Tuesday, April 13, 2004

This Makes Me Steamin' Mad

Andy Rooney has just painted himself yellow. And I gotta tell ya, it's not a flattering color on a man of his age and standing.

Rooney writes:
Most of the reporting from Iraq is about death and destruction. We don't learn much about what our soldiers in Iraq are thinking or doing.

Whose fault is that? Our soldiers'? Ours? Gee, who on Earth could be responsible for what the media reports??
It would be interesting to have a reporter ask a group of our soldiers in Iraq to answer five questions and see the results:

1. Do you think your country did the right thing sending you into Iraq?

2. Are you doing what America set out to do to make Iraq a democracy, or have we failed so badly that we should pack up and get out before more of you are killed?

3. Do the orders you get handed down from one headquarters to another, all far removed from the fighting, seem sensible, or do you think our highest command is out of touch with the reality of your situation?

4. If you could have a medal or a trip home, which would you take?

5. Are you encouraged by all the talk back home about how brave you are and how everyone supports you?

Yeah, I'd like to know why no reporter has asked the soldiers these questions. But I'd bet good money it's because not very many people would be discouraged by their answers. It's much more discouraging to keep harping on all the negative news from Iraq.
Treating soldiers fighting their war as brave heroes is an old civilian trick designed to keep the soldiers at it. But you can be sure our soldiers in Iraq are not all brave heroes gladly risking their lives for us sitting comfortably back here at home. [emphasis added]

"Old civilian TRICK"? What, are we trying to trick our soldiers into being there? Are they going to come home and say, "You mean all those yellow ribbons... they were just a TRICK to get us to stay there and fight?? I feel so betrayed!" Honestly, this speaks volumes about how dumb Mr. Rooney thinks soldiers are.

The truth is, we write the stories of our own lives; we paint our own pictures of what they are. Everyone does this. Mr. Rooney likes to paint himself as a truth-teller. Whether it's a realistic portrait of him is up to you to judge. But when we paint our servicemen as heroes, and let them see the portrait, it affects them. It causes them to desire to be heroes. And this is where a lot of journalists go wrong. They see themselves as reporters, but they fail to understand that words have an effect, often a profound effect, on what people think. I understand the desire to paint a realistic picture of the world, but I think journalists have a duty to understand that whatever they paint becomes the world too.

One indication that not all soldiers in Iraq are happy warriors is the report recently released by the Army showing that 23 of them committed suicide there last year. This is a dismaying figure.

Of course, any suicides are dismaying; we really don't like it when people decide to kill themselves. But 23? Out of how many hundreds of thousands? I don't have a calculator handy or hard numbers in front of me, but I'm guessing that's way below the suicide rate for people of comparable demographics (age, gender, etc.) At least, it's way below what I remember reading that the suicide rate is.

It's disingenuous of the rest of us to encourage them to fight this war by idolizing them. We pin medals on their chests to keep them going. We speak of them as if they volunteered to risk their lives to save ours but there isn't much voluntary about what most of them have done. ... We must support our soldiers in Iraq because it's our fault they're risking their lives there. However, we should not bestow the mantle of heroism on all of them for simply being where we sent them. Most are victims, not heroes.

Oh, the hypocrisy! We are victimizing those poor volunteer soldiers (you know, the same ones who are so easily tricked by gimmicky yellow ribbons), who were too damn stupid to understand that they were signing their lives over to the Federal Government, so we should make it all better by telling them that they aren't heroes. That ought to make them feel better about themselves.
America's intentions are honorable. I believe that and we must find a way of making the rest of the world believe it.

Ummm, does (a) telling them our intentions are honorable and then (b) acting honorably on our honorable intentions count?

I'm not even a soldier, and I'm insulted by this article.

UPDATE: Michael Williams agrees with me, and he has the stats to back up my assertion above. And for those looking for a less restrained and more colorful fisking, Misha (as always) dishes it up.