November 27, 2005

OP-ED WOES

God bless the Stars and Stripes. For being a military newspaper, I'm often stunned at how many anti-war, anti-Bush opinion columns they print. I know I don't want to read that garbage, but maybe someone does, and they provide the service, even when it makes our president and our military look bad. Usually I just read the online version, so I don't bother with the AP junk, but occasionally I'll come across a hard copy of the paper and want to throw up, as I did when I read this piece, in which the author muses what his life would be like if he'd had to join the military...

What if, for instance, my parents hadn't gone into debt to provide me with a private-school education and the benefits it affords? What if, instead, I had taken the path followed by many in my hometown and pursued my American dream through the military? And what if I was writing these words not from the comfort of my office but from a forward operating base somewhere in the Sunni Triangle?

Perhaps this all can be written off as a neurotic intellectual exercise. But the persistent rumors of a draft (unlikely as one might be) do little to reassure.

Yes, many people join the military instead of having mommy and daddy foot their bills. They become adults at age 18 and deploy to the Middle East where their buddies' lives are in their hands as they sit on overnight guard duty at the Tigris River...instead of kickin' it at the frat house drinking Red Bull and vodka until they puke all over some girl and pass out in the bushes. Which life choice makes you more of a man?

Oh, the draft. It's comin' folks. Been comin' for three years. Except there's gonna be a drawdown of troops next year. So when are we all getting drafted?

Now, I'm sure a fair number of those in the military enlisted out of a lack of other options. I know full well that relatively few in my generation buy into the "for flag and country" bit, and that my sense of patriotic guilt would probably make for a good joke or two in the service. And the honest truth is that nothing less than a full-fledged draft could get me to say goodbye to my wife's puppy-dog brown eyes and put on a uniform.

Maybe I just lack the conviction of the soldiers deployed in Iraq. Or maybe they've just lacked my good fortune. Which of the two is the case, I'm not quite sure.

Actually, I know quite a few soldiers who joined "for flag and country", and I know many who joined just because they wanted a job but end up staying for their country. My husband called the Army a "labor of love" the other day; he could get out and see what other jobs he could find, but he stays out of a sense of purpose and duty.

And, yes, I bet many of them would think you're a tool.

You probably do indeed lack conviction. Not everyone considers it the Worst Possible Thing In The World to get deployed. Some people, my husband included, think it's the most important thing they've done with their lives, and though they don't necessarily cherish the thought of deploying for another year and missing out on their own wives' puppy-dog eyes, they are more than willing to do whatever it takes to see Iraq succeed.

At the very least, when I read about the next soldier killed in combat, I'll make sure to take five minutes out of my privileged day to wonder: There but for the grace of God go I, drunk and naked, screaming bloody suicide at the thought of going back to Iraq.

And that is precisely why we don't want a draft.

There's nothing wrong with not wanting to go to Iraq. It's a normal, natural feeling. But I'm sick and tired of these crap-ass op-eds looking down their noses at soldiers. A fancy-pants degree doesn't make you better than someone who joined the Army. Can you repair track on a tank? Can you accurately fire a 50-cal? Can you make a delicious sugar cookie out of the remnants of your MRE? Oh, you can write. Judging from MilBlogs, so can most soldiers who don't have the "good fortune" of a "private-school education and the benefits it affords". They're writing and selling books, in addition to being mechanics, marksmen, chemists, nurses, and diplomats.

And I'm not convinced many of them would want to trade places with you.

Posted by: Sarah at 07:54 AM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
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November 22, 2005

BUT

Today the US military is offically handing over FOB Danger to the Iraqis. That's a great step in getting Iraq on her own feet. I was struck by the last paragraph in the article:

It was a bittersweet year for the Big Red One, with more than 100 soldiers killed and 1,000 wounded but great advances in combined operations with new, better-led Iraqi army units and 2,000 reconstruction projects worth about $1 billion.

The emphasis is mine, because what struck me was how the Stars and Stripes gets the "but" right. Most journalists seem to flip the two clauses: some nice stuff is happening, but it's a quagmire and American deaths is the most important thing. Stars and Stripes gets the focus just right, as usual. 1ID had a rough year in Iraq, but they accomplished so much. It's the accomplishments we should be focused on -- what these soldiers and marines did with their lives -- not the death toll.

Good on you, Stars and Stripes.

Posted by: Sarah at 04:14 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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November 10, 2005

JOURNALISTS

The article about Mary Mapes' new book was almost a waste of time. I followed the Rathergate hullabaloo closely last year: those documents are ridiculous fakes and Rather & Mapes were reckless in rushing them to press. The article was all about poor little Mary and how unfairly she was treated. And as the violins began to fade, the last line in the article made me sneer.

Despite her career implosion, Mapes hopes to stay in journalism. "It's what I'm good at," she said. "I like making a difference."

Newsflash: Journalists aren't supposed to make a difference. They're supposed to report the freaking news, just the way it is. They're supposed to find facts and report the Five W's and that's it: give us the facts and let us make the inferences. They don't make a difference, they don't speak truth to power, and they don't create the news.

Or at least they're not supposed to.

Posted by: Sarah at 06:48 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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