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When Napoleon Won at Waterloo

By       Message Uri Avnery     Permalink
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Napoleon won the battle of Waterloo. The German Wehrmacht won World War II. The United States won in Vietnam, and the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Zealots won against the Romans, and Ehud Olmert won the Second Lebanon War.

You didn't know that? Well, during the last few days the Israeli media has paraded a long series of experts, who did not leave any room for doubt: the war has brought us huge achievements, Hezbollah was routed, Olmert is the great victor.

The TV talk-show hosts and anchormen put their microphones at the service of professors, publicity experts, "security personnel" and "strategists" (a title not denoting generals, but advisers of politicians). All of them agreed on the outcome: an honest-to-goodness victory.

Yesterday, I switched on the TV and saw a person radiating self-assurance and explaining how our victory in Lebanon opens the way for the inevitable war with Iran. The analysis, composed almost entirely of clich├ęs, was worthy of a high-school pupil. I was shocked to learn that the man was a former chief of the Mossad. Anyway, we won this war, and we are going to win the next one.

So there is no need at all for a commission of inquiry. What is there to inquire into? All we need is a few committees to clear up the minor slips that occurred here and there.

Resignations are absolutely out. Why, what happened? Victors do not resign! Did Napoleon resign after Waterloo? Did Presidents Johnson and Nixon resign after what happened in Vietnam? Did the Zealots resign after the destruction of the Temple?

Joking aside, the parade of Olmert's stooges on TV, on the radio, and in the newspapers tells us something. Not about the achievements of Olmert as a statesman and strategist, but about the integrity of the media.

When the war broke out, the media people fell into line and and marched in step as a propaganda battalion. All the media, without exception, became organs of the war effort, fawning on Olmert, Peretz, and Halutz, waxing enthusiastic at the sight of the devastation in Lebanon, and singing the praises of the "steadfastness of the civilian population" in the north of Israel. The public was exposed to an incessant rain of victory reports, going on (literally) from early in the morning to late at night.
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The government and army spokespersons, together with Olmert's spin team, decided what to publish and when, and, more importantly, what to suppress.

That found its expression in the "word laundry." Instead of accurate words came misleading expressions: when heavy battles were raging in Lebanon, the media spoke about "exchanges of fire." The cowardly Hassan Nasrallah was "hiding" in his bunker, while our brave chief of staff was directing operations from his underground command post (nicknamed "the hole").

The chicken-hearted "terrorists" of Hezbollah were hiding behind women and children and operating from within villages, quite unlike our Ministry of Defense and General Staff, which are located in the heart of the most densely populated area in Israel. Our soldiers were not captured in a military action, but "abducted" like the victims of gangsters, while our army "arrests" the leaders of Hamas. Hezbollah, as is well known, is "financed" by Iran and Syria, quite unlike Israel, which "receives generous support" from our great friend and ally, the United States.

There was, of course, a difference of night and day between Hezbollah and us. How can one compare? After all, Hezbollah launched rockets at us with the express intent of killing civilians, and did indeed kill some 30 of them. Our military, "the most moral army in the world," took great care not to hurt civilians, and therefore only about 800 Lebanese civilians, half of them children, lost their lives in the bombardments, which were all directed at purely military targets.

No general could compare with the military correspondents and commentators, who appeared daily on TV, striking impressive military poses, who reported on the fighting and demanded a deeper advance into Lebanon. Only very observant viewers noticed that they did not accompany the fighters at all and did not share the dangers and pains of battle, something that is essential for honest reporting in war. During the entire war, I saw only two correspondents' reports that really reflected the spirit of the soldiers one by Itay Angel and the other by Nahum Barnea.
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The deaths of soldiers were generally announced only after midnight, when most people were asleep. During the day, the media spoke only about soldiers being "hurt." The official pretext was that the army had first to inform the families. That's true but only for announcing the names of the fallen soldiers. It does not apply at all to the number of the dead. (The public quickly caught on and realized that "hurt" meant "killed'.)

Of course, among the almost one thousand people invited to the TV studios during the war to air their views, there were next to no voices criticizing the war itself. Two or three, who were invited for alibi purposes, were shown up as ridiculous weirdoes. Two or three Arab citizens were also invited, but the talk-masters fell on them like hounds on their prey.

For weeks, the media suppressed the fact that hundreds of thousands of Israelis had abandoned the bombarded North, leaving only the poorest behind. That would have shaken the legend of the "steadfastness of the rear."

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