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HOW THEY SEE IT \ 'Over There' Bochco botches show about war in Iraq



Published: Sat, August 13, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



By MICHAEL FUMENTO

SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE

Peace-at-any-price purveyors are going gaga over the new FX Channel series depicting the Iraq war, "Over There," produced by Steven Bochco of "Hill Street Blues" fame.

"Wow! Anybody else watch 'Over There' last night?" gushed a writer for the heavily read antiwar blogsite, Daily Kos. "Within a few minutes ... it was obvious that Iraq was Vietnam all over again."

How a fictional show shot in La La Land could make anything about Iraq policy "obvious" is hard to fathom. But the series does tout its realism, as have some reviewers who've never gotten closer to Iraq than filling their gas tanks. Further, Bochco claims it's politically neutral. Unfortunately, "Over There" puts reality in a body bag and is as unbiased as if scripted by a guy named Allen Queda.

If "Over There" has a true military advisor, he deserves the firing squad. In the first episode a squad is pinned down while besieging a terrorist-filled mosque. The unit remains for about 36 hours with no air support, because "Air is dedicated to another area." Never mind that planes or choppers are always available within minutes. They request artillery, again to no avail. There's no armor.

In order to include women, two females from a transportation unit just happen to join the siege. In fact, they just happen to tag along for the rest of the series! Reality is sacrificed to the God of Diversity. Why didn't Bochco also include a Klingon?

Towards the end of the show a troop transport pulls off to the side of the road, an idiot thing to do since that's where improvised explosive devices are almost always buried. Naturally they roll over a powerful IED, even though the bombers have kindly marked it with little white flags. A horribly wounded soldier is then evacuated in a type of chopper not used in Iraq.

Clearly this is a military that can't even tie its bootlaces and in the immortal words of Pogo: We have met the enemy and he is us.

Chummy terrorists

The terrorists are downright chummy compared to U.S. commanders. The besieging squad repeatedly suffers because of the idiotic orders of a general 75 miles away. Another off-site officer orders the troops to move forward from a relatively safe ridgeline to a completely open area. In another scene, a GI declares he'd rather risk being blown to bits than tell a sergeant he's wrong.

Particularly appalling to me was a slam against Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). It simply fails to show up to disarm a vehicle packed with enough explosives to blow up Rhode Island. I was embedded with the EOD unit of the 8th Engineer Support Battalion at Camp Fallujah. They react to calls with the speed of firefighters (or Domino's pizza) and coolly and professionally carry out some of the most dangerous jobs of the war.

The GIs are depicted as both brave and dedicated, as they must be in order to be proper pawns. Conversely, they're also hotheaded, they constantly bark at each other like obnoxious poodles and there's a knife fight by the second episode. Do the soldiers beat and torture prisoners? Do you have to ask?

Meanwhile, the terrorists, who in reality favor "soft" civilian targets, are braver and tougher still. They make the Viet Cong look like pansies. One literally has his torso blown off and yet his legs incredibly keep marching forward. A metaphor, perhaps, for the invincibility of the terrorist Jihad?

As for American policy, that's depicted in a dream sequence in which a captured GI is given a litany of reasons for why we're over there such as wanting to steal Iraqi oil, and then asked, "Your masters are liars and thieves, and yet you obey them. Why?" He doesn't deny it, but instead provides the pawn answer of "Because I'm a soldier!"

There have got to be a thousand true inspiring stories of courage and kindness by coalition troops during the war, but don't expect to see them on "Over There." The wealthy Mr. Bochco certainly had the resources to tour Iraq before slandering our military and turning FX into the Al Jazeera Channel. But he didn't. Perhaps he was afraid of seeing what the real truth is over there.

X Michael Fumento is author of "The Fat of the Land: The Obesity Epidemic and How Overweight Americans Can Help Themselves." He is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.




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