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Thursday, February 02, 2006

News From the Front

Facts vs. Fiction: A Report from the Front - A very interesting look at some of the perceptions people have about what is going on in Iraq from someone who has spent an extensive amount of time there. Read the whole thing if you have time, but here's a small snippet:

Accepting the possibility of being hurt is a part of security work. It's easy to
overlook the reality that 800 public safety officers have been killed in the
line of duty right here on our own home shores since the beginning of the Iraq
war. This summer, the U.S. general in charge of our National Guard put his Iraq
casualties in some perspective: "I lose, unfortunately, more people through
private automobile accidents and motorcycle accidents over the same period of
time."


There's a lot of us that have been saying the same thing for quite a while. It's just nice to see it echoed.

Plus, there's no large buildings to jump off of there.

13 comments:

Kell said...

That was a good piece.... Here is my "civilian, no military training, no front line exposure" take on why people are reacting this way... I am sure I am going to get slammed, so go for it.

Yes, the numbers are much smaller than our previous wars, but the reaction of the American people is not based on the numbers. It is driven by the manner in which it happens. The Media has changed how we view war. (Ignoring a previous post of my own...) You did not have the in-your-face look at how young men were being killed in those previous wars... WWII for example- there were staggering numbers that were lost, but how was that conveyed to people back home? In numbers. No photographs of mutilated transport vehicles shredded by bombs. Obviously, those who received an impersonal telegram delivered by the war department were directly impacted, but did the families truly know how their sons and husbands died? No, they did not. With modern technology, a mother can see a photograph of where her son died within hours of loosing him.

Since the invention of visual media, the response to war has changed. Yes, I know... TV was around much earlier, but they didn’t cover death, because it was deemed offensive to the viewer. Now, we see it in gross detail.

So, the emotional reaction to the death of a soldier, is not based solely on him being another number in the count of loss of life... it is because his death is immortalized by visual media. It is because his death or injury was not on a front line battlefield that we learn about in history. His death happened in a violent manner that we then get to see replayed by every outlet that can pick up the feed.

Think about this... if the US had not watched the World Trade Center destruction live... would they have been affected by it as deeply? I doubt it.

~E said...

Kell,

I agree in part w/your assessment that public reaction to the loss of our men and women in Iraq has a lot to do w/its exposure and visualization in the media which we didn't have w/WW's I & II, or as much with Vietnam, and Korea. However, I also think that as much or more of the public outcry has to do w/the fact that a lot of people don't believe in this war and are outraged at the seemingly senseless loss of the lives of men and women. The American people passionately believed in the reasons for us going to war in WW's I & II... less so in Vietnam and Korea, and even much less now in Iraq and elsewhere.

Kell said...

Each of those wars were televised and brought into our homes, each one more frequently than the previous. If that had been true before that, the reaction would have morphed.

You will always have people who do not believe in a war for a myriad of reasons. You show them what war looks like, and they will rally it against it. Regardless of the year of the event or the reason for the action. Put today's people in 1941 and ask them to comment on what they see. You will have the same reaction. Some people will be pissed off, like people were when they watched 9/11, and who will then support the war, or they will think... it is wrong to kill; that war is bad no matter what, so let's make signs and write articles about it. In the 1940’s do you think a live feed showing a small child with her legs having just been blown off by an American bomb would not have changed how people react and support the efforts?

If you saw Pearl Harbor in a movie theater or shoot, even Titanic... people openly wept. Do you think someone living in a Berkeley-love-thy-neighbor-don’t-hurt-the endangered-species type community would have had that same physical reaction to those events when he simply read about them days or weeks after the fact? No I don’t. Granted, people were groomed to not question the government, which makes a difference, but human emotions would impact the next step a person would have taken.

Off my soap box. Greg, please don't smack me for rambling so much.

cuz said...

The entire attitude on most things has taken a very liberal direction since WWII and Korea and the people that are protesting this war are not willing to fight for much of anything. If the US was invaded they would want to sit down and talk about it rather than defend our country through use of force.
What the media has indeed done with war recently is given the liberal anti-war minority in this country tons of press and made their cause seem more widely supported than it actually is. You don't see very many pro war citizens on the news because it doesn't support the liberal agenda of most of the media.
And thats all I have to say about that.
J.

Mrs. WakeandaHalf said...

I think TV/Internet coverage certainly plays a role in attitudes about the war, but I believe there's more to it than just that.

Remember that the U.S. was deeply isolationist regarding WWII, right up until Pearl Harbor. Europe was at war in 1938, while we waited until we were attacked in December '41. Similarly in WWI, Europe went to war in 1914, the US in 1917. There was tremendous domestic opposition to joining both wars. We just don't really have a national character that inclines us to jump into wars, particularly when it's perceived as "somebody elses" war.

Another factor, think about the massive mobilization of personnel in both world wars. There was hardly anyone who wasn't touched, directly, by someone they knew going to war. For Korea and Vietnam, while the mobilizations were smaller, many of those who served were drafted. In other words, you or someone you knew had at least a chance of being called up. Today, something like 1% of US citizens serve in the military and it's an all volunteer force. That leaves a huge number of people out there who find it easy to think "That poor schmuck got duped into signing up!" because, after all, no one THEY know serves! These folks aren't necessarily anti-military/anti-war (though they may be), but it is harder for them to understand why it might appeal to some. The volunteer nature of the military today means that those who join are, by definition, those who understand why you'd want to serve, while those who don't join might or might not grasp that. Without compulsory service, there's no chance for those in the latter group to find out if, actually, something about military service does appeal to them, or at least provide an understanding of what it's really like. (NOTE: NOT meant as an argument for resuming the draft).

So I think that there are a number of factors at work when it comes to "war weariness" and attitudes about "the troops". I don't think anyone of any political persuasion would say they prefer war to peace, and it's certainly comforting to think that if we're just nicer, the bad guys will leave us alone. Some people genuinely oppose the war, for various reasons, but for some people, I think, it's a reminder that the world is not a safe place, and they'd just rather not think about that anymore.

Wakeandahalf said...

it just gets worse...

http://aolsvc.news.aol.com/movies/article.adp?id=20060202084309990001

Mr. Twisted said...

Kell - Never will I be upset with you rambling. You brought up a very valid point: That being able to view the results of our actions 24 hours a day changes the way many people view the world. It also, as J pointed out, gives a lot of publicity to those who would not have had it before. Was there opposition to WWI and WWII? Absolutely, but it didn't recieve anywhere near the press that opposition does today.
And, as Mrs. Wake said, a much smaller percentage of today's population fully understands what public service entails, whether that be through first hand experience or even witnessing a family member or close friend do their duty. Seeing it from that perspective definately puts a differnt spin on things.
Muse - although you are right that there is a lot of public outcry about this war, I believe a lot of it is without just cause. Just saying "I hate Bush" is not a viable anti-war argument, but it is one that is adopted by many. By no means am I saying this is the only argument (or even yours), but it is a popular one, unfortunately.

Mrs. WakeandaHalf said...

A little quibble, Wilson was elected largely because he vowed to keep the US out of WWI, so I suspect the press was covering that at the time. ;)

No, during the world wars there was no coverage of anti-war sentiment. Censorship was in effect, for one thing. I think it's difficult to say objectively that the press is worse now... what would have been broadcast without censorship? I honestly don't know. I do know that contentious politics have been common throughout our history and we as a nation really do consider war a last resort. Given those two things, I suspect there was some level of anti-war sentiment that has been softened by history.

Someone commented to me recently that "World War II was the last fun war". Ironically, it was the last war in which the press was censored. (Or at least that "they've" told us!) Got me thinking, and this seemed like a good place to share. :)

plane geek said...

Interesting read. This is why in large part the "big media" is thrashing and doing whatever it can to skew public opinion of the war and the administration. Remember Dan Rathers comments just prior to the last election? I personally find it reprehensible to hear nothing but bad news day after day coming out of Iraq. The "big media" seldom report the good news that is coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan. 55 million people freed from cruel dictatorships and new elected governments in place of tyrants. Children going back to school especially girls and young women. The list goes on and on, but it just doesn't get play here State side. Building American style democracies in the arab world is a tall order and these things take time.

Additionally war is grisly killing business and Americans do not have the stomach to view blown up bodies and such. Personally when I see those things it reminds me of the true nature of the enemy that we face and that they will not stop until we kill them. Americans have short memories and seemingly forget the first time the trade centers were bombed, the embassies in Africa, the USS Cole, 9-11, Bali, Madrid, London.
The media and the hate America first crowd tick me off. I wonder who they think protects and defends their constitutional rights? And then they (the media and the anti's) praddle on ad nauseum about how terrible we are for protecting our interests. I seem to remember somewhere where the President swears to defend the nation from enemies both foreign and domestic. I think the media would do well to remember what the President said on tuesday night regarding allowing military commanders to run the war, not a bunch of idiotic members of congress.

Last Friday I was in TN standing in a courthouse and they had an entire wall devoted to pictures of service members. It was awesome and made me tear up. I want anybody who has served or is serving to know that the vast majority of Americans support the troops, the mission and the CIC. I make sure to wear my Navy hats and pro freedom shirts wherever I go. Some people sneer and some people will walk up to me and say "I love your shirt" or I feel the same way.
So lets all do ourselves a favor and give the young men and women prosecuting this war the support they need. And tell the media to find the nearest body of water of sufficient depth and current and get in it.

~E said...

"Just saying "I hate Bush" is not a viable anti-war argument,"

No, that's not my reason, but that's commentary for another time. For the record, I support our military; however, I am adamantly opposed to the current administration and the 'powers that be' that have them over there. To me there is a HUGE difference between supporting the troops and opposing the war.

Mr. Twisted said...

Muse - I hope you don't think I was implying that it was your reason. That was not my intent whatsoever.

However, in all honesty, it is hard not to support the troops *and* the war, as every service member has supported the war by volunteering. Everyone in the military has either signed up or re-enlisted since 9/11. Whether they realize it or not, they are supporting the war by continuing their service. So if you support them, logically you support what they do. I know what you mean, but it's a slippery slope.

More on this topic later, and I welcome your input.

~E said...

If I must revise my statement regarding the diff. bet. supporting the troops but not the war, let me try it this way. I specifically support the individuals I know who have gone or are over there right now. And everyone of them enlisted prior to 9/11 and was stop-lossed so they could not get out. These particular individuals did not sign up b/c of 9/11 nor did they desire to re-enlist in order to 'continue the fight'. My brother, for example, enlisted July 2001, his ETS was this past Oct. and he desperately wanted out after having already done tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, they stop-lossed him and sent him back for another tour... he now doesn't get to come home till Jan. '07!! His personal comments to me have been that he understood and believed in our reasons for being in Afghanistan but not Iraq. Others that I know personally who've been over there also concur with these sentiments. I know they don't speak for all military personell, I'm just relating what these particular individuals have told me.

I didn't take your other comment as implying that's why you thought I'm against the war, was just trying to clarify myself that it's not.

Anyway, I'm just a guest here, courtesy of Jason, and I think it's best I withdraw from this dialogue before I land myself in hot water. =P

Mr. Twisted said...

Muse - By no means are you "just a guest". Any and all commentary is welcomed and appreciated. Especially when well thought out, and put forth in an accessable manner (i.e. not shouting and cursing, Ha). My own view, being a soldier is, people say "I support you, but not the war" and the way I interpret that is "I support you, but not what you do". True, people such as your brother were put on stop loss and have not been able to get out. But for the most part, this is what we signed up for. That is why combat arms in the Army is seeing it's highest re-enlistment rates *ever*. If it were such an awful thing to be doing over there, and it were that terrible, these guys would not be volunteering for more in the numbers that they are.

Again, I welcome any and all comments. By no means does your difference of opinion make you unwelcome here.