Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Screw All Y'all

Not you, my readers. Just Joel Stein and Steve Muscatello.

This morning read an article by Steve Muscatello which started out by comparing good, peaceful Pro-Life demonstrators with evil, violent Pro-Choice demonstrators, and ended by suggesting that criticism of the war (specifically Joel Stein's criticism of the war) was giving comfort to the enemy. You know how much that argument moves me.
Leave aside for a moment the merits of the Iraq War (something Stein says is impossible) and consider the fact that an American, a guy you went to high school with or who sits one cubicle from you at work, is right now patrolling an Iraqi street with a gun and enough fear to fill up every mansion in Beverly Hills.

While Stein writes pretty sentences, the soldier detonates an IED. While Stein dines at a steakhouse, the soldier eats an MRE. But really, Stein writes, we can't continue "blindly lending support to our soldiers."

Okay, fine. But can we continue pretending that such rhetoric doesn't embolden our enemies (see bin Laden, Osama), weaken troop morale, and desecrate the already fragile psyche of military families?
That struck me as the worst kind of pandering nonsense.

First of all, why doesn't the logic of "You have things pretty good; soldiers have them pretty bad, so you should shut up" apply elsewhere. I mean if it's good in this situation, why can't we say "Poor people in America have it rough, conservative columnists have it nice, so why don't they shut up?"

Secondly, any language opposing the War on Terror or the Bush Administration emboldens the enemy (by Conservative's warped logic). Unfortunately, expressing disagreement with the government is as American as apple pie. If you don't like it, go to some country that doesn't allow criticism of the government.

But then I thought I should check out the column (by Joel Stein) that inspired these words and I got angry all over again.
After we've decided that we made a mistake, we don't want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood.

But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff's pet name for the House of Representatives.

I do sympathize with people who joined up to protect our country, especially after 9/11, and were tricked into fighting in Iraq. I get mad when I'm tricked into clicking on a pop-up ad, so I can only imagine how they feel.

But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam.
There's some things I agree with in here. Certainly I do think the most likely upshot of the Bush years is that we will blame President Bush for our failures as a nation.

On the other hand, the phrasing is entirely too casual; Mr. Stein doesn't seem to give a damn. It's one thing to say our Soldiers made a mistake when they signed up to fight; it's another to make jokes about it. If you believe, as Stein apparently does, that American soldiers let their love of their nation blind them to what they would be actually doing, that's a tragedy. They are losing their lives and Iraqis are losing their lives because they made the wrong call. I don't see how it's a matter of flippancy.

I suspect that the class suggestions in Muscatello's article might be correct. Stein has an idea about what sort of people join the military, so he's fine pissing (rhetorically) on them.

But I think his subject is too important for him to comfortably get away with taking a piss.

In reading Stein's piece, I am again reminded of a favorite quote by H. L. Mencken.
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
Stein's article is flippant almost to the point of cruelty; Muscatello would deride any criticism of our "mission in Iraq." Ultimately, the ideas Muscatello expresses are the bigger threat to America.

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