Thursday, October 14, 2004

Hand-wringing reporting on the inhumane plight of the "young soldiers so badly prepared for war" without once interviewing… an American serviceman

In a cover article entitled "Bring Home Our Kids", Le Monde 2 describes "the Revolt of the GIs' mothers".

Le Monde 2, as you will remember, is the weekly magazine of France's newspaper of reference and, as such, contains no small amount of bile directed towards American shores.

Inside, Annick Cojean's title reads "Susan Goes to War: The Fight of the Soldiers' Mothers Against Bush". Already, from the titles alone, we understand that is all the GIs' mothers who are concerned, without fail, or people presuming to speak for every single GI mother…

"'Television, with its patriotic mindset, systematically ignored the suffering of the Iraqi civilians. So I had to make up my own mind'," Susan Galleymore explains as to why she took a flight to the battlezone. After describing a plethora of difficulties that the Code Pink member met in getting into Iraq (a country at war, remember), Cojean writes in a sentence laden with irony: "Welcome to Iraq…"

In Baghdad, we are informed, Susan "wanted to walk around, visit hospitals and schools, meet other women" (i.e., do everything haughty pacifist militants can be expected to do when they are protected by warriors who put their life on the line for them).

"She met a psychiatrist, specialized in post-traumatic stress disorder, terribly worried about the psychological state of Baghdad's children". And how was the psychological state of the kids whose mother was pulled into the street by Ba'athist thugs, and decapitated, pray tell? Oh, that's right, at least the U.S. military and no fancy weapons were involved in that case…

No, wait. The psychological state the psychiatrist is worried about is that related to the "children who are disconcerted by the savage pictures of the fall of Saddam whose absolute cult had been taught by the school". How horrifying. "Terrified by the humiliations and the violence visited upon their fathers" — Oh yeah? How many fathers had their arms amputated, their tongues cut out, their eyes gouged, by American soldiers, whether in front or out of sight of their offspring? Oh, that's right, the following cannot be denied; the Americans did humiliate the fathers! This can only have been gratuitious sadism, no way was this related to the fact that the warriors were in the middle of a combat zone. "Traumatized by night-time arrests, doors kicked in, houses turned upside down, machine guns pointed at them, orders shouted in a foreign language." Yes, that's right: at least, Saddam's thugs didn't kick in the doors (they didn't have to), they never turned citizens' houses upside down, orders were not shouted (no need for that), and the members of Saddam's state police apparatus spoke the native language! How bloody jolly life was for Iraqis in the good ol' times.

Susan, protected by the presence of Uncle Sam's soldiers, proceeds on her pacifist militant pilgrimage. Pull out your hanky: "She visited orphanages, ate dinner with Iraqi fanilies, talked to women living with their children in the ruins of bombarded buildings, unable to pay the rent in their former house." Now, why couldn't General Franks have done that?! Note the intense courage that Susan displays: "She even participated, under a banner reading U.S. Out of Iraq, in a demonstration of Iraqi women worried about a drop in their rights." (A drop in their rights?! Look up the sentence on the Ba'athist beheadings above.)

She finally manages to meet her son, Nick, a young Ranger who is startled by his mother's arrival. After visiting for an hour and a half (every few minutes, the youth would shake his head and say, "I can't believe you're here"), she tells her son "Don't do anything in Iraq that you'll be ashamed of in the future." As she leaves, through "streets filled by barbed wire and full of tanks and heavily armed soldiers", Susan is "satisfied, relieved. Overcome with emotion [these are all feelings that only peace activists can have, you understand], also, by the young soldiers so badly prepared for war and for the hatred that the Iraqis bear them, [those soldiers] who thought they came to fight for democracy and who, more and more bitter and more and more conscious of having been led into a trap, have to fight only to protect one another. What a waste, she thought on the plane trip home. What an incredible waste! 'We are destroying both our soldiers and the Iraqi people in a senseless, immoral, and corrupt war. We are shaming ourselves. And instead of appeasing the world, we are launching more terror'."

At the end of the piece, Susan is described as "our heroine", "whose trip was the dream of numerous soldier moms".

Before we get that far, we hear more tragedies from Iraq: Because of the news from the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal, the husband of Marianne Brown, "already in depression [over his son's presence in Iraq as one of the prison's guards], has had to be hospitalized". "How can we not ask ourselves endlessly what atrocities our son, who was brought up to be a good boy, has witnessed?" (Rush Limbaugh, of course, would say that if Michael Brown ever joined a fraternity, he's seen worse, but let's not get into that…)

But worse is to come: Adele Kubein has seen her only child daughter, M'Kesha Clayton, leave for Iraq. "How unexpected it was, that departure to war!" waxes Cojean poetically. "And how badly prepared she was, that young sensitive woman who had been told that she would help build an orphange when in fact she was placed without any fanfare behind the machine gun of a Humvee." More American treachery. More neocon treachery. More military treachery… It must be said here that Cojean claims that M'Kesha's contract with the Oregon National Guard stipulated that she would never take part in combat operations (!?!?). "Not only has M'Kesha taken part in fighting, in spite of her contract, but she has killed men. And that memory obsesses her." Her mother cries, "They have used her, they have broken her, now let them release her!"

As for Jason Miller, his mother Pat claims that the wounded Pennsylvania youth was cajoled into signing up to return to duty in Iraq, where his wounds would prevent him from returning to the combat zone. Emphasis mine: "As soon as he had returned," writes Cojean, who has obviously never met the 24-year-old man who "had always dreamed of being in the service" (and writing in her own [so-called] passionless, objective reporter's voice, i.e., not quoting Jason's mother), "he was forced to sign a declaration stating that he was in perfect health, that he was in no need of therapy, and that he felt ready to return to his former post."

"But", the Le Monde 2 journalist asks rhetorically, and in full empathy with her interviewees, "are Americans really that sensitive to the intelligence of their president?"

Marianne Brown does her duty, we are informed, trying "to shake the indifference towards Iraq out of her neighbors". She goes through the traditional litany: "How can one be so credulous [as to believe the president]?… Bush has made a thousand lying promises … It is Bush, that election thief, who is the best ally of Al-Qaeda." From other mothers, we hear "it's infernal, it's a disgrace", "It was all about oil", "Bush, the Texan, is an oilman. He wanted to grab the Iranian supplies while endangering the lives of our kids. It's criminal. … False, false, false!" spits Pat Gunn who prays that Bush is not reelected. "Everything that George Bush has said was false!" "I will do everything so that the most dangerous cowboy in America leaves the White House." As for Lili Jean, the Vietnam war nurse confides to Cojean that she isn't sure she should tell Susan "that in every conflict experiments are made on soldiers and that they lose all their rights when they enter the army".

Marianne Brown "sends letters and articles to the newspapers, calling for the destitution of President Bush and his impeachment before the international criminal court." (See? We just knew that that august body would be used only for hardened criminals and international psychopaths while Washington insiders were obviously wrong (or arrogant) to think it would be used for political or other partisan reasons…)

The article ends with a full-page picture of Joe Wezorek's War President portrait and the following information:

[Thanks to the internet, these families have created] an extraordinary chain of dialog and solidarity, [in which,] without taboos, they share news, advice, letters, photos [and the names of informative websites], especially foreign ones [such as that of… the] Qatar TV station, Al Jazeera.
Then Cojean asks: "At what limit should one set the number of acceptable deaths? And at what point will the American people finally express its indignation?" And she quotes Ann as saying more pictures of coffins and instances of "horrifying torture" or the return of the draft "would finally open the eyes of the sleeping Americans". Thank God, Americans are "less and less" asleep, Cojean adds, as, among other things, the treatment of the Iraqi prisoners has touched, for the first time, the "arrogant and untouchable defense minister", and as the association Military Family Speak Out grows from parents "who, previously trembling to emit an opinion on Iraq [?!] today have only one single battle cry: Bring them home!"
What [Denise Miller] is sure of is that no family of a serviceman in Iraq wants to vote for the reelection of the current president.
She is?

Notice that in this article — strangely enough — no word, ever, is given to a single member of the armed forces. We never hear from Nick Galleymore or from Michael Brown or from Jason Gunn or from M'Kesha Clayton. No word from Anthony Lopercio, Giselle Valencia, or Nick Capone (some of the other servicemen mentioned in the story). Nothing, not even anonymous quotes. Offhand, there is no reason to doubt that M'Kesha's mother is upset about her fate, although we may be tempted to ask if her mother isn't exaggerrating her plight, even slightly. More to the point, Marianne Brown speaks about her hospitalized husband, but he's in Michigan. She never says anything directly about their son Michael.

It would seem that Michael and Jason and M'Kesha and Anthony and Giselle and the two Nicks are not part of… the "extraordinary chain of dialog and solidarity".

Oh, here may be an explanation. Oh wow, this is fabulous: on (counting) six, seven, eight, nine, ten pages devoted to the inhumane plight of the soldiers in Iraq, there are two lines, exactly two lines, i.e., two sentences, concerning the viewpoints of the soldiers' themselves…

Listen to this: When Susan Galleymore visited with her son Nick in Baghdad, Annick Cojean tells us,

they spoke neither of the war, nor of its stakes, nor of President Bush. They don't share the same viewpoint, it was not the place to start an argument.
They don't share the same viewpoint…

They. Don''t. Share. The same. viewpoint…

It was not the place to start an argument.

It. Was not. The Place. To start. An Argument.

Wow…

Might it be that this is/was the reason why no other serviceman is quoted in this piece? (Surely, if the servicemen mentioned above were afraid for their careers, they — or their comrades — could have been quoted anonymously, non?)

Well, if you can't get your own offspring, your most loved and cherished ones, the ones who are in the line of fire, the "young soldiers so badly prepared for war [who are] more and more bitter and more and more conscious of having been led into a trap", if you can't get them to join in your condemnation of the "war for oil", its stakes, and the man who sent them there, how validly can you expect your position to be taken?

This reminds me of John Kerry's meeting with four marines in a Wendy's restaurant last summer.

The Democrat is the man who said the Iraq conflict was "the wrong war, the wrong place, the wrong time." He is the man who agrees, at least partially, with what the parents' organizations are saying, and who would do a better job and, supposedly, bring the boys back home…

So why did the four Marines dis the man? Why did they turn

downright nasty after the Massachusetts senator thanked them "for their service" and left. "He imposed on us and I disagree with him coming over here shaking our hands," one Marine said, adding, "I'm 100 percent against [him]."

A sergeant with 10 years of service under his belt said, "I speak for all of us. We think that we are doing the right thing in Iraq," before saying he is to be deployed there in a few weeks and is "eager" to go and serve.

Were these particular fellows brimming with testosterone? Were they perhaps not representative of the overall military population?

Part of the answer comes from USA Today, where Dave Moniz informs us that a survey of U.S. military personnel showed they support President Bush for re-election by a 4-to-1 ratio (Hat tip to Gregory Schreiber and Ray D).

In the [unscientific] survey of more than 4,000 full-time and part-time troops, 73% said they would vote for Bush if the election were held today; 18% said they would vote for Kerry. …

Peter Feaver, a Duke University political scientist who for years has studied the political leanings of the U.S. military … said he suspects Kerry is losing support among those in uniform because he seems less committed than Bush to prosecuting the war in Iraq.

(By the way, only "12% of active-duty troops and 16% of Guard and reserve troops said Bush's actions in the National Guard made them less likely to vote for him.")

So there you have it. The press, within the United States and without, soak us with stories and polls showing how much Bush is disliked and how people around the world would love nothing more than to be able to vote in America's election in order to boot Dubya out. The Europeans, the Arab street, the cynics, the press, within the United States and without, all tell us the same story: everybody is against the war; everybody hates Bush — at the very least (wry smile), you must admit that he has handled the war wrongly and that it is a bloody disaster. Everybody says this, we are told, everywhere it is said, and the polls they choose to quote seem to bear them out.

Everywhere, except where it matters most. Everybody, except the people most directly concerned.

The members of the United States military.

And the citizens of Iraq.

The place most concerned by the American presence in Iraq — Iraq itself — is brimming with people approving the cowboy, his simple style, his policies, and his actions. To wit, members of the American military and citizens of the Iraqi nation.

Let us end with a mother whom Le Monde 2's Annick Cojean did not bother to interview: she is the mother of Ronald Dominick Winchester, the US Marine who said

Better that I go over there. Because if I don't, they're going to come here.
Marianna Winchester recently showed a visitor a favorite drawing of her son's. It showed a firefighter amid the rubble of the World Trade Center, handing an American flag to a marine, who says "I'll take it from here."

"Never once did he say something negative about the war, Bush or anyone else," she said.

Ronald Dominick Winchester, a 25-year-old first lieutenant with the United States Marine Corps, was killed in western Iraq in September 2004.

Marianna Winchester said her son was a hero, and that he died for "all of us."

That is something in today's world, it seems, that only a serviceman or an Iraqi can understand.

(Read also the "Enlist or Shut Up" Spiel)