H. Scott Prosterman







When Bush Jr. first launched the Iraqi War three years ago, I

published an article titled, "War Programming," which took him to task for

the timing of it." I argued:

"The timing of this war is all wrong. By programming the war

against the NCAA Basketball Tournaments, Bush, Jr. really cut into the war

ratings . . . You think people will be paying full attention to the war when

they've got their attention focused on Pittsburgh and Wagner?"

Three years later, Pittsburgh got eliminated in the 2nd round

and Wagner didn't even make the big dance. But we've still got the same


I thought Bush Jr. was really stupid for programming the war

against NCAA basketball. But now I get it. Who's going to go to an

anti-war rally when they can stay home and watch The University of Memphis

State and Oral Roberts?

For a lot of folks, it was a tough choice: enjoy the exciting

new war programming live all the way from On-The-Road-To-Baghdad, or zone

out to the annual March ritual of college hoops. They're both games, but

one is for the glory of March Madness, prestige, recruiting and corporate

lucre, and the other is for keeps



Pat Tillman was a great recruiting chit for the war: a star

football player who gave it all up to serve in Bush Jr.'s vanity war. He

was a perfect poster boy for the political right: rugged, handsome, heroic

and willing to follow Bush Jr's lead. When poor Pat died by "friendly

fire", Bush Jr. made him out to be a martyr. That was the cover for having

made Pat into a stooge, and a dead one at that. Since then, Bush Jr. has

managed to make Pat's poor mother into a stooge, because she has the

audacity to inquire into the details of her son's tragic death

At the time, I wondered why Pat didn't just stay in Tempe or San

Jose, enjoy the hoops tournament and get ready for football camp. What

happened was this:

Pat bought into the programming and the program. Bush Jr. said that our

country was under attack and Pat bought it. Bush Jr. said that we needed

real live American heroes to go over there and stand up to Saddam, so Pat


In hindsight, I can understand why Pat got swept up in the wrong

kind of March Madness. How could a fine, upstanding American guy not resist

the siren call to fight, when all the early reporting on the war seemed so

glamorous and seductive.

Let's review those halcyon days of three years ago:

Fox News, CNBC, CNN and the major networks kept us

super-informed and super-patriotic that week. CNN had their screen split

into four segments, replete with banners, graphics and a news blurb

streamer. Fox News kept us primed with a big "WAR ALERT" bordered in orange,

along with a ticker at the bottom with the latest sound bites in type. Fox

also had a constant reminder that the "Terror Alert" was "High," along with

the ongoing "WAR ALERT". Do you think they were trying to scare us, or just

recruit brave guys like Pat Tillman?

We had live cameras on the battlefields with announcers talking

about what the troops were doing, saying, and thinking. Like the basketball

announcers, they filled the airwaves with a lot of speculative prattle. I

quickly found that following that new kind of war was exhausting, so I

channel-surfed back to Pittsburgh and Wagner.

I never did figure out what defined a WAR ALERT, and why Fox

was able to scoop all the other networks on it. I guess Fox had the scoop

thanks to their White House connections.

Wall Street got in on the action too and gave Bush Jr. props for

igniting the whole, delicious thing. On Day 2 Wall Street announced that

this new war was great for business and trading. They were some of the

cheerleaders saying, "Go Pat Go." Other cheerleaders egging Pat on took the

form of "embedded reporters" right in our living rooms. They didn't just

report the war-they SOLD IT!

I wondered if there was a conflict between their "embedded

interests" and honest reporting, but I was repeatedly assured that this was

just another liberal myth. We got live action of buildings blowing up and

explosions in the background, with the added attraction of announcers

commenting on "the awesome display of military power." And they said it with

a real sense of awe and deference in their voices. How could a red-blooded

boy like Pat Tillman, and others like him, not swoon over that stuff?

However, on the 3rd day of the new war, I got a little worried

when Fox reported that the troops had not yet reached Baghdad, but they were

already tired. They were also concerned about having enough fuel left to

fight the battle once they got to Baghdad, and sleep deprivation among the

troops. A shocking thought occurred to me: what if Rummy had accidentally

underestimated a thing or two. It made me wonder if they were going to

schedule a "rest day" before the invasion of Baghdad. I got worried that

someone might try to sneak up on us on rest day. That wouldn't be fair, but

nothing is in love and war. I began to worry, "I hope these young troops

realize that they're stuck with the army they have and not the one they

want." Then that crook Rummy stole my material without attribution.

I don't understand why nobody else calls him Bush Jr? It seems

to be a perfectly good way to distinguish him from Bush Sr. Now we know why

Bush Sr. chose Dan Quayle as his Vice-President? Because he's so much like


What Bush Jr., Cheney and Rummy gave us three years ago was the

ultimate boy movie that just won't end. We had at least five networks of

"All War, All The Time," complete with split screens and live-action

cheerleaders. All those news anchorwomen were really pretty, more so than

usual during the original War Week, and they made great cheerleaders for

that real life boy movie. Television news is all about packaging. Content

is a throw-in once in a while.

At first I thought that Bush Jr. was really stupid for

underestimating the popularity of basketball. But this year, when I didn't

make the annual demonstration so I could watch Memphis and Oral Roberts, I

realized I'd been snookered. Now I understand the strategy all along was to

program the war anniversary AGAINST the NCAA Basketball tournaments, in

order to keep the crowds down at the demos. All of this illustrates that

there is a HUGE silent majority who would rather watch basketball than

demonstrate against anything - even a war.

I have sacrificed important basketball-viewing time in order to

offer these observations. So like the troops, I too, have made a sacrifice

for the war effort. Or maybe it's because of the war effort. In any case,

there are other things I'd rather be doing than writing about a war. Heck,

three years ago, I missed almost all of the Pitt-Wagner game, and the word

"heck" wasn't even in my vocabulary. That Bush Jr., he's one smart cracker

- don't let the Gentlemen's C fool you.

H. Scott Prosterman