Wake America from Its Bloodless Trance

America has two options to disarm and contain Iraq. One option--war--involves killing people. The other option--more and tougher inspections--does not.

Americans, who overwhelmingly oppose the Iraq war if high numbers of casualties result, haven't heard enough about the deaths that are sure to be caused by the war option. That's why I created a television advertisement, featuring hip-hop artist Russell Simmons, that includes video footage of actual war--of wounded civilians and of American soldiers dragging the bodies of their comrades out of harm's way.

I think most of you would want to see my advertisement and decide for yourself whether you agree with an aging ice cream guy or think I am crazy, misinformed, stoned, stupid, or much worse.

Unfortunately, most of you will never see my anti-war commercial. Why? Because the major network news outlets refused to accept it, claiming that the imagery was too graphic. Trouble is, the imagery in my ad was far less graphic than what you see on prime time entertainment shows, like "ER" or even on mayhem-crazed local TV news shows.

So what's the real reason that the TV networks rejected my ad?

Ironically, linking death to war seems to be taboo at a time when the connection should be on the top of our minds. Few in the major media are talking about casualties in the Iraq war, and it seems our nation does not want to confront the reality that the war will result in casualties, anywhere from a few thousand dead and wounded (itself a horrific number) to tens of thousands, according to international experts. Let's be clear--that's thousands of dead or wounded people, at a minimum.

Not surprisingly, the Bush Administration is doing little or nothing to break us out of our bloodless trance about the war. It has not released official information about expected causalities, although surely this information has been developed by the White House. Congress isn't demanding this information.

In the real world, outside of Washington DC, citizens seem to be expecting war without death, partly because the topic isn't on TV and partly because recent wars have been presented to us as death-free--which they were not, of course.

Thousands of innocent Iraqis died in the last war--not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who died in the war's aftermath due to its impact on water, electricity, medical care, and more.

Even wars like the one in Afghanistan, which had fewer civilian deaths, cause soldiers to die. And soldiers, it needs to be said, are people too, often innocently caught in political turmoil outside their control, whose lives have value. Their deaths leave families and friends grieving forever.

So, it's an inexcusable omission for the Bush Administration to sell the Iraq war to us and the international community without acknowledging its human toll, not only on our soldiers but on the Iraqis.

It's really an outrageous situation, which we have come to accept as normal fare in the war business. But it actually represents deceptive spin at its ugliest. Talking about war without addressing casualties is like discussing the benefits of nuclear power and ignoring nuclear waste. The two go hand-in-hand.

To break through the denial, my ad depicted dead and wounded people, both soldiers and civilians. And that's precisely why the networks should air it. More debate about the war's potential casualties would help our nation make an informed decision about Iraq.

But network TV executives don't think you should see our commercial.

We hope they will reconsider their decision. Until they do, you can see our ad at Win Without War.

And, even if you don't want to see our anti-war commercial, ask the President and your representatives in Congress to spell out all the potential consequences of the Iraq war--before America invades.

Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry's, is president of TrueMajority.org, which enables citizens to fax their members of Congress about critical issues like the Iraq war. His views do not reflect those of Ben and Jerry's Homemade, Inc.

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