What if today's reporters had covered the Marines landing on Iwo Jima, a small island in the far away Pacific Ocean, in the same way they're covering the war in Iraq? Here's how it might have looked:
With the aid of satellite technology, Cutie Cudley interviews Marine Pfc. John Doe, who earlier came ashore with 30,000 other Marines.
Cutie: "John, we have been told by the administration that this island has great strategic importance because if you're successful, it could become a fueling stop for our bombers on the way to Japan. But, as you know, we can't be sure this is the truth. What do you think?"
Pfc. Doe: "Well, I've been pinned down by enemy fire almost ever since I got here and have had a couple of buddies killed right beside me. I'm a Marine and I go where they send me. One thing's for sure, they are putting up a fight not to give up this island."
Cutie: "Our military analysts tell us that the Japanese are holed up in caves and miles of connecting tunnels they've built over the years. How will you ever get them out?"
Pfc. Doe: "With flame throwers, ma'am."
Cutie (incredulously): "Flame throwers? You'll burn them alive?"
Pfc. Doe: "Yes ma'am, we'll fry their asses. Excuse me, I shouldn't have said that on TV."
Cutie (audible gasp): "How horrible!"
Pfc. Doe (obviously wanting to move on): "We're at war ma'am."
(A Marine sergeant watching nearby yells, "Ask her what does she want us to do — sing to them, 'Come out, come out, wherever you are. Pretty please.' "
Cutie: "Pfc. Doe, what's that mountain in the background? Is that the one they say is impregnable?"
Pfc. Doe: "I don't know what that word means, ma'am, but that's Mt. Suribachi, and we're going to put a flag right up on top of it just as soon as we can. I gotta go."
Cutie to camera: "No one has yet really confirmed why this particular battle in this particular place is even being waged. Already, on the first day, at least 500 Marines have been killed and a thousand wounded. For this? (Camera pans to a map with a speck of an island in the Pacific. Then a close up of nothing but black volcanic ash). For this? For this?" (Cutie's sweet voice becomes more strident as it fades out.)
At 7 a.m., Cutie's morning show opens with a shot of hundreds of dead bodies bobbing in the water's edge. Others are piled on top of each other on shore. After a few seconds, one can see Marines digging graves to bury the dead.
Cutie: "There is no way the Marines could have expected this. Someone got it all wrong. No one predicted this. This has been a horrible 24 hours for our country. This is a slaughterhouse. After all this fighting, Marines control only about a mile and a half of beach and the casualties are now over 3,500 and rising rapidly. We'd like to know what you think. Call the number on the bottom of the screen. Give us your opinions on these three questions:
1. Were the Marines properly trained?
2. Is this nothing of an island worth all these lives?
3. Has the president once again misled the American people?
"After the break, we'll ask our own Democratic and Republican analysts, both shouting at the same time, of course, what they have to yell about all this. It should make for a very shrill, provocative morning.
"But before we leave this horrible — some will say needless — scene, let us give you one more look at this Godforsaken place where these young Americans are dying. Volcanic ash, cold, wet miserable Marines just thankful to be alive. And still no flag that we had been promised on that mountain. Things have gone from bad to worse in this obviously misguided military operation. One thing is certain, there should be and there will be a high-partisan — make that bi-partisan — congressional inquiry into this."
Cutie: "Marines continue to be locked in a life-or-death struggle over this worthless piece of real estate in the middle of the Pacific. The word 'quagmire' is being used in the U.S. Senate, a body very familiar with quagmires. Senator Blowhard has called it 'a colossal military blunder.' And Senator Bombast maintains it was a fraudulent scheme hatched while the president was on his sixth vacation at the Little White House in Georgia.
"The recently organized Senate Squeakers Group may ask for the president to resign. They maintain that politics should not stop at the waters edge in times of war, calling that tradition an old-fashioned idea that has no place in the new century of dysfunctional government. Over forty special interest groups concurred and all issued identical news releases."
"We now turn to our politicalanalyst,James Crankville."
(James):"Cutie,the overnight poll numbers have hit this president right between the eyes. Nationwide, an overwhelming 98 percent said that if possible, they would like to see this country fight a war without a single American casualty. That is nearly the same percentage we saw three days ago when the American public said they would be in favor of going to war if we could win without firing a shot. So, you can see there is a trend developing here that spells trouble for this administration."
"That this president is going ahead with this war is just unbelievable. The witty New York Times columnist, Myscream Loud, wrote in her inimitable fashion that 'The president's policy is as crippled as his legs.' (giggle) Last week she said he had reached the point where no one will 'Fala' him. F-A-L-A, his dog, get it (more giggles)? Has that woman got a way with words! Go girl."
Cutie (holds up front page of the New York Times): "This morning, the New York Times had this photo on the front page. As you can see, the Marines have finally raised a flag on Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima. The fighting is still going on but it looks like this battle is over. We tried to find Pfc. Doe, the young Marine I interviewed that terrible first day, but he was unavailable. Here is Corporal Smith though. (With girlish enthusiasm). "Well, we see that flag flying. It's pretty much over isn't it?"
Cpl. Smith: "Oh, no ma'am, it's not over by any means. We've got weeks of fighting and dying to go yet. This place is a long ways from being secured. But we did get that flag up there and it sure makes us all proud."
Cutie: "I can't tell much from the photo. Their faces are not even visible, making it impossible for us to descend upon any of their families. Corporal Smith, do you know any of the flag raisers? And do you know who ordered it put up there? Did the order come directly from the president for political reasons?"
Cpl. Smith: "All I know is that I heard some colonel put the word out that he wanted 'a flag put up there where every son of a bitch on this island could see it.' Excuse me, ma'am."
Cutie: "We know you've been in the heat of battle so,..."
Cpl. Smith: "Still am, ma'am."
Cutie: "Yes, of course, but it's all over. (Nervous giggle). Except here on Capitol Hill, of course. Corporal Smith, I wonder if you know the gender, race and ethnicity of the group that put the flag up. In other words, did that group 'look like America?' "
Corporal Smith: "Look like America? They are Americans, ma'am. United States Marines."
Cutie: "Any females?"
Cpl. Smith: "No, ma'am."
Cutie: "Any African Americans?"
Cpl. Smith: "I don't know, ma'am. But there is an Indian in Easy Company."
Cutie: "You mean Native American?"
Cpl. Smith: "Whatever, ma'am, I've got to cut out. My outfit is moving on and we've got a lot to do."
Cutie: "And we've got a lot to do here too. Spring training has started and the sun is shining brightly in Florida. But first this word from our sponsors."
Historical note: In one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, when it was said "uncommon courage was a common virtue," 6,000 Marines were killed and 18,000 wounded. Some 21,000 Japanese were killed. The island itself is still barren and only a handful of people live on it. But after it was secured by the Marines, B-29s made over 2,200 emergency landings on it, saving the lives of more than 24,000 crewmen. AP photographer Joe Rosenthal won a Pulitzer Prize for the flag-raising photo. Of the six men in the photo, three were buried in that black volcanic ash, one came out on a stretcher. Only two walked off the island.
Zell Miller is a Democratic U.S. senator from Georgia.