"It's My Job To Fight"

I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ The War. His documentary reveals why the current penchant for describing past events from the perspective of ordinary people is an excellent way to distort history in order to grind a political ax. Burns seems to want to elicit from the viewer feelings of horror and, most of all, pity for the soldiers who fought the war and the families who worried about them. But Burns provides almost no context for all the sacrifice, like what the world would have been like had the Nazis and the Japanese prevailed.

An egregious example of Burns’ “oral history” technique is the testimony of Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii who fought in Europe. Inouye describes the “pleasure” (his word) he felt when he killed his first enemy soldier, but he leaves no doubt that today he feels just horrible about the sense of accomplishment he felt back then. This is a classic example of updating your past by “correcting” the politically incorrect feelings you had when you were young. Undoubtedly, the senator considers the current Daniel Inouye morally superior to whoever that soldier was back in the 1940’s.

Of course, Inouye is hardly an “ordinary person.” He is in fact a Democratic politician who would hardly utter anything that might offend the anti-war voters he represents today.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Robert Kaplan examines the post-60’s mentality of today’s media:

I’m weary of seeing news stories about wounded soldiers and assertions of “support” for the troops mixed with suggestions of the futility of our military efforts in Iraq. Why aren’t there more accounts of what the troops actually do? How about narrations of individual battles and skirmishes, of their ever-evolving interactions with Iraqi troops and locals in Baghdad and Anbar province, and of increasingly resourceful “patterning” of terrorist networks that goes on daily in tactical operations centers?

The sad and often unspoken truth of the matter is this: Americans have been conditioned less to understand Iraq’s complex military reality than to feel sorry for those who are part of it.

The media struggles in good faith to respect our troops, but too often it merely pities them. I am generalizing, of course. Indeed, there are regular, stellar exceptions, quite often in the most prominent liberal publications, from our best military correspondents. But exceptions don’t quite cut it amidst the barrage of “news,” which too often descends into therapy for those who are not fighting, rather than matter-of-fact stories related by those who are.

As one battalion commander complained to me, in words repeated by other soldiers and marines: “Has anyone noticed that we now have a volunteer Army? I’m a warrior. It’s my job to fight.” Every journalist has a different network of military contacts. Mine come at me with the following theme: We want to be admired for our technical proficiency–for what we do, not for what we suffer. We are not victims. We are privileged.

The cult of victimhood in American history first flourished in the aftermath of the 1960s youth rebellion, in which, as University of Chicago Prof. Peter Novick writes, women, blacks, Jews, Native Americans and others fortified their identities with public references to past oppressions. The process was tied to Vietnam, a war in which the photographs of civilian victims “displaced traditional images of heroism.” It appears that our troops have been made into the latest victims.

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