Tuesday, October 18, 2005

No Propaganda: Some Real Soldiers' Stories

George W. Bush's disgraceful exploitation of military men and women for the administration's propaganda purposes is now a matter of public record. We now know that last week's "informal conversation" between the president and a group of U.S. troops in Iraq was more scripted than a network-television sitcom.

In addition to being choreographed and fully rehearsed before the president even appeared, it was later discovered that one of the group, Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo, is actually a reporter and public relations flack with the Army's 42nd Infantry Division Public Affairs department. In other words, her job is to put a positive spin on all aspects of the Iraq war.

Disgusting stuff to be sure, but not entirely surprising coming from this White House.

So, in the absence of my government giving me real dialog from actual "boots on the ground," I thought I would find it myself.

Let's start with Zachary Scott-Singley, a Sergeant with the 3rd Infantry Division, who writes the blog A Soldier's Thoughts, from Iraq. Scott-Singley, who is a 24-year-old husband and father of two young children, writes movingly of the conflict he feels in being a father so far from his children, in a post called Ghost of a Father.

"I get so scared sometimes that my kids will think I have left them. That maybe their daddy doesn't care about them or that they will forget me. I know you will tell me that these are hollow fears but to me they aren't. To me they are as real as the fears of heights or flying are to others. It isn't hollow for me, but instead I am filled with self doubt and sadness.

"Over the phone I always talk to them and tell them how much I love them, but of course it isn't the same as playing with them and giving them hugs or holding them after they have been hurt. Those things are real to a child."

Sergeant Zachary Scott-Singley

In A Promise, the young soldier talks about the forgotten, true "war on terror" and some of his feelings about the Iraq quagmire.
"There are battles which need to be fought and there are battles which serve no good purpose. Afghanistan and Bin Laden lay forgotten as if they were discarded toys left by a spoiled child.

"Iraq is the new frontier of poor foreign policy and poor planning. Even the soldiers can see it. Why do you think nobody is re-enlisting? They don't want to keep leaving their families to go fight a losing battle and to die for an empty promise. The promise that somehow staying in Iraq makes America safer.

"We have created a martyr factory here, and we are beginning to wade through the next Vietnam. How wrong do you want to be before you close down shop and send the troops home? 2,000 dead? Is that wrong enough? How about 10,000?"

Daniel Goetz, a "stop lossed" soldier on his second tour of duty in Iraq, writes a blog called All The King's Horses and, in a post near the end of August, writes of the personal remorse he feels for our government's policy.
"I was interested to see The United States' official reaction to the horribly flawed constitution that will be thrust into a referendum; the likely outcome of which will exhaust whatever optimism is left in Iraq. The message is that our government will remain confident in Iraq despite Iraq's lack of confidence in itself (and despite diminishing confidence stateside). This is especially good news for those who truly believe our presence in Iraq is dealing a serious blow to global terrorism. That is, after all, the current nom du jour for our presence.

"I can't help but imagine some hypothetical scenarios. Supposing we were to invade, say, France. Would it be absurd to imagine stateside French-Americans plotting against our government? Might some French people form underground resistance groups with the purpose of destabilizing the occupation? What if the tables were turned. Imagine America were to be invaded by China. How many Americans would fight back? Wouldn't you?

"On July seventh, we were reminded our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has not done much to curtail the threat of global terror when orchestrated suicide bombings struck the heart of London. Fifty-two days ago, fifty-two people died. I want to tell them sorry. I was supposed to "bring the fight to them," but I didn't; I failed and I'm sorry. But it doesn't matter now. It's too late. It's too late for them, just as it's too late for the twenty-five thousand Iraqis who died because I did "bring the fight to them". I am so very sorry."

There are those who would say that, by hand-picking the blogs of two soldiers who obviously oppose the Bush agenda, I am guilty of the same propaganda for which I castigate the White House – and they would be right. But I do not suggest that every military man or woman writing of their Iraq experiences shares my views.

Indeed, I found some web sites written by soldiers and Marines who are clearly pro-Bush and support the Iraq mission as the president defines it. A more fitting "conversation" for Bush to have conducted last week would have included those people along with soldiers like Zachary Scott-Singley and Daniel Goetz in a true, unscripted question-answer session with the Commander-in-Chief.

While such an event would certainly have forced Bush out of the comfort zone he normally enjoys by holding court with adoring fans and sycophants, it would have had one major thing going for it: the truth.