Deconstructing Andy Rooney: A Line Item Veto
[Posted simply in emphatic support of Chester's style in his Line Item Veto of a New York Times article today at The Adventures of Chester.]
(...from the archives...April 2004...before this blog was created...)
Andy Rooney has so enraged me with his latest column “Our Soldiers in Iraq Aren’t Heroes” that I simply could not sit still. If you have not yet read his column of 12Apr04, hopefully you will...like you would read Mein Kompf. It would bring me no small measure of satisfaction to see him in Fallujia personally reading his column to the Marines there. But, that is about as likely to happen as a Streisand vote for Bush. For those who do not know me, I only include my prior service and rank in the Marine Corps to provide perspective. I often say 'we' though I am certainly not currently in Iraq or the Marine Corps for that matter. But as a veteran of the Gulf War in 1990-1991, I believe I have earned the right to use the term 'we' when appropriate as well as to go toe-to-toe and take on Andy Rooney on their behalf here at home. My 'deconstruction' of the original column appears throughout as italicized inserts.
I hope a few apparently not-so-brave trigger pullers and support troops will see this Line Item Veto of a rebuttal and find comfort in knowing that while the press may have the bullhorn, they are not the majority. They're just annoyingly loud.
Our soldiers in Iraq (apparently) aren't heroes 12APR04
Nonsense By ANDY ROONEY
Deconstruction By USMC_Vet Sgt/USMC 1985-1993
Most of the reporting from Iraq is about death and destruction. We don't learn much about what our soldiers in Iraq are thinking or doing. There's no Ernie Pyle to tell us, and, if there were, the military would make it difficult or impossible for him to let us know.
Exactly who's choice is it to report nearly exclusively the death and destruction, Mr. Rooney? When you say ‘we’ don’t learn much, do you mean the press or those who watch, read or hear them? More importantly, no one learns much about the soldiers’ thoughts only because the majority of you so-called correspondents won’t pry your asses out of the relative safety of the Palestine Hotel or your New York studios long enough to get out there and ask them. I do agree however that there is indeed no Ernie Pyle. Ernie Pyle was a skilled and eager reporter. Of the relatively few so-called correspondents remaining since the invasion, the majority are merely ambitious editorialists by contrast. And don’t think it’s just the generals who resent them…the typical Marine sergeant and Army specialist loathes their predetermined criticism even more.
It would be interesting to have a reporter ask a group of our soldiers in Iraq to answer five questions and see the results:
1. Do you think your country did the right thing sending you into Iraq?
Just how many will you have to fish through until you get the answer you want? That’s the question, sir.
2. Are you doing what America set out to do to make Iraq a democracy, or have we failed so badly that we should pack up and get out before more of you are killed?
First, jackass, no individual you ask this question can say he or she individually is doing what America set out to do, which is likely why you chose the ‘are you’ wording to begin with rather than ‘is the military’ . Second, by skillfully adding ‘so badly’ to the backend of your question you have loaded it. You subtly suggest that the question is not whether America has failed, but merely the degree to which America has already failed. Combine the two directed alternatives and you steer the reader to the answer you want, right? Quit 60 Minutes and write for John Zogby.
3. Do the orders you get handed down from one headquarters to another, all far removed from the fighting, seem sensible, or do you think our highest command is out of touch with the reality of your situation?
Here we go again loading up with the ‘all far removed from the fighting’ attempt at war-time class warfare. ‘Our highest command?’ That would be President Bush, which is what you’re getting at anyway. But you don’t dare risk slamming him by name directly to the troops. But ask them anyway and in your own words, Mr. Rooney. You won’t like that they who are NOT ‘far removed from the fighting’ do indeed trust ‘our highest command’ and trust him infinitely more so than they trust you or your peers. Please, do ask them…and ask them on live air so you can’t edit the response.
4. If you could have a medal or a trip home, which would you take?
This has got to be the single most ignorant question I have ever heard. Period. Webster’s Unabridged should use this as a supporting reference for the term ‘ignorant’. This is not a medal-fishing expedition and everyone misses their families. But the obvious objective here is again merely for you to manipulate the answers to suit your purpose. This question likely just offended the entire 1st Marine Expeditionary Force…you know, the ones that quelled Fallujia? Or, well, maybe you didn’t.
5. Are you encouraged by all the talk back home about how brave you are and how everyone supports you?
First, Marines and soldiers in the dirt have no need to hear anyone praising them for bravery. Second, it seems to me those same Marines and soldiers in the dirt are NOT hearing how everyone supports them. ‘Everyone’ would imply YOU, Mr. Andy Rooney. Have you not read what you just wrote? You and those who share your views do not dare spit on them again when they return home nor call them baby killers, but the absence of that does NOT equate support. Your veil is thin.
Treating soldiers fighting their war as brave heroes is an old civilian trick designed to keep the soldiers at it. But you can be sure our soldiers in Iraq are not all brave heroes gladly risking their lives for us sitting comfortably back here at home.
Loudly claiming to now support those same troops once spat upon is a new liberal political trick designed to perpetuate the myth that they indeed care more and are simply intellectually more capable of thinking on multiple planes. You are correct on two points, though. We are not a monolith and you are indeed sitting comfortably back here at home. However, we all freely chose to be the ones called upon during our course of duty. Feel free revisit the words ‘freely chose’ and ‘duty’ at your leisure, sir.
Our soldiers in Iraq are people, young men and women, and they behave like people - sometimes good and sometimes bad, sometimes brave, sometimes fearful. It's disingenuous of the rest of us to encourage them to fight this war by idolizing them.
On bravery: One is not either brave or fearful. Bravery itself is defined as performance in the presence of and in spite of one’s fear. Fearlessness is not bravery, it is mindless lunacy. Just as pain is God’s way of letting you know you are still alive, fear is God’s way of telling you to pay attention.
On idolizing: You, sir, represent the disingenuous. The Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen are not idolized. Their performance and sacrifices are deeply appreciated and your inability to understand the difference is quite telling indeed.
We pin medals on their chests to keep them going. We speak of them as if they volunteered to risk their lives to save ours, but there isn't much voluntary about what most of them have done. A relatively small number are professional soldiers. During the last few years, when millions of jobs disappeared, many young people, desperate for some income, enlisted in the Army. About 40 percent of our soldiers in Iraq enlisted in the National Guard or the Army Reserve to pick up some extra money and never thought they'd be called on to fight. They want to come home.
All want to come home, genius, not just the Guard or Reserves. They are not looking for a plot of land just outside plush al-Nasarya. It is a refreshing change nonetheless to hear a voice in the dominant press express concern for the Guard and some measure of respect for their military service. The ‘voluntary’ action you speak of was when each and every one ‘freely chose’ to accept the ‘duty’. Do not attempt to convince us we are somehow manipulated victims. Indeed, no one has a death wish to fulfill in Iraq. But at the same time, you will never see the self-destructive mutiny that your words suggest would bring you great pleasure.
One indication that not all soldiers in Iraq are happy warriors is the report recently released by the Army showing that 23 of them committed suicide there last year. This is a dismaying figure. If 22 young men and one woman killed themselves because they couldn't take it, think how many more are desperately unhappy but unwilling to die.
Do your homework for once. I did, the very day this not-so-recently released report was issued. Based on national figures, this is even lower as a percentage than the national average. What’s more, your divine proclamation that each and every one of these tragic suicides was due to battle stress is unsupported and arrogant. We are a slice of American society with crime, tragedy and, yes, suicide. Maybe you did do your homework and cleverly left that out because it doesn’t fit your message? Again, you are the one who seems so desperately unhappy.
We must support our soldiers in Iraq because it's our fault they're risking their lives there. However, we should not bestow the mantle of heroism on all of them for simply being where we sent them. Most are victims, not heroes.
Here we go again with the victim status. I just knew that word would find its way in here somehow. No, not all are heroes if your definition of a hero is single-handedly charging a machinegun nest with a stick. But we sure as hell aren’t victims unless your definition of a victim is having to read tripe like this every day. Again, your vision of an apparent Victims’ Support Group for the Poor Troops does not equate supporting the troops.
America's intentions are honorable. I believe that, and we must find a way of making the rest of the world believe it. We want to do the right thing. We care about the rest of the world. President Bush's intentions were honorable when he took us into Iraq. They were not well thought out but honorable.
Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up! I’ve just fallen out of my chair.
But here’s the kicker, Mr. Rooney: The rest of the world does not care about America. There are governments who support the actions of surrogates to do their attacking for them without trace. Most recently al-Qaida emerged as the prime mover of surrogates, supported directly or indirectly by nearly every Middle Eastern government to one degree or another. This elusive and amorphous organization must be destroyed and the governments that would enjoy and support their success must be compelled to change. That is the ‘honorable intention’ you speak of. However, an unavoidable fact is that some can only be compelled by force. This means fighting, battles, blood and sacrifice. This reality seems to have caused you to redefine the ‘honorable’ in the intentions. Your lack of vision and apparent belief that we can compel them through diplomatic sweet talk or negotiations is what separates your definition of ‘supporting the troops’ from mine.
Bush's determination to make the evidence fit the action he took, which it does not, has made things look worse. We pay lip service to the virtues of openness and honesty, but for some reason, we too often act as though there was a better way of handling a bad situation than by being absolutely open and honest.
Another solitary focus on nothing more than WMD, as that is the only evidence that has failed to turn up readily. Not so for the mass graves, torture chambers, rape rooms, imprisoned children, UN Oil for Food corruption, terrorist support, etc. There was not one single intelligence agency or writer who did not believe Hussein possessed WMD. Hell, he had already used them. But now far too many direct their criticism angrily as if to imply that they themselves had quietly known all along. Enough. It is more than likely that the sole reason we have not uncovered any Bio-Chem weapons is that we have not yet ventured into the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon and dug up a certain few opium poppy fields. Besides, I thought this war was for oil and the Bush Dynasty. Where’s that evidence? Bought a gallon of gas lately?
Yes it would indeed be interesting to see a group of soldiers or Marines answer your questions. But would you agree to ask them live without the opportunity to edit? And would you also agree to just go and grab an arbitrary fire team without first carefully pre-screening and selecting? Furthermore, would you read to them this very column of rubbish you’ve penned verbatim before you begin? (Now that, Mr. Rooney, would be an act of bravery.) Yes, sir. That would be very interesting.
Mr. Rooney, please stick to entertaining us with your humorous observations of characters on line at the theater or odd items one finds on the clearance rack. Those items are on the clearance rack because there is probably a good reason that no one else wants them. Your words here share space on the same rack and for good reason.
Your disconcerting words here have enraged those you have so desperately tried to champion and so predictably anointed with the coveted Victim Status. We are not so easily manipulated. We can think for ourselves, thank you very much. We thought for ourselves when we freely raised our hands and freely took the Oath of Service and we continue to think freely for ourselves now.