Media Blog

WaPo’s Arkin Slams U.S. Troops

Conservative bloggers sometimes exaggerate and write that so-and-so “slammed” the troops, and then you follow the link and read the comments in context and find out they’re not that bad — usually it’s a garden-variety criticism of how the war is being managed or, at worst, a ”botched joke”.
But the headline of this post is accurate. Read Washington Post national security reporter William Arkin’s latest blog post for yourself. Some excerpts:

I’ve been mulling over an NBC Nightly News report from Iraq last Friday in which a number of soldiers expressed frustration with opposition to war in the United States. […]
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. 

These 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.
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. […]
So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, 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? […]

Then there’s this incoherent paragraph:

I can imagine some post-9/11 moment, when the American people say enough already with the wars against terrorism and those in the national security establishment feel these same frustrations. In my little parable, those in leadership positions shake their heads that the people don’t get it, that they don’t understand that the threat from terrorism, while difficult to defeat, demands commitment and sacrifice and is very real because it is so shadowy, that the very survival of the United States is at stake. Those Hoover’s and Nixon’s will use these kids in uniform as their soldiers. If I weren’t the United States, I’d say the story end with a military coup where those in the know, and those with fire in their bellies, save the nation from the people.

And the kicker:

But it is the United States and instead this NBC report is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary – oops sorry, volunteer – force that thinks it is doing the dirty work.

I hardly need to add anything here. Commenters on Arkin’s blog have said enough:

I just returned from my mercenary service in Iraq and I’m trying to adjust to life without obscene amounts of amenities. Thank you Mr. Arkin for helping me put this chapter of my life in perspective. For those who haven’t been, as near as I can tell, the amenities consisted of a 10 X 10 room in a trailer under the flight path of F-16s, a one block walk to the shower and bathroom, a painfully slow internet connection, and a BX that stocked clothing in XXS and XL Short. Oh…there was the opportunity to work with the most dedicated and honorable people I’ve ever met.

Posted by: DonL | January 31, 2007 05:20 PM

And:

As a fellow journalist, but one who gave up the craft for year to serve in the infantry in Anbar Province, I am sickened that a fellow ink-stained wretch would vomit this prose onto us.

I might share every cynical point about this administration, this war, the leaders who have guided it and the reasons it is prolonged. Maybe I don’t. But I know numerous soldiers — including a few who died — who held varying views about the military, their civilian leadership, the democracy they serve and the Constitution that buttresses their very existence as professional men at arms.

They have a right to their opinions, just as this columnist does. They do not deserve to be universally tarred with “Haditha” or “Abu Ghraid,” a trick the columnist seems to conjure up on their behalf.

I can think of more than 3,000 examples of sacrifices returned to the American people. I knew some of them personally.

I’m glad I don’t know you.

Posted by: Carl Prine | January 31, 2007 05:18 PM

Who is William Arkin? Hugh Hewitt took a shot at that question a few years ago.

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