In response to Richard Engel's report on NBC Nightly News wherein a few troops were asked for their opinion of American support and they weren't positive, Washington Post writer William M. Arkin espoused, "I'm all for everyone expressing their opinion, even those who wear the uniform of the United States Army. But I also hope that military commanders took the soldiers aside after the story and explained to them why it wasn't for them to disapprove of the American people."
"Even" them, huh? Tiptoeing on the edge of the only direct statement he makes throughout the entire article, Arkin says the American people can disapprove of what servicemembers say, but it isn't for servicemembers to disapprove of what Americans say. Turn around Arkin, so I can get a good look at your other face.
Taking issue with the soldiers' frustrations, Arkin says the soldiers "should be grateful that the American public, which by all polls overwhelmingly disapproves of the Iraq war and the President's handling of it, do still offer their support to them, and their respect."
I've been opposed to this war from the beginning (the President's "handling" of it aside; I would more call it "dropping, picking up, slobbering profusely, dropping"). I support the troops and don't support the war with the full realization that my way of thinking doesn't mean they should or should not be grateful for it. Where in the Sam Hill does Arkin get off suggesting such an obligation even exists? Let's look at Arkin's support of the troops.
Look closely. Here it is:
You don't see anything because the extent of Arkin's contributions to the support of the troops can be summed up (as I were – "summed" implies there is one thing to be added to another thing, and there is no one thing to be added to anything else), rather his efforts can be described with one word: nothing.
His contribution to the anti-war effort (not to be confused with the war effort – because you know, there really isn't one; there's a war and there is hope that troops will return safely, but outside of that, American effort is confined to sitting around having opinions per Bushy's instructions that we all go on about our lives), is that "Through every Abu Ghraib and Haditha, through every rape and murder, the American public has indulged those in uniform, accepting that the incidents were the product of bad apples or even of some administration or command order."
Hear that, guys? You've been "indulged." We're shopping while you're being shot at and shot. If the troops are "indulged," what does that make Americans? Spoiled rotten brats with a sense of entitlement that borders on mental illness, I'm thinking. Do your math, Arkin. It'll do wonders for your perspective:
How many hundreds of thousands of troops have been in and out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and quite a few other places recently that most Americans don't even know about? How many thousands of them have served in combat once, twice, three times without event? How many dozens of them have done something that landed them in a court martial? How do those percentages stack up against the number of criminals and crimes of any given city in the United States (where, coincidentally, none of the same conditions exist as in Iraq)?
Arkin continues unabated because no one was there to unplug his computer. "Sure, it is the junior enlisted men who go to jail. But even at anti-war protests, the focus is firmly on the White House and the policy. We don't see very many 'baby killer' epithets being thrown around these days, no one in uniform is being spit upon."
This logic reminds me of those who insist any man-made disaster resulting in less than many millions dead isn't that big of a deal because Hitler set the bar, and anyone who stays under it is still okay. The Vietnam war protesters, having used assault to emphasize their points, set the bar for what is unacceptable behavior toward United States military troops, the illegality of assault apparently notwithstanding. Anything less, Arkin seems to say, falls within the realm of acceptable. He's suggesting that because the troops aren't assaulted, they are therefore supported.
This line of thinking would explain Arkin's next absurdity. "So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage," he says, "take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society?"
Arkin could not have made it more obvious that he has no idea what he's talking about. What kind of military veteran conveniently forgets what military life is really like? The kind that served for a whopping four years and never served in combat. Let us consider Arkin's assertions in detail:
• Servicemembers had their say. They did not say or imply that any American should "…give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up…" nor did they say or imply they are "above society." While we're on the subject, what responsibilities are you talking about, Arkin? Show me a responsible American and I'll show someone who has never blamed someone else for their own (insert your personal complaint here).
Responsibility involves action. In that regard, Cindy Sheehan has you dead to rights, Arkin. No matter how misguided, she leaves the house once in a while. Keyboarding is not and will never be considered an aerobic activity. How many breaths would it take for you to even utter the word "responsibility"?
• If you took the number of hours any given military servicemember puts in while deployed and/or in combat and paid them the current minimum wage – even without time and a half for overtime, that amount would exceed the amount they currently receive. Subtract the number of hours they sleep and minimum wage still pays better. If this is a "decent wage," I wonder why more Americans aren't lining up to be on call in a war zone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for six to fourteen months straight.
Before you go there, Arkin, yes it is true: military servicemembers signed up for that life. Also true: you didn’t. No balls, no opinion. Wait, it’s America. No balls means you have the right to go on and on without being in the least bit productive or inconvenienced while others who do have balls defend your right to slam them from your recliner.
• The American people do not take care of any family within the military system. If this were true, for whatever reason(s) you could possibly be asserting, the same could be said of the government with respect to every non-military American family.
• The taxpayer provides the funds for base housing (not always available and rarely available to junior enlisted because of housing shortages and long waiting lists), medical care (not always available and often at or over a half-day's drive away, especially with respect to the wounded servicemember) and amenities (as if the war zone were a Marriott; good one, Arkin).
The “vast” social support system varies greatly with location and is a product of the military community, not you. Try again. Since every military servicemember is also a taxpayer, watch as the “we provide them” argument flies out the window and lands with a thud.
• "Every possible way" of supporting the troops would include supporting what they're doing. I’m not saying you should necessarily support what they’re doing; I’m saying you are a hypocritical ass to suggest you are supporting them in “every possible way” when, by your own admission, you are not.
Speaking of majorities, the speculative comment made at the outset of the Arkin diatribe, that "the soldiers were expressing a majority opinion common amongst the ranks" is flat out wrong. More troops are opposed to the war and the way its been handled than support it and approve of its handling. Jesus, Arkin. Don't you read anything besides your own writing?
• "Roll over and play dead" isn't what the troops want Americans to do. This is precisely what American troops would like Americans to stop doing. C'mon Arkin. When you saw the broadcast, did you have the sound down that far or is your hearing that bad?
Arkin's anticlimactic and predictably solution-free conclusion is that those in the Engle report are "…young and naïve and are frustrated with their own lack of progress and the never changing situation in Iraq. Cut off from society and constantly told that everyone supports them, no wonder the debate back home confuses them."
They are someone’s children, Arkin, but they are not children. It's safe to say they are not your children. They are no more confused than you are prepared to hop a plane to Iraq. They're not told everyone supports them and it would be impossible for you to prove they were, especially in light of the very report with which you take issue.
Arkin suggests that Americans ponder what it is we owe those in uniform. He doesn't say what we owe them and might even be suggesting that we owe them nothing. Admitting "we'd be having a different discussion" were there a draft, he doesn't say how or why it would be different.
Arkin can forever claim he was misinterpreted (the new cop-out for the busy professional) because he didn't say what is owed, just that we should question it. He didn't say how the discussion would be different, only that it would be. Remember, too that he read into the servicemembers' expressed frustrations — saying the troops said they felt "above society" and suggested we should all disband with our rights — but takes issue with the troops reading into what Americans have to say.
Scoot over, bald eagle. Let's hear it for the new national animal: the big, fat, passive-aggressive American male.