Happy bombs 

In times like these, it is more important than ever to view events with a skeptical eye in order to guard against our government’s attempts to cynically manipulate public opinion. Which is why we’re encouraging readers to visit the Web site hosted by our friends at PR Watch (www.prwatch.org), the same malcontents who gave the world the classic anti-public relations tome, Toxic Sludge is Good for You.

Last week, for example, the site directed attention to the highly touted happy-meal packets the United States is airmailing the people of Afghanistan in an attempt to show that, even though we’re bombing the hell out of a country already decimated by years of war, we really mean the average folk there no harm.

Now, you can look at this effort a couple of ways. There is, for example, the view of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who agreed that the U.S. military hasn’t dropped enough food to help all the hungry people, but told reporters: “On the other hand, if you were one of the starving people who got one of the rations, you’d be appreciative.”

And then there are those who see the food drops as a public relations ploy, pure and simple.

After all, there are an estimated 7.5 million Afghanistan people facing starvation this winter, while the airdrops at best are enough to feed 37,000 people a day. Furthermore, more substantial relief efforts that were already in the works had to be suspended because of — you guessed it — all those American bombs falling from the sky.

“All that can be said of this kind of airdrop is that at the very best it is symbolic,” Julian Filochowski, a Catholic charities food expert, told the British press. “I don’t think it’s cynical, but a lot of people have described it as a public relations exercise and we hear that a lot of people there (in Afghanistan) see it as cynical.”

As Filochowski also noted, one of the problems with the U.S. approach is that there’s no guarantee the food will actually make it to the people most in need, saying, “Showering Afghanistan with food parcels is rather like showering London with gold coins and hoping they will go to the homeless.”

On top of that is that there are an estimated 10 million land mines strewn across Afghanistan, so there is the grisly specter of starving people risking life and limb to grab the yellow packets of peanut butter and Pop Tarts fluttering down from above.

News Hits is edited by Metro Times news editor Curt Guyette. Call 313-202-8004 or e-mail cguyette@metrotimes.com

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