The Memorable Images TV Brought Home WAR IN THE GULF

March 10, 1991|By David Zurawik

The top 10 most memorable moments of television coverage of the gulf war:

1. Saddam Hussein's press conference in August, where he was surrounded by young American and English hostages. It was the first look many Americans had of him. The weird tableau -- an eerily smiling Hussein touching the confused and vulnerable children -- sent chills up the spines of some viewers.

2. The pictures of the first American and British POWs, their faces badly cut and swollen. They offered the first up-close views of human suffering in the air war after days of self-congratulation over high-tech, Nintendo images of aerial triumphs.

3. An unarmed Iraqi soldier kneeling before his armed American counterpart and kissing the GI's hand in submission and surrender as Allied troops overtook them in the ground war. It seemed to represent the overwhelming superiority of the allied troops and the broken spirit of the Iraqis on the eve of the liberation of Kuwait City.

4. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's holding up the Bart Simpson doll that soldiers in the Gulf asked him to deliver to President Bush. Take your pick: Either it showed what a total TV culture we have become or it suggested how American GIs see themselves in Bart Simpson: straightforward, plain-spoken, no fancy airs or pretense.

5. The sky over Baghdad exploding Jan. 16 with anti-aircraft fire as the allied air offensive began. This was the first dramatic image of the air war. But it also served to visually express the emotional release many viewers felt when the war finally began after months of negotiations, sanctions and waiting.

6. The first aerial photographs taken from helicopters of the killing ground on the road from Kuwait City where miles of vehicles sat abandoned in a traffic jam of death as the war came to a close. It was one of the only images that gave a real sense of the magnitude of carnage modern weapons can inflict. It also gave concrete meaning to what Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf meant when he said the day before that "the door is closed" for fleeing Iraqi soldiers.

7. The Allied tanks rolling into Kuwait City. Bright flags and smiling faces. It triggered shared memories of the liberation of Paris.

8. The first Pentagon computer-game images of "smart bombs" seeking out and exploding Iraqi targets. It made "Star Wars" real. And "the force" was with us.

9. Bodies being carried out and children, badly burned and maimed, shown in hospital beds following a direct allied hit on a Baghdad bomb shelter. One of the few moments when we saw the tragic face of war's innocent victims.

10. The long line of Iraqi prisoners shot from a distance through clouds of sand and dust so it appeared to be almost an endless line of wraiths passing along the horizon.

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