Stop Treating Our Soldiers As Victims By Betsy Newmark

Mackubin Thomas Owens had a great column yesterday in honor of Veterans Day. He noted the proclivity of those in the media to treat those in the military as either victims or monsters. He notes that since the Vietnam War the storyline from the left about American military is that serving in an unjust war warped the consciences of the soldiers to the extent that they regularly committed atrocities. The narrative started in Vietnam, but now is being continued for the war in Iraq.

TNR gave the game away by admitting that the point of the series penned by Beauchamp was to illustrate “the morally and emotionally distorting effects of war.” In doing so, TNR was reinforcing the left-wing stereotype that has shaped popular opinion about soldiers since the Vietnam War: that they are dehumanized animals.

According to the conventional wisdom passed down from the anti-war left of the Sixties and Seventies and absorbed by the press — even those too young to remember it — Vietnam brutalized those who fought it. At first vilified by the anti-war left as war criminals and baby-killers, American soldiers soon evolved into victims–victimized first by their country, which made them poor and sent them off to fight an unjust war, then victimized again by a military that dehumanized them and turned them into killers. Beauchamp provided TNR that pre-approved narrative, facts be damned. This was Vietnam redux.

We remember well what critics of the Vietnam War said about the troops. In his infamous 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry said they had acted “in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan,” that they had “raped, cut off ears, cut off heads,” and done worse to civilians in the ravaged south. Kerry’s organization,

And now in Iraq, the media chooses to focus more on stories, substantiated or not, of atrocities rather than heroism.

Would anyone have believed such a story about World War II and the “greatest generation?” Of course not, but many in the media have been willing to believe that U.S. servicemen in Vietnam were capable of any atrocity. This predisposition lives on today. Here’s our old friend, John Kerry, last year on Face the Nation. American troops, said Kerry, were “going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the — of, of, of historical customs, religious customs . . .”

And who can forget the bilious Rep. John Murtha (D., Penn.), a vociferous critic of the war, who claimed that Marines in Haditha had “killed innocent civilians in cold blood,” long before an investigation had been completed. Murtha contended that the incident “shows the tremendous pressure that these guys are under every day when they’re out in combat.” Murtha subsequently went further, claiming that the shootings in Haditha had been covered up. “Who covered it up, why did they cover it up, why did they wait so long? We don’t know how far it goes. It goes right up the chain of command.” As readers may know, the Haditha prosecutions have largely unraveled.

In both Vietnam and Iraq, news stories about soldiers have been largely negative. But heroism and sacrifice were far more prevalent in Vietnam than atrocities, and the same holds true today. The TNR-Beauchamp affair illustrates just how little things have changed since Vietnam. In April of 2005, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, U.S. Army, became the first soldier in the Iraq war to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He was killed in action when his outnumbered unit was attacked by Iraqi forces at the Baghdad airport on April 4, 2003, and is credited with saving hundreds of lives. Yet as Robert Kaplan observed in a piece in the Wall Street Journal that “according to LexisNexis, by June 2005, two months after his posthumous award, [Smith’s] stirring story had drawn only 90 media mentions, compared to 4,677 for the supposed Quran abuse at Guantanamo Bay, and 5,159 for the court-martialed Abu Ghraib guard Lynndie England.

Perhaps the problem is that those in the media don’t personally know anyone fighting over in Iraq so they’re predisposed to believe their chosen narrative about the effect of fighting on Americans psyche.

As Bing West has observed, “there will be no true glory for our soldiers in Iraq until they are recognized not as victims, but as aggressive warriors. Stories of their bravery deserve to be recorded and read by the next generation. Unsung, the noblest deeds will die.” On this Veterans Day, media folk predisposed to believe the worst about the American fighting man when the evidence is so clearly in his favor need to get out and meet a few more.

Our military are not victims brutalized into committing war crimes. The overwhelming majority are brave men and women honorably serving with courage and humanity. I wish that the American media would do more to recognize that.

This content was used with the permission of Betsy’s Page.

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