Way deep in the media mélange

There are times when the cavalcade of words and pictures coming at me from every media outlet threatens to overwhelm my ability to consider the meaning of each new bit of information, or even figure out if it has any meaning. Sorting out news of the war and daily developments here at home is like trying to jam two high speed trains onto a single set of tracks running through my brain.

The trains collidedrecently in a local grocery store when I saw a display of popular periodicals, and two faces caught my eye. One was former POW Jessica Lynch, smiling from the cover of People magazine. Right beside her was the provocative figure of Petra Nemcova, posing on a sandy beach for the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Was there some special knowledge to be gained by comparing these side-by-side images? Had I stumbled onto a cultural insight into the career paths of American women in the 21st century? Or was it just coincidental shelf placement, two varieties of the same product shoved onto the rack at random by a harried store clerk?

Such questions are now occurring to me faster than I can write them down, let alone ruminate on each one.

NBC has announced plans for a TV movie about the ordeal of Private Lynch, which makes me wonder how many film projects about Operation Iraqi Freedom will start rolling in the near future. It even seems possible that some of Saddam Hussein's surviving doubles must be aware of such potential employment opportunities. Are any of them planning to slip into Syria and then hop on the next flight to Hollywood?

Experts say that post-Saddam Iraq must include modern institutions such as an impartial justice system. Sounds great, but does it mean that ordinary Iraqi citizens will soon be able to seek redress for physical and emotional damage resulting from the allied military campaign by standing up proudly and shouting, "I'm gonna sue the US government for this?"

Early in the war, I read a news report that claimed US intelligence agencies were peppering the Iraqi leadership with phone calls and e-mail messages urging them to give up. Lately, the junk e-mail I'm peppered with has shifted away from pornography and now includes headings such as "Clogged Septic Tank?" and "Lowest Mortgage Rates Ever!" These are exactly the sort of business opportunities that will help build a strong, secular middle class in Iraq. Instead of deleting this kind of spam, why can't the CIA devise a system for me to forward all of it to Baghdad?

And what about those covert phone intrusions? Did our agents use the same brutal techniques favored by domestic telemarketing firms? I hope so. I'd like to believe the operation was timed with clockwork precision so that every Baath Party lackey on the calling list got interrupted just as he was sitting down to dinner.

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