Transterrestrial Musings

Defend Free Speech!

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay

Site designed by

Powered by
Movable Type 4.0
Biting Commentary about Infinity, and Beyond!

« More Stem Cell Advances | Main | Losing His Marbles »

The Final Mission

Michael Totten writes about the last stages of the war in Fallujah, and Anbar:

According to planet-wide conventional wisdom, United States soldiers and Marines are on an abusive rampage in Iraq. Relentless media coverage of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib - which really did occur, but which the United States didn't sanction or tolerate - seriously distorted what actually goes on in Iraq most of the time. The United States military is far from perfect and is hardly guilt-free, but it's the most law-abiding and humane institution in Iraq at this time.

"Human rights are legal tools in the hands of citizens against abuse of power by an oppressive state," Lieutenant Montgomery said. "If human rights are not respected, sooner or later it will lead to violence and instability...Human rights are rights that derive from the inherent dignity and worth of the person, and they are universal, inalienable, and equal. They are the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace. They belong to people simply because they are human." Again, he read from it the white board. All Iraqi Police officers in Al Anbar are exposed to this material.

...I've said before that American soldiers and Marines aren't the bloodthirsty killers of the popular (in certain quarters) imagination, and that they are far less racist against Arabs than average Americans. They are also, famously, less racist against each other, and they have been since they were forcibly integrated after World War II. This is due to sustained everyday contact with each other and with Iraqis. The stereotype of the racist and unhinged American soldier and Marine is itself a bigoted caricature based almost entirely on sensationalist journalism and recklessly irresponsible war movies.

Liberal journalist George Packer has spent a lot of time in Iraq and is a reliable critic of the Bush Administration and the war. He, like me, has his opinions and doesn't conceal them. But he reports what he sees honestly and comprehensively. You can trust him whether you agree with his views or not.

In a current World Affairs article he pans some of Hollywood's recent anti-war box office flops. "[T]he films...present the war as incomprehensible mayhem," he wrote, "and they depict American soldiers as psychopaths who may as well be wearing SS uniforms. The G.I.s rape, burn, and mutilate corpses, torture detainees, accelerate a vehicle to run over a boy playing soccer, wantonly kill civilians and journalists in firefights, humiliate one another, and coolly record their own atrocities for entertainment. Have these things happened in Iraq? Many have. But in the cinematic version of the war, these are the only things that happen in Iraq. At a screening of The Situation, I was asked to discuss the film with its director, Philip Haas. Why had he portrayed the soldiers in cartoon fashion, I wondered. Why had he missed their humor, their fear, their tenderness for one another and even, every now and then, for Iraqis? Because, Haas said, he wanted to concentrate on humanizing his Iraqi characters instead."

It's not hard to humanize Iraqis and Americans. A competent writer or director can do both at the same time. In fact, it requires deliberate effort or willful ignorance for a writer or director to humanize Iraqis while at the same time dehumanizing Americans. Packer humanizes both because he's a good writer, he's honest, and he actually works in Iraq. He leaves his fortified hotel compound and makes an effort to get it right, unlike so many writers, directors, and journalists in the stereotype-manufacturing industries.

As is often the case, conventional wisdom isn't necessarily wise, or correct. The press, both foreign and American, has not acquitted itself well in Iraq. That is the real failure over there, contrary to what Nancy and Harry continue to ignorantly (and cynically) bleat about.

Read the whole thing, and support real reporters like Michael Totten with his tip jar.


0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: The Final Mission.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Leave a comment

Note: The comment system is functional, but timing out when returning a response page. If you have submitted a comment, DON'T RESUBMIT IT IF/WHEN IT HANGS UP AND GIVES YOU A "500" PAGE. Simply click your browser "Back" button to the post page, and then refresh to see your comment.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on February 12, 2008 7:28 AM.

More Stem Cell Advances was the previous entry in this blog.

Losing His Marbles is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.1