us and they can say anything and people would believe it.&uot;

Fred Kaplan, a national observer writing in Slate, an online magazine, agreed and offered some advice.

&uot;First, ignore all first-night (and most first-morning-after) commentary. On the first night of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Wolf Blitzer, then CNN’s Pentagon correspondent, broke in to proclaim that the American bombing raids had 'decimated' Iraq’s Republican Guard. Of course, this was wrong; more than that, it was stupid. The bombing had been going on for only a few hours; it was still nighttime; no official could possibly have conducted any 'bomb-damage-assessment'; nobody could have had the slightest idea about the airstrikes’ effects,&uot; Kaplan wrote.

&uot;This time around, U.S. sensors and satellites are better and faster, but they still can’t see much in the dark. More than 12 hours after Wednesday night’s cruise-missile attacks on 'targets of opportunity,' we still don’t know precisely what the targets were, whether they were hit, or whether any military asset was destroyed or any Iraqi leader was killed.&uot;

Herman Gunter, a science professor at Troy State University, used a television commercial to describe his feelings waiting for the war.

&uot;Anticipation is like the ketchup commercial, and now, something has happened,&uot; he said.

Gunter expressed concern for the civilians in Iraq who will be feeling the effects of American bombs.

&uot;I wish we could walk through (Iraq) and take

out Saddam Hussein, and leave the (Iraqi) people alone,&uot; he said.

Smith's concerns were with his own children.

&uot;My concern is for my two children - they're 15 and 12 - and I wonder will their daily lives be any different five years from now,&uot; he said. &uot;We're a safe nation now, but it could change overnight. I want my children to live in a city, a state and a nation that has the freedom we enjoy today and what I grew up with.&uot;

Carlos Smith, 26, works for Wiley Sanders Truck Lines. He was also mostly interested in risks to Americans and offered a novel approach to war-fighting.

&uot;I don't think it's good to send innocent family people to war,&uot; he said. &uot;We should send inmates in prison for life to fight for their freedom (in the military).&uot;

Robert Thomas, who was passing through Troy on his way to Florida, said his time in the car was a welcome escape from the flashing information overload of the televised war coverage.

&uot;I'm glad I'm traveling today because I don't even want to be around a TV and all those people talking all the time,&uot; he said.

Thomas, who said he supported an invasion of Iran in addition to the current war in Iraq, said he would be thinking about

college basketball as he drove through Alabama towards Florida.