Saturday, March 25, 2006

Bill Maher and Michael Ware

A snip from Bill's monologue:

Speaking of guarding our ports, the Bush administration today awarded a no-bid contract to a Chinese company to scan for incoming nukes in our cargo. The contract was awarded at a formal ceremony in front of a backdrop that said, "Still Not Getting It!"
Or read the real story [AP wire, reported on the Jackson, WY, News-Tribune website] of the Bush administration's indifference to its own ineptitude.

And here's the full live exchange between Bill Maher and Michael Ware, the Baghdad bureau chief for Time magazine [Please, HBO, put this video clip on the web!]:
Michael Ware: Hi, Bill.

Bill Maher: Now, you're really in Baghdad, right? That's not a fake background of a mosque, is it?

Michael Ware: Look, I'm sad to say, yeah, I actually am here.

Bill Maher: Yeah, I know you are, and I have to say, I admire everybody who goes to hazardous locations like this; just tell me, briefly, why you want to be there.

Michael Ware: Well, I mean, this really is the story. This is where history is unfolding before our very eyes, and, for better or for worse, I've been given a front-row ticket to watch this slow-motion train wreck. This is going to be impacting on all of us, and, I'm sad to say, even our kids, for years to come. So, I want to be here, I want to understand it, I want to be able to tell others about it.

Bill Maher: Now, when you call it a "train wreck," that's not "reporting the good news." The President here says that part of the problem is that the media does not report the good news — the kids' birthday parties, the banana bread [reference to Bill's opening monologue]is there any good news?

Michael Ware: Well, when I'm ducking for cover and the explosions are going off, I'm not coming across too much of it. There are some good-news stories to be told here, but at the end of the day, I think it's more important for me to be telling the story of what it's like for a normal Iraqi family. He ain't tellin' too many ha-ha good-news stories as he's queueing for gas for two days, when he's going home and his family hasn't had electricity for three days, and when the market blows up when he goes to get his banana bread.

Bill Maher: Typical media gloomy Gus. I saw the [PBS] Frontline documentary in which you were prominently featured, and it was harrowing. There was a point where you were pulled out of a car by Zarqawi's (أبومصعب الزرقاوي, شيطان سيعذّبه لأبدي) people, they're about to kill you, and at the last moment you were saved by one of the Sunnis, I guess, and, not to be morbid, but I have to ask you: if you spend another three years in Iraq, what do you give your odds of surviving?

Michael Ware: I try not to think about that, Bill, and I try to stay as drunk for as long as possible while I'm here so I don't dwell on that.

Bill Maher: Got it.

Michael Ware: In fact, I'm drinking now.

Bill Maher: The military is currently investigating an incident which unfortunately is not the first incident about American soldiers who sort of went on a rampage and killed civilians, and it reminds a lot of people in this country about the Mỹ Lai massacres in Việt Nam. There was an incident back in November in Haditha (حديثة), sort of the same thing that happened, one of our Marines got blown up, and these guys just kind of snapped. We don't condone it, but you can hardly blame them when you put them in this situation. Why don't you think this has been more widely reported here in America, because I don't think people are aware of this.

Michael Ware: That's very hard for me to say, from the prism that I see, which is here in Iraq, my head is really down here in the weeds, so how things play back home, it's really hard to say. One thing I will say, though, is I've spent a lot of time with the soldiers on the front line — I've been in more combat with American soldiers than I care to remember — and things happen, you know. I've seen collateral damage, I've witnessed what can go down, and that's not something you carry with you very easily, and it's not something the soldiers deal with very easily, but it's something that really needs to be told. If you're not hearing it back home, I really think that's a huge problem.

Bill Maher: I guess if we stay there long enough, anything and everything is going to happen. I'm going to ask you now what you think would happen if there was an incident between one of the soldiers and one of the women over there, because, I know, they take their women very seriously. If something went down between a soldier and a woman — it hasn't happened yet, but what would the reaction be? What would you think would happen?

Michael Ware: Look, Bill, I shudder to think how that may play. The tremors from that may shake out much farther than just Baghdad or wherever the incident may be. We've seen allegations that women have been mishandled or roughly handled. That always inflames passions. If you want to get some kind of a sense, look at some of the hostage-taking, particularly of women hostages. One of the most common demands by the kidnapers in these cases is for the release of female prisoners from Abu Ghraib (أبو غريب) prison and other detention facilities, even when there's none in there. We've also seen insurgents criticize other insurgents because "you're not doing enough to get the chicks out" — that's how important it can be. This is a matter of great honor, and this is a spark, so let's hope that we never see that lit.

Bill Maher: I'm doing my part to get the chicks out. Let me ask you one last thing: it was in the news today that President Bush is asking for more money for bases in Iraq. I know he keeps saying we're going to try to get out of there, but I saw in the paper today that there are four bases that we're building that are just enormous. One of them has a Burger King®, a Pizza Hut®, and a car dealership. That doesn't sound like we're leaving any time soon, and it seemed like this whole 9/11 thing that wound up with us going into Iraq to avenge it, as oblique as that may be, really started because bin Laden was so upset that we had bases in Saudi Arabia. Are we not just compounding the mistake that started this whole mess?

Michael Ware: Well, it is true, you really are digging in here. And it's not just one Hungry Jack's® [Australian name for Burger King®], I mean, if you're looking for a franchise, there's a few still open. There's a number of bases that have these things. You should see some of the exercise rooms and the gymnasiums. Your troops, our troops, are here to stay. We're now "damned if we do and damned if we don't." The longer U.S. troops stay, the more that fuels the insurgency, the more that people turn against the United States; yet, if you were to pull out now, the chaos that would ensue would only serve the enemies that the military came here to defeat. The sad part is that, as it stands right now, the real winners of Bush's war are his enemies: al Qaeda and the "Axis of Evil" member Iran. We're still losing ground here, and that's where we are, three years on.

Bill Maher: More bad news from the media, but anyway, I thank you so much for doing this, I thank you for being there. I have to tell you something: they say there are no Edward R. Murrows — there sure are: you're one of them, Michael Ware.
I'll second the comparison to Edward R. Murrow — the main character in Good Night, and Good Luck, the Clooney movie with David Strathairn — because before he took on Senator Joe McCarthy, Murrow reported from London during the World War II air raids, giving his radio listeners a strong sense of the reality of listening to bombs going off in the city and wondering if they were getting closer, of rushing down to the bomb shelters, sometimes night after night, of hearing sirens and anti-aircraft guns in the distance.

One sidebar on the issue of incidents involving U.S. soldiers overseas and local females: just look at the history of our bases in the Philippines and Japan to see the powder keg that Dubya is tap-dancing on.

I shudder to think, though, what paroxysms of spin and personal attack the Bushies will respond with. More tidbits from Bill Maher over the weekend if I have time....

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