Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Inconvenient Truth

Here's a bit from an introduction to an article that I found interesting. Tom Engelhardt states some hard truths in his preface:
Consider a strange aspect of our wars since October 2001: they have yet to establish a bona fide American hero, a national household name. Two were actually “nominated” early by the Bush administration -- Jessica Lynch, a 19-year-old private and clerk captured by the Iraqis in the early days of the American invasion and later “rescued” by Army Rangers and Navy Seals, and Pat Tillman, the former NFL safety who volunteered for service in the Army Rangers eight months after 9/11 and died under “enemy” gunfire in Afghanistan.

Both stories were later revealed to be put-up jobs, pure Bush-era propaganda and deceit. In Lynch’s case, almost every element in the instant patriotic myth about her rescue proved either phony or highly exaggerated; in Tillman’s, it turned out that he had been killed by friendly fire, but -- thanks to a military cover-up (that involved General Stanley McChrystal, later to become Afghan war commander) -- was still given a Silver Star and a posthumous promotion. Members of his unit were even ordered by the military to lie at his funeral, and he was made into a convenient “hero” and recruitment poster boy for the Afghan War. Both were shameful episodes, involving administration manipulation and media gullibility. Since then, as TomDispatch regular and retired lieutenant colonel William Astore points out, U.S. troops as a whole have been labeled “our heroes,” but individual heroes have been in vanishingly short supply.
My opinion is that the American public is not "engaged" in these wars. Since the US's military is essentially a mercenary force the public at large remains indifferent to the wars and their carnage. There is a big push by media and government to paint the military as "heroes", but the average person really has no concern and simply plays along with the media hype. Another factor is that a very large percentage of the military is made up of kids of small rural areas. Kids that the larger society views as "throwaway" and really has no concern for, so there is no impulse to "find" a hero, no story to write home about.

Engelhardt sums it up nicely with this:
Like the drone pilots who sit at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, killing peasants and terrorists 7,000 miles away and to whom new standards of “valor” are now being applied, most Americans are remarkably detached from the wars our “all volunteer” military force (and its vast contingent of for-profit mercenary warriors) fight in distant lands. Our forces have become generically heroic, but no one cares to look too closely at the specifics of these bloody, dirty wars that will never end in victory, not close enough to end up with actual heroes. Our “heroic” troops have no real names, any more than the wars they fight, and so individual heroics are perhaps beside the point.
Most Americans have no clue about how really, really big the "mercenary warriors" are in these American wars.

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