Blast Kills 6-7, wounds dozens at Baghdad Hotel
Two cars full of explosives raced toward the Baghdad Hotel early Sunday in Baghdad. The hotel, where many Westerners stay, was protected by security barriers, and Iraqi guards fired at the cars, killing the drivers and setting off the explosives some distance from the hotel itself. Between 6 and 7 Iraqi bystanders are reported killed, and two to three dozen wounded. Three of the wounded were American soldiers. Also taking light injuries was Interim Governing Council member Muwaffak al-Rubai, present at the hotel at that time (it apparently is used by the CPA).
As I watched the cable news programs and the pro-Bush speakers attempt to maintain that everything is just great in Iraq, I remembered an anecdote about the Reagan administration and its famously successful news management skills. ABC, I think, did a segment on Reagan’s “Morning in America” PR campaign in which they ran the Republican National Committee sunny footage with a critical voice-over by a reporter challenging it. The news program heard back from the Reagan white house staff that they were very pleased. They were happy to have gotten such big exposure for the sunny images, and were convinced that they would speak ten times louder than the critical audio.
In a way, Bush’s team in Iraq faces the opposite problem now. The images of wounded people, death, destruction, burning automobiles, and smoke, just completely drown out the voice-overs by Republican congressmen and senators or Bush administration figures.
The way the Israelis have handled this problem in the West Bank and Gaza is to simply attempt to prevent the video from getting out, and they have been largely successful. Television depends on dramatic video. The Israeli invasion of Gaza refugee camps that left 7 dead a couple of days ago went unreported on Western television, largely because of the lack of good video. (The idiot suicide bombers would be a thousand times better off just smuggling a lot of small video cameras into Gaza and the West Bank and pulling a Rodney King on the Israelis instead of making everyone hate them by committing atrocities themselves). See http://www.palestinemonitor.org/.
The US, because of its lack of real control of Iraq and its stated goals of bringing democracy and openness, probably does not have the same option, of just kicking the press out and confiscating the videotape. In the absence of such a move, I think it is entirely possible that Iraq will sink the Bush administration.
For Justin Alexander’s impression from Baghdad, see