What's Wrong With This War?
by Paul Hein
by Paul Hein
I am not an avid reader of newspapers. In airport terminals I read them to help wile away the interminable periods of waiting between flights. Every morning I look at the paper with breakfast, because it's a habit. I always check the comics, and glance at the front page to see if California has slid into the ocean, or if there's another war someplace. So I surprised myself yesterday when I looked at the front page, and then looked again. It's rare for anything there to warrant a second glance.
What got my attention was a photo of a Marine placing an Iraqi prisoner in a cell. The headline under the picture was the real grabber. It read: "It's Marines' job not to get angry." What a revelation!
Marine recruiter: Well, young man, why do you want to become a Marine?
Young man: Well, sir, I really, really, want not to get angry.
Recruiter: That's the kind of man we need!!
There was a story with the picture, of course. It told how a particular Marine was driving a truck through the Iraqi night, carrying the bodies of four dead friends, as well as that of the company commander. He was following a similar truck carrying Iraqi prisoners: the very same men who had, that same day, killed those men. The next sentence takes us to the heart of the matter. "And he wasn't supposed to get angry."
I don't get it. Not supposed to get angry? Why would anybody care if he got angry or not? I regularly get angry driving behind trucks, even if they're only delivering beer to the local supermarket. Traffic, except the very lightest, makes me at least a little angry every time I encounter it. So what?
There was another headline above the picture. "We're not here to punish them — We're here to provide care, custody and control." So THAT's why our Marines are in Iraq!
Recruiter: Well, young man, why do you want to become a Marine?
Young man: Well, sir, I really, really, want to be a caregiver, and provide custody and control.
Recruiter: That's the kind of man we need! By the way, kid, do you have a camera?
What's going on here? What kind of a war is this? During WWII, for example, or Korea, did we have front-page stories of U.S. soldiers NOT becoming angry at the Nazis, or Japanese? Were we reminded that our military men were caregivers, and custodians, of the prisoners they had taken? What does anger have to do with it? When prisoners are taken in battle, it is hardly surprising that a few moments earlier they were trying to kill their captors, and probably did, in fact, kill a number of them. And vice-versa. Isn't that what people do in war?
Well, maybe that's the difference. In WWII, and Korea, our soldiers were fighting their soldiers. But in Iraq, those who fight against us are, just naturally and inevitably, civilian insurgents, or terrorists, or die-hard Saddam supporters. They aren't soldiers, with uniforms, and commanding officers, and jeeps, etc. Just guns. So we shouldn't get angry at them; they really are simply deluded citizens who don't realize that we are there to help them. (On the other hand, though, we have the constant references to the "War on Terror," of which, presumably, the war (?) in Iraq is a part.)
What would tend to anger our Marines — were anger allowed — is that the pathetic citizens of Iraq tend to regard them as invaders and enemies. How dare they! It is galling to think that some of those Iraqis may actually be angry at US!!! Sure, ten years of embargos and episodic bombings have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of them, and in the most recent military exercise, some of the brothers, fathers, mothers, and children of the now-imprisoned Iraqis were killed by the very soldiers who now imprison them, whether they supported Saddam, or possessed weapons of mass destruction, or not. Try explaining to them that it was for their own good. Try getting them to understand that it was only done to bring democracy to their country, which they surely couldn't do by themselves, had they wanted to. They obviously lack the maturity of our own boys, who don't allow themselves to get angry.
The caption under the photograph of the Iraqi being pushed (but gently, I am sure!) into a cell by a Marine read, in part, "Scores of Iraqis are kept prisoner by the same Marines they have tried to kill. But (the sergeant) says that Marines are good at keeping their emotions in check." Well, what's a Marine for?
Scores of readers are treated to this incredible pap and drivel by the very same news sources that have slanted the news for decades, but they have kept their emotions in check. I'm keeping mine in check, but it isn't easy. I'd like to grab my high-powered telephone and cancel my subscription! Of course, had I done that, I'd not have been treated to those awful pictures suggesting that some of our soldiers have gotten mad, after all!
May 11, 2004
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