Thursday, April 13, 2006


Military Voices

Wade Zirkle, writing in The Washington Post, sums up his frustration with the media unwillingness to give voice to veterans, unless they are against the war in Iraq.

Zirkle, executive director of Vets for Freedom, uses a recent staged political event to frame what seems the source of his frustration:

Earlier this year there was a town hall meeting on the Iraq war, sponsored by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), with the participation of such antiwar organizations as CodePink and The event also featured Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), a former Marine who had become an outspoken critic of the war. To this Iraq war veteran, it was a good example of something that's become all too common: People from politics, the media and elsewhere purporting to represent "our" views. With all due respect, most often they don't.

Not in our name, you might remark. Another easy observation might be that there are as many views of the war in Iraq as there are soldiers in and veterans out of uniform, and any attempt to characterize what “most of them think” would be a gross over-simplification.

Perhaps, on the particulars. But the fact is, why are so many veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) re-enlisting in record numbers? Because, whatever specific policy or command differences they may have with the current Administration, their civilian and uniformed leaders, they believe in their mission, their purpose, their cause and their duty.

You can find the carpers, the second guessers, the political opportunists, the partisans, the disgruntled or passed-over. Naysayers abound. But why so few, in contrast to those who willing volunteer and continue to volunteer?

But I digress from Zirkle’s narrative. Which is a really entertaining if provoking read, of which must be said, read the whole thing.

Zirkle has a highly informative first person account to relate from the Murtha gathering:

The tenor of the town meeting was mostly what one might expect, but during the question-and-answer period, a veteran injured in Afghanistan stood up to offer his view. "If I didn't have a herniated disc, I would volunteer to go to Iraq in a second with my troops," said Mark Seavey, a former Army sergeant who had recently returned from Afghanistan. "I know you keep saying how you have talked to the troops and the troops are demoralized, and I really resent that characterization. The morale of the troops I talk to is phenomenal, which is why my troops are volunteering to go back despite the hardships. . . ."

"And, Congressman Moran, 200 of your constituents just arrived back from Afghanistan -- we never got a letter, we never got a visit from you, you didn't come to our homecoming. The only thing we got was a letter from the governor of this state thanking us for our service in Iraq, when we were in Afghanistan. That's reprehensible. I don't know who you two are talking to, but the morale of the troops is very high."

What was the response? Murtha said nothing, while Moran attempted to move on, no pun intended, stating: "That wasn't in the form of a question, it was a statement."

Zirkle means no nor conveys any disrespect towards Murtha as a fellow veteran. But he rightly observes what so many of us observe, that his views are not the predominant ones in today’s military:

In view of his distinguished military career, John Murtha has been the subject of much attention from the media and is a sought-after spokesman for opponents of the Iraq war. He has earned the right to speak. But his comments supposedly expressing the negative views of those who have and are now serving in the Middle East run counter to what I and others know and hear from our own colleagues -- from junior officers to the enlisted backbone of our fighting force.

I guess the Post printing Zirkle’s article is a start at giving other military voices an airing, but consider how rare. How amplified are the voices of the Stars, the Generals who so publicly come forward now and decry those “responsible for the mess in Iraq.”

All based on a false premise, if you ask me. What “mess in Iraq? Compared to what, and where, and when?” But nobody is, that’s the problem. Not me specifically, but soldiers on the ground. Who have been to Iraq. Who aren’t selling a book or seeking their 15 minutes of fame or seeking a political appointment or office.

The only voices that get serious media attention are the Zinnis, the Shinsekis, the Batistes. If you create great Bush-, Cheney-, and Rumsfeld-bashing sound bites, you’ll get mass audience and above-the-fold and Page A1 coverage. Think McClellan in the Civil War, or even McArthur in Korea for historical antecedents.

If you have political ambitions, those won’t hurt, either, but beware all those glad-handlers, because they’ve never been too keen on the Military, and today’s back-patters will be butt-kickers tomorrow. Armchaired Generals, you’ve been warned. Wesley Clark gained traction until he started having his own (admittedly wacky) ideas, then, unceremoniously was bounced to the curb. Same with Paul Hackett, only he was tossed off because he actually had some positive things to say, and do.

I want to let Zirkle have the last word, with the conclusion  of his piece in the Post:

Like so many others past and present, I proudly volunteered to serve in the military. I served one tour in Iraq and then volunteered to go back. Veterans continue to make clear that they are determined to succeed in Iraq. They are making this clear the best way they can: by volunteering to go back for third and sometimes fourth deployments. This fact is backed up by official Pentagon recruitment reports released as recently as Monday.

The morale of the trigger-pulling class of today's fighting force is strong. Unfortunately, we have not had a microphone or media audience willing to report our comments. Despite this frustration, our military continues to proudly dedicate itself to the mission at hand: a free, democratic and stable Iraq and a more secure America. All citizens have a right to express their views on this important national challenge, and all should be heard. Veterans ask no more, and they deserve no less.

Other bloggers who have linked with comments: Bull Moose, Blackfive, The Jawa Report, Hugh Hewitt, Instapundit, Academic Elephant, Gateway Pundit, Carol Platt Liebau, Michelle Malkin, Chez Diva, Mudville Gazette Blogotional.

(H/T Memeorandum)

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