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Old 08-03-2006, 10:34 AM   #1
Jack Q W Cantwell
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I read this interesting quote on the Wall Street Journal website today. I think it sure brings a different perspective than 1) what you usually read in the paper/hear in the news and 2) the standard conservative pundit "liberal media" bashing.

Anyway, I think it gives a pretty good idea of what a lot of us here in the states don't understand about what our soldiers face in Iraq. I'm sure for many of you, of course, this is old news.

--------- Quotation Follows -----------
Bing West, a former assistant defense secretary, reflected on Haditha in a recent piece about the war's course for the July issue of the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute:

"The Iraq war is being played out against a backdrop of bitter partisan politics in the United States. Of those on the front lines, 70% get out after four years of service, with no long-term benefits. All they want is praise for their valor and service. They want to be able to say. 'I served at Fallujah, Najaf, or Mosul' and be respected for their dedication.

"Their valor is absent from this war because it is not reported. In Fallujah for instance, 100 Marine squads engaged in 200 firefights in cement rooms, using rifles, pistols, grenades and knives. By any historical comparison, this was extraordinary. In Hue City in 1968, there was one fight inside a house. In the entire history of the SWAT teams in the United States, there have not been 200 fights with automatic weapons inside rooms. Yet the courage of our soldiers and Marines in battles in Fallujah, Najaf, etc. received little press notice. Now we face the test of whether the press will place the tragedy of Haditha in perspective, or whether Haditha will unfairly become a false symbol....

"What happens if the youth of America adopt the same fractious attitudes as their political leaders? Who then will serve? In the tone of our criticisms while we are at war, we as a nation should be very careful that we do not undercut our own martial resolve. If we as a nation lose heart, who will fight for us?"
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Old 08-03-2006, 10:52 AM   #2
Zach Davis
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Sorry, but the author starts out one enomously faulty assumption: That the valor of our soldiers is not reported in the media. Anecdotaly, I've seen tons of reporting on the valor, courage, and skill of our soldiers.

Then, the author concludes with another false assumption: that those who are calling for investigations into misconduct in the field are insensitive to the causes.

I'm going to assume that this piece is a fairly direct criticism of Congressman Murtha.... that being the case, I would reccomend reading the entire transcript of ANY speech he has made on the events of Haditha. Every single time, he has pointed out that the events that took place there are the inevitable consequences of taxing our troops with unreasonable and, as you pointed out, unprecedented amounts of stress.

If he, or others calling for investigation and the shedding of light on these events, were simply going around saying things like: "Our soldiers are brutal, undisciplined criminals," that would be pretty lame and unwarranted. However, what is being said is that we have stressed our soldiers to the limits of the human psyche, and the result is that they are behaving inhumanely.

There is a HUGE difference between the two positions... of course, to make the distinction would be to negate the base assumption of most "conservative" (I use quotes because there haven't been any true conservatives in our political landscape since Eisenhower) pundits that everything Democrats say, think, ot do is automatically suspect based on party affiliation.

Oddly enough, every time Murtah speaks on the subject, he opens by applauding the valor and selflessness of our soldiers, but you will never see that portion of his speeches in a newscast... it's too subtle and might blur the lines of polarization that the networks depend on for ratings.

Zach
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Old 08-03-2006, 11:59 AM   #3
John Seiler
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Zach,

That post was thoughtful and well reasoned. Let's make sure we don't bring that kind of attitude to Rest Days, okay? :biggrin:

That said, I wonder if this thread is a little too political not be heading to the bucket.
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Old 08-03-2006, 03:35 PM   #4
Jack Q W Cantwell
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Zack, perhaps the author was contrasting the reporting of the past (maybe the quite distant past), with what he feels is the general tone of reporting on Iraq.

I've personally read a number of stories regarding the self-sacrifice, courage, and honorable behavior of U.S. troops (any piece by Robert Kaplan is a good example of this). Nevertheless, I don't think it unreasonable that people who feel strongly positive about the work that the soldiers are doing in Iraq would take issue with some of the coverage of the war -- coverage that, for a wide variety of reasons, often focuses on controversy and apparent failure.

I'm not sure if this is directed specifically at Murtha, but the sense I got from the piece was that he was urging caution on the press in the treatment of Haditha and other apparent crimes. It seems to me that he is asking that these incidents do not overshadow the job that so many other soldiers are doing in Iraq.

As for Murtha and his treatment in the press or by anyone else, I'm pretty ignorant. In all cases, whether reporting Congressman Murtha's words, or reporting on the latest findings about Haditha, the press is constrained by many factors, among which are time, interest of their audience, advertisers, etc., etc. I'm sure this is obvious, but it bears remembering. I'm none too happy with the vast majority of reporting, whether on the war, national and international politics, or even sports -- but then, it's easy to criticize when I've never done it myself.

All in all, I thought West's statement was and unusual in its lack of deliberate "flammability", if you will. But then, I guess he doesn't have much to gain by being extreme one way or another, whereas many voices we hear out there do have such an interest.

Thanks for your reasoned response, Zack. I was hoping that this might provoke an interesting series of responses -- ones that are well reasoned and, if not moderate in position, then at least moderate in tone. Maybe if it stays that way, it can avoid a date with Pukie's Bucket.
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Old 08-03-2006, 07:50 PM   #5
David Wood
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It's not in the bucket, but it *is* closed.

The contributions so far are admirable in their thoughtfulness. Alas, there's nowhere for this to go but downhill from here. This subject matter is inherently political.

And yes, I dream of the day that discussion of this caliber appears on the rest day comments board.
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