Lost in Cyberspace
Iraq Online
1998 by H.B. Koplowitz

American sentiment toward the leader of Iraq harkens to something deep and dark in human nature -- the primal need for a scapegoat. For if there weren't a Saddam Hussein, we would have created one, as fear mongers do periodically. They know how much people enjoy the spectacle of a witch hunt, even in cyberspace.

The 1991 Gulf War has been called the first TV war. If hostilities erupt there again, it could be the first Internet war, as so many websites are poised to cover the conflagration. Many of the major media websites have pages devoted to the crisis, such as CNN's "Standoff With Iraq." Along with breaking news,  CNN's site has timelines, bios, interactive maps and details on the military buildup. There's also a stirring multimedia replay of CNN's coverage of the 1991 Gulf War.

Freelance journalists are also putting up Iraq websites, such as "Mario's Cyberspace Station" <mprofaca.cro.net/firstone.html>. Mario Profaca describes himself as a freelance journalist in Zagreb, Croatia, but he has excellent links to primary sources of information on weapons of mass destruction, sanctions, United Nations,  Kurdistan, Turkey, Russia, U.S. government reports, an essay by Noam Chomsky, even audio of Hussein. His Croatian home page also has interesting stuff on the situation in the former Yugoslavia, including the war crimes tribunal at the Hague and satellite spy photographs. Unfortunately, it is all buried under so much Java that it takes forever to load and tends to crash your computer.

Iraq Map

Another cyberjournalist website on Iraq is the London-based "Out There News." Owners John West and Paul Eedle are former foreign correspondents for Reuters who have created an Internet news agency that "pioneers a non-linear journalism in which people create their own experience of the news rather than passively receiving information." So instead of just reading the stories, every three sentences you have to click on a link to get to the next chunk. Still, they have excellent stories on Iraq as well as Cuba, Northern Ireland, Indonesia and other world hot spots.

For an unfiltered view of Iraq and its diverse people and cultures, check out "Iraq Net" <www.iraq.net>, an Iraqi "cyber cafe." The webmaster, apparently an Iraqi living in Michigan, describes the site as "a small effort towards bringing Iraqis scattered around the globe, to one place." The site welcomes all Iraqis "regardless of their affiliations, religions, ethnic backgrounds... etc." Though meant to be social, political discussions tend to break out in the various bulletin board, chat and other forums.

Fearing that Iraq would respond to a U.S. attack by lobbing lethal Scud missiles into Israel, the Jewish state has run out of children's gas masks. But one Israeli website, "Virtual Jerusalem," is making light of the situation with a "Saddam-O-Meter" that tracks the national mood by inviting Israelis to vote on whether they are feeling "complete calm," "all out panic," or points in between.

Organizations opposed to war with Iraq have websites, including Peace Action's "Don't Bomb Iraq" Campaign.

Even those who would do the fighting have websites. The U.S. Navy <www.navy.mil> has a site called "In the Arabian Gulf" with Top Gun-ish photos of the 5th Fleet updated daily, and disconcertingly detailed information on the U.S. arsenal.

At least one of the ships in the Gulf, the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, also has a home page, also with gung ho photos and news, and such information as that the GW is tall as a 24-story building, carries 80 aircraft and houses more than 6,000 crew.

But now that diplomacy seems to have defused the situation, maybe all that firepower won't have to be used. And maybe the president can get back to worrying about dropping his pants in the Oval Office instead of dropping bombs on Baghdad. Say what you will about Clinton's peccadillos, his greater legacy may be that he resisted the temptation to prove his manhood on the field of battle. Its comforting to know that the first baby boomer commander in chief truly seems to live by that '60s credo: "Make Love, Not War."

1998 By H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.