Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Four Dead Marines, contd.

This is a continuation of the dispute covered here, involving an online friend from California who is deeply offended by his hometown newspaper's publication of graphic photos of dead U.S. Marines in Iraq, and the newspaper's editors' justification of it because, as they wrote, "Liberals like Michael Moore claim the media hasn't done enough. News organizations, he states in his movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" have willingly shelved the most graphic footage in order to support President Bush's dubious rationale for starting the conflict."

He forwarded to me this recent letter to the editor of that newspaper (The Desert Dispatch, a daily that circulates in Barstow, Dagget, Fort Irwin, Hinkley, Lenwood, Newberry Springs and Yermo).

If the cause is just, showing death honors soldiers

I am not sure how hiding the horror of the deaths of those four U.S. Marines would honor their memory. If as one letter writer quotes in Denton's poem, "It is the solider, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press," then it is the obligation of the press to honor that soldier's sacrifice by practicing the freedom he/she died to protect.

Should the death of our children be sanitized so that the American public can equate their deaths with the violence seen in the movies and video games where no real person is really harmed?

It is my belief if the cause is just, and our freedom is really on the line, the pictures of our sacrificed dead would be acceptable.

It is in the context of a war that was sold to us on the basis of false information, voted for by a Congress who circumvented their constitutional duty by giving the power to declare war to the President, and where the ugliness of war is hidden from us by those who want to protect their offices.

It would be more accurate to say the showing of the horror and reality of the deaths of these brave young people actually honors them more than sweeping their deaths under the rug of media self censorship.

I too am horrified by the deaths of these wonderfully vibrant parts of our future contributions to our society will never be realized.

We must not let a misguided and misrepresented view of honor bury our collective head in the proverbial sand.

Mr. Cooke who expresses concern over higher taxes if Bush is voted out of office seems to ignore the fact that the state and local taxes went up because of Bush's tax cuts and irresponsible spending on the Iraq war.

Going to war is a time to ask for sacrifice from ALL Americans, not just the young people of today who are being killed, but the young of tomorrow who will be footing the bill in the decades to come.

This would have been a good time for a national sales tax to pay for the war as we go, or, does the administration know that this war would not SELL if we had to actually pay for it now?

What an odd thing it is to be interested in fighting, but too lazy to find your own weapons to do it. This letter-writer takes a quotation from another's correspondence, someone he wishes to disagree with, and attempts to use it to batter his opponent. Someone should tell him not to grab the sword by the blade-end.

"It is the solider, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press."

Very well, and just like the soldier, who is empowered to kill, we expect the press to wield its power responsibly, which includes withholding it in certain circumstances. The media honors the fallen soldier when it uses its freedom to tell all as sensibly and responsibly as the soldier, we trust, used his privilege to take lives.

The writer calls up the image of video game and movie deaths, as an example of the "sanitized" vision of death that he urges the newspaper to step well beyond. This, too, backfires on him. These graphic video game and movie images disturb a great many Americans, to judge by the continuing outrcry against them, and in fact video games and violent "entertainment" carry ratings for gore and violence which is meant to keep them away from the eyes of children. Is the Desert Dispatch's reader here suggesting the newspaper, too, carry such a rating?

But I understand why the writer prefers to argue using other people's ideas, because the home-brewed notion he serves up next is among the most curious and repulsive I've seen: "It is my belief if the cause is just, and our freedom is really on the line, the pictures of our sacrificed dead would be acceptable."

This is an either-or proposition, though only one half of it is stated. There can be only two options because you either run the photos of the dead soldiers on the battlefield (the option he mentions), or you don't.

He then goes on to divide wars based on "causes:" just wars in which our "freedom" is at risk, and, presumably, unjust wars in which it is not.

This shows how little he understands of the matter. The soldier's war, and his honor, are personal. He or she enlists to follow orders and fight, defend the nation and defeat its enemies. The politicians and the stay-at-homes and the media debate the purposes and consequences. Unless the soldier gets a direct order to do something he knows to be morally indefensible, and inconsistent with the code of honor of a warrior, he is bound to obey.

That is the awesome core of his responsibility, for which we pay him due honor, living and dead. He or she gives up a certain personal freedom, for a certain time, so that the rest of us can have it unimpeded all the time.

Soldiers fight and die in battles, not "causes." There are good and bad soldiers in every cause, in every war. The G.I.'s that liberated France in 1944 committed an estimated 3,620 rapes, killed POWs and looted civilian property. Many German soldiers in that war, from the start to the finish of their experience, behaved with the exemplary military discipline that was a hallmark of old Prussian culture. The majority of U.S. Marines in Vietnam fought an honorable war and saved many civilian lives; the North Vietnamese had their share of ruthless sadistic civilian-killers.

Consider the ridiculous idea that we ought to show the dead only of "just" wars, while showing the dead of "unjust" ones dishonors them. Taking this writer's position (and presuming a bit about his politics) the newspaper can show no pictures of American dead from Vietnam, but can show any of them from World War II, but it can't show German or Japanese dead from that war. And who can we show from World War I?

But of course the writer doesn't mean us to take seriously this wretched attempt at moral logic. He gives it away in the very next paragraph, where he breaks out in the dreary mantra of the anti-war party:

"It is in the context of a war that was sold to us on the basis of false information (much of what is called false in the anti-war book turns out to be true -- Saddam really did try to buy uranium from Niger, there really are WMD in Iraq), voted for by a Congress who circumvented their constitutional duty by giving the power to declare war to the President (no war has been declared, so how is that so? Any more than in Kosovo or Korea?), and where the ugliness of war is hidden from us by those who want to protect their offices." (Yes of course, that's why you never see pictures of dead American soldiers in the newspapers or dead Iraqis in graphic detail on the movie screens across America)

And there's the essential contradiction of this letter, which drains it entirely of sense. The reader lets us know very clearly here that he regards this war as "unjust." And he's said it is morally proper to show photos of dead soldiers only in just wars. Yet he is cheering on the newspaper for publishing photos of dead soldiers in this war.

Beyond that, it's just a matter of picking apart the corpse of his thought. The same kind of non-thinking colors the next few paragraphs, where the writer first says it is the duty of future generations to pay their share of the war and then says it is our duty to tax ourselves to spare future generations the expense.

The one thing I agree with him about is that the public is not making enough sacrifices, or being asked to make enough, to show its commitment to the war on Islamist terror and the rebuilding of Iraq. No country serious about fighting a war that we all understand to be rooted, in part, in our dependency on Middle Eastern oil should be riding around in SUVs and complaining that the cost of gas is now nearly half what it is in European nations that are not at war here.

Organizations like Spirit of America have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for their activities in helping Iraqis rebuild their country. Groups that advertise they are sending care packages to soldiers find themselves swamped with donations. Taken together, the American voluntary contribution to this cause must be in the millions of dollars.

The difference between me and the writer of this is, he is willing to bet the country would balk at such a commitment, and I am certain we'd take it up in the spirit of our ancestors, if the case was made as plainly and clearly as the deceptions are made in the anti-war circles.