This week saw the continuation of the media’s crocodile teary investigation into poor patient conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Now the story has morphed into a public airing of every unpleasant anecdote and act of incompetence anyone can identify anywhere in the nation’s huge veterans health care system. Just six months ago, Time magazine ran a feature called, “How Veterans’ Hospitals Became the Best in Health Care.” Today the website features a report on veterans’ care from Time’s sister company, CNN, called, “Iraq Veterans Tell Horror Stories.”
That’s quite a reversal of investigative opinion since August, but when there’s a negative story to focus on during a war, sometimes you have to turn the satellite truck on a dime.
To the veterans being featured in these stories, I’d just like to say two things: where your treatment has been sub-par, you deserve much, much better; and when you’re rehabilitated and independent, don’t look for your new friends in the media to be there anymore. The satellite truck wasn’t there for you when you patriotically joined up, or graduated boot camp, or were deployed to Iraq, or saw your first combat. You were not a photogenic subject of their interest when your morale was high and you were gung ho and squared away and fighting for victory. It’s only certain soldiers the media seems to focus on. Unfortunately for you, when you were wounded while heroically fighting for our country (thank you), you finally qualified to be the kind of soldier the mainstream media likes — a victim. For their phony concern and willingness to make a spectacle of you, you have my honest sympathy.
It could be worse though. Soon, the same earnestness and dedication and morality and willingness to take risks and make sacrifices that inspired you to join the military and defend your country will help you heal and get back your life. At that point, you can finally be free of the victim pimps that see you as so much ammo in their war against the war, against the military, and against the patriotic earnestness of admirable young men like you.
For your comrades that have died for our country, there is no such escape from being grist in the propaganda mill. The media just love the idea of dead soldiers and they will keep their grim count of the dead adding ever higher for as long it takes to make people believe that their lives were wasted.
In fact, the media loves so much to count dead soldiers as a tally of the futility of war, that it inflates war deaths lest there be too few to report each evening. As of the end of January, the media proclaimed that there were 3,063 lives lost to the Iraq war. Read the fine print and you’ll find that 2,464 were killed in combat. The other 599 died from non-hostile causes — the sort of things that kill people everywhere everyday. If you are in the Iraq theater and you die in your sleep from a heart attack or get killed in a traffic accident or a plane crash due to mechanical issues, the media will just lump you into the combat total and report it as yet more bad news — more deaths to use for propaganda. In a war, the eternal rule of propaganda is that you should accentuate your enemy’s losses and minimize obsessing on your own to achieve a psychological advantage. Yet whose deaths do the media amplify? Their enemies? If the war would have gone better, they probably would have added in training accidents in Kansas and California. I wonder what the running count of al Qaeda dead is? I’ve never heard.
It’s not as if the media only cares about dead and wounded soldiers though. They also like cowards. Abandon your unit and run for Canada, or join up and then refuse to serve and the media can find time for your story. You’re a victim — and a willing one. Your cowardice could mark a turning point, or a breaking point, or maybe even a tipping point in public opinion! Woo hoo! It’s 1970 all over again.
Or just go nuts. Lose your grip on reality and begin swatting at flies that aren’t there (statistically it will happen to some soldiers, even without a war) and you are primetime material. You’re just one more victim. “The war” took Johnny’s mind.
For those troops that would like to finally have adoring media support without having to get shot, betray your buddie s or go bonkers, there are other options. Try getting into foreclosure while deployed in Iraq. That might be worth a depressing human-interest story. Another option to get attention is war crime. Save a dozen civilians and you are background noise to the media. Rape one and you’re a special report. If you want sympathy, you can say the war made you a rapist.
Or be a bum. Homeless veterans are a media staple. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a bum in green standing at an intersection on the evening news. And remember, it’s not actually necessary to have served in a war or even to have served in the military to be a homeless veteran. A fatigue jacket and a cardboard sign is all it takes. If you claim military service ruined your life, nobody is going to check your sob story after all.
And really, how else is the sort of traditional middle class patriot from middle America that joins the military going to get elite media approval? Foreclosure and friendly fire are your only chances to matter to them.
You’re not going to get their attention by winning medals. I can’t tell you the last time I saw a story about a hero or a victory. (Actually, I’ve never seen any story like that regarding Iraq) You’re not going to get camera time by believing in the mission. The media doesn’t believe, so you are simply a non-story until you get that cardboard sign or catch “Iraq War Syndrome.”
I am a tiny, insignificant voice in the scheme of things. I haven’t a hundredth of the power that even lightweight msnbc has. But for what it’s worth, I would like to say to our military personnel: you are great. Even while you are alive and healthy, you are simply great. You are admirable. You are the best among us. When you decided to join, you did more good than a thousand self-righteous reporters could ever do.
If you are wounded, you deserve praise for having taken the risk of fighting for your country — not pseudo-sympathy because images of you in a hospital bed might sway the next election. If you are killed, you deserve respect and memory. You took on the ultimate risk willingly when we have selfish parasites among us that actually hope for a draft just so they can dodge it. Your family deserves honor and respect and eternal gratitude. They do not deserve to be represented by the 0.1% that go whacko after your loss and begin looking for a camera. And if you make it through the war just fine, you deserve praise for that too. You took the same risks as the less lucky. Choosing to take that chance is the real bravery of war.
America was founded by people like you. America was made great by people like you. And God willing, America will be preserved by people like you. There are plenty of us that think you deserve all sorts of attention just for who you are. Despite the media’s best efforts, you will never be victims to us. You are patriots.
Thank you for everything you do that nobody bothers to report on.
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