Planet Gore

Tree-Wo Jima?

There have been some raucous reactions to Time’s green-crusade cover photo, a doctored image of the famous flag-raising at Iwo Jima with Old Glory replaced by a tree. This vandalized image appeared with the headline: “How to Win the War on Global Warming.” Iwo Jima veteran Donald Mates spoke for many when he told the Business & Media Institute: “It’s an absolute disgrace. Whoever did it is going to hell. That’s a mortal sin. God forbid he runs into a Marine who was an Iwo Jima survivor.”
Eternal damnation may be a bit much, but the most common reaction, which we share, was: “What were they thinking?”
In this age of dung-Madonnas at the art museum and mock-crucifixions of that other Madonna at pop concerts, it is tempting to forget that there are images that decent people hold above mockery and misappropriation: the death gate at Auschwitz, the fall of the World Trade Center, or nine-year-old Phan Thị Kim Phúc fleeing napalm. It is never appropriate to alter those images for crass commercial ends — or for petty political purposes.
Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima isn’t just about the six men depicted; it’s about the 6,821 Americans who died there. These Americans perished fighting for liberty in one of history’s most horrific battles: Of the 21,000 Japanese troops at Iwo Jima, only 216 were taken prisoner — and 20,000 fought to the death. It was one of the bloodiest episodes in the deadliest war in the lamentably gory 20th century. As one Iwo Jima veteran summed up: “It was hell.”
And then there’s global warming.
If it exists, and if we can do anything about it, man-made global warming deserves our attention. But global warming is not World War II.
NRO’s Jonah Goldberg has spent much energy documenting how overreaching crusaders attempt to elevate each and every one of their pet causes to “the moral equivalent of war.” As a rhetorical device, this is sometimes clever and powerful. As often it is disastrous, as when our national “War on Drugs” began to take on the characteristics of an actual war. To conflate the rhetoric and the reality is to mistake the map for the territory. Time managing editor Richard Stengel is apparently serious about his message, saying: “There needs to be an effort along the lines of preparing for world war two [sic] to combat global warming and climate change.”
Yes, protecting the environment is important; no, enacting stricter CAFE standards or embracing a cap-and-trade system for emissions is nothing at all like our fight against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, whatever Photoshop shenanigans Time wishes to indulge.
Time’s green enthusiasm leads them trouble in other ways, too. Consider this sophomoric howler of a sentence from the green issue: “The green jobs that cap and trade could help create would be a big employment sector — including production of wind turbines, pollution scrubbers and more. Obama and Clinton talk about spending $150 billion over 10 years to create millions of those jobs, but it’s the sale of pollution allowances that would raise that money. No cap and trade, no jobs. That seems simple — but not to the campaigns.” Not simple, but simplistic. Time’s writers and editors apparently are entirely incapable of appreciating that the $150 billion they’re so eager to spend isn’t going to materialize out of the allegedly warming air. How many jobs would that $150 billion create if government didn’t appropriate it? And how exactly is paying for a “pollution allowance” different from paying a tax? Time never thinks to ask. Why? Because this is the moral equivalent of Iwo Jima — haven’t you heard?
The elevation of environmentalism to the “moral equivalent of war,” particularly while American troops are fighting a real war, is the cheapest sort of juvenile politics and a sop to the self-importance of Al Gore and his admirers. It’s also an excuse to stifle debate; Mr. Gore famously insists that “the time for debate is over.” One hears in this formulation a longing for the unquestioned authority of martial command, and perhaps an echo of Vladimir Lenin, on whose centenary Earth Day was first observed. Military rigors have their place. The troops at Iwo Jima did not debate with their officers about the logistics of the invasion. But we aren’t at Iwo Jima, and we certainly do not owe Al Gore or the editors of Time the ready obedience of soldiers at war. Time’s editors should be ashamed of themselves for drafting the heroic dead of Iwo Jima into their rhetorical war.
Kevin D. Williamson is deputy managing editor of National Review and the editor of NRO’s Media Blog.


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