An Orchestrated Attack

War's sound track echoes from Dresden to Baghdad

| Utne Reader January / February 2007

The day the bombs started falling on Baghdad in 1991, my Notre Dame jacket, my most prized possession, was stolen out of my locker. The thief also stole a package of Hostess SnoBalls and a peanut butter and honey sandwich, snacks that I would eat after school to give me energy for wrestling practice. I weighed 110 pounds and wrestled in the 112-pound weight class.

A young policewoman came to the house to take a report that evening. Before she arrived I was sitting in the living room trying to do my algebra homework but, instead, watching live images of explosions lighting up the Baghdad skyline.

It was impossible to understand what was happening on the screen. There were no soldiers. My picture of war came from Vietnam: shaky handheld-camera footage of soldiers cautiously trudging through the jungle.

Instead, what I saw was a view of central Baghdad from a hotel rooftop, narrated by journalists who had chosen to stay in the city even after being warned of the danger. The journalists, Peter Arnett and Bernard Shaw, tried to communicate what it felt like to see these images, rating the power of each bomb blast. At times the burst of light as a bomb detonated made the screen go completely white. I couldn't keep my eyes off the television.

When the policewoman came downstairs she started watching too. She looked stunned, as though she'd never seen a television. 'They're bombing Baghdad,' I said. 'Wow,' she said.

As she took my statement about the jacket, her eyes cut back and forth between the notepad in her hand and the television.

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