[ October 31st 2001 ]

In the absence of hard news from the miliitary campaign, we are being bombarded with diagrams. They share the following features, regardless of whether they appear in broadsheets or tabloids; maps with funny little symbols, swooping arrows, menacing pictures of planes, and captions in the present tense. "Aircraft fly at 250ft as troops jump rapidly from the rear ramp" or "Delta Force and Navy Seals drop from helicopters".

The people who commission diagrams love special forces, whose presence gives them a chance to indulge their rampant technophilia. There's nothing they like more than a mock-up of soldiers storming into battle armed with M-16 rifles, M-203 assault weapons and grenade-launchers. Not to mention a state-of-the-art communications package, enabling them to send and receive emails - "Hello mum, I'm in the tank" - in the midst of the action.

Lara Croft has not yet put in an appearance, leaping from a helicopter gun-ship on to a map of Northern Alliance positions, but it can only be a matter of time. What the diagrams never show, strangely enough, is the effect of all these whizz-bang weapons: "Patients lie dead in ruins of hospital, after 1,000lb bomb misses target". Oh dear no, too much like real life.

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