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Bodies Politic

Bodies Politic


Published March 16, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

"Bombing at Shiite Mosque in Mosul Leaves 40 Dead" - New York Times headline, March 11.

My, isn't freedom a wonderful thing? Isn't it great to see democracy on the march? Taking a quick a look at Sunday's headlines alone, I read further:

"U.S. helicopter opens fire in Mosul, wounds five civilians." "Three Iraqi cops shot dead in Mosul." "Eight killed in Iraq as hostage spared." (This was in Baghdad.)

And about that body count: "The death toll rose to 51 killed and 77 wounded from Thursday's suicide bomb attack on a Shiite funeral tent in the northern city of Mosul."

What, is someone counting? First it was 30, then 40, then 47 and now 51, with the injured approaching the 100 mark. Exactly what kind of injuries these people have sustained is not reported, but your imagination, if you have one, might envision arms, legs and other body parts defiling the corpse of whoever it was being buried in that "tent," which happened to be erected in the courtyard of a mosque: "U.S. troops took 10 'very critical cases' to a military medical facility at their base in the city."

"As we were inside the mosque, we saw a ball of fire and heard a huge explosion," says Tahir Abdullah Sultan, 45, in an interview with The Scotsman. After that, blood and pieces of flesh were scattered around the place."

Ho-hum. Just another day in the liberation of Iraq. At this rate, it won't be long before the number of victims in Bush's war matches the estimated 300,000 killed and "disappeared" under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.

Meantime, the American media are doing what they do best and most: "human interest" stories. A "suspected rapist" opens fire on the fourth day of his trial in Atlanta, kills the judge, the court reporter and a sheriff's deputy, flees the scene, murders another victim on the lam, and is finally apprehended, or re-apprehended, in anticipation of what will now, undoubtedly, be a sensational murder trial. Who knows, maybe another "Crime of the Century."

Golly, what a tale! I can hardly wait for the instant book and the TV movie. It's all so shocking and so juicy that it even pushes Martha Stewart and Michael Jackson a few notches down on the scale of what's hot and what's not - Martha having just been released from five months of confinement at a women's prison in West Virginia. She is currently being fitted for her "anklet, or electronic monitoring device," which will track her every move on those days (at least two a week) when she's permitted to leave her mansion in upstate New York to conduct her "legitimate business" in Manhattan and, when she needs to "attend church." According to Newswire:

"On March 12th, The Lion Brand Yarn Company released the 'Coming Home' poncho pattern, the first free version of its Martha Stewart-inspired poncho . . . Within the first 48 hours that the free pattern was available online, Lion Brand Yarn estimates that over 50,000 copies of the pattern had been downloaded by visitors to its website. The free poncho pattern was featured on ABC's 'Good Morning America.'" This after network anchor Peter Jennings hosted a two-hour "news" special called "The UFO Phenomenon - Seeing Is Believing."

Martha has also finally joined the ranks of Forbes magazine's annual billionaires list. As for Michael Jackson - well! According to prosecutors at his trial on child-molestation charges in California, the freaky, fading, former King of Pop is "on the verge of bankruptcy," and is thus more "desperate" than ever. Who knows what he might do if someone else's parents are stupid, greedy and/or irresponsible enough to let their boys spend the night at Neverland?

How anyone who owns copyright on The Beatles' catalogue could approach bankruptcy is unknown to me. But at least Michael, as a scagillionaire, will escape the penalties soon to be imposed on ordinary Americans whose assets are wiped out by divorce, job loss, disability or catastrophic illness.

So will the credit-card companies, currently sitting on $30 billion in annual profits, whose toads in Congress last week rammed through a bill to deprive the poor and middle class of bankruptcy relief. George Bernard Shaw put it best in 1913, in Pygmalion, the razor-sharp satire on the upper classes that later became the basis of the Broadway musical My Fair Lady. The lines belong to Eliza Doolittle's father, addressing the mother of Henry Higgins, who has trained Eliza, a cockney flower girl with no manners, no money and no education, to walk, talk and behave "like a princess":

"That's the tragedy of it, ma'am," Doolittle explains. "It's easy to say chuck it; but I haven't the nerve. Which one of us has? We're all intimidated. Intimidated, ma'am: that's what we are . . . If I was one of the deserving poor, and had put by a bit, I could chuck it; but then why should I? . . . They've got you every way you turn."

Now, I'm not so far gone in "Bush-bashing," contempt for the Fourth Estate and devotion to the principles of the United States Constitution not to realize that the press has always tended to focus on the irrelevant at the expense of the urgent, the despicable, the unconscionable and the truth. But when I think of those 51 - and counting - dead in Mosul, I just want to vomit all over Martha's ponchos.

Speaking of Crank Call