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The New Realities That Flow From War

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THE medium isn't the message. It can beguile us with fiction's laundered, limited drama. It can deliver the world's realities and their meaning. The medium - television - can also present sermons for our consideration. Two televised scenes, juxtaposed, recently raised questions about America's moral responsibilities: Hundreds of thousands of terrified Kurds swarming across the rocky uplands of northwestern Iraq, fleeing the murderous legions of Saddam Hussein.

George Bush, president, playing golf in Florida after telling the press that the United States wasn't going to get involved. In the affairs of the real world, war is both a drama and the instigator of other dramas that flow from it.

Mr. Bush's administration made a grave decision in response to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait; force, military force, a storm on the desert shores of the Persian Gulf, was the only way to blast Iraq's legions out of the plundered little emirate.

Never have political mandates and battle plans been more brilliantly served than by the American-led allied armies. The 100 hours of combat seemed tailored for an era which, in the first world, anyway, subconsciously equates television drama with reality. The war, seen on TV, took the form of a movie made for that medium; it was short, techno-dazzling, and violent.

Unlike a made-for-television movie, however, the Persian Gulf was not without further implications. The nightmare endured by the Kurds of northern Iraq threatened their lives. It also threatened Mr. Bush's postwar popularity - the highest in our history. The nightly news' pictures of bodies of Kurdish guerrillas lying among the stones and winding, refugee-choked mountain roads thrust new realities into our consciousness.

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