Monday, April 11, 2005


"I Pity The Troops"

The feature story of the Sunday New York Times yesterday was about two wounded soldiers who have sacrificed promising athletic careers and some limbs to the misguided wars of the Bush Administration. The big, above the fold, color photos of the two young veterans were chosen to extract the maximum amount of sympathy and compassion.

That this is the story the Times thinks is most important says more about the Times and its readership than about he times we live in.

Iraq and Afghanistan are remarkable success stories with the number of free and politically engaged citizens on the rise, the number of violent attacks on the decline and the vast majority of proto-fascists on the run. This is all possible because of the overthrow of the Taliban and Ba’athist regimes by U.S. led military forces.

But the Times isn’t interested in that story. More comforting is the sentimental tale of young Americans swept up in the confusion and jingoism of the moment only to live a lifetime with the crippling consequences of their unfortunate decision to enlist in the army. To the Times, and no doubt a great number of its readers, these wounded young soldiers are victims worthy of our compassion.

But they are not victims. Wounded, yes. Maimed in battle, yes. Struggling with rehabilitation, yes. But they are soldiers who volunteered for duty not because they were mislead or had no other opportunities. They joined to serve and to fight and put themselves in danger to protect others by achieving discrete military objectives. Objectives, by the way, that were achieved with remarkable professionalism and humanity.

These soldiers are paying a disproportionately high price for their service. But they are not victims. And they deserve more than compassion which, after all, promises nothing more than comforting feelings and well-placed intentions. They deserve our respect and gratitude.

The compassion of the reactionary Left, as articulated in the Times has little to do with respect, and everything to do with sorrow.

Sadly, the soldiers chewed up and spat out my the maw of war are not the children of friends and colleagues but of poor, ignorant, swamp dwellers somewhere off in the hinterlands where people work in Wal-Mart warehouses all week and attend megachurches on Sunday . . . people brainwashed by television, Jesus and Karl Rove . . . people who should know better yet vote against their long-term economic interests every four years . . . people who blindly followed the stampede to war and inevitable got trampled by reality.

These are the “troops” the armies of compassion claim to “support.” But the millions of magnetic yellow ribbons stuck on cars from Montauk to Bolinas are a mild ubiquitous irritation to these folks.

Lately, though, Ms. Green has been thinking a lot about the war. She said she has "never been patriotic" and is conflicted about American involvement in Iraq: she is against the war but supports the troops.

This is the classic Times money quote. Yes, dear readers, never fear, you to can oppose the war and still be patriotic and still support the troops.

Except that they don't support the troops. They pity them.

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