It was war, no doubt. But it appeared strange. The Red Badge Of Courage
Thirty-eight American GIs have died as a result of enemy action in Iraq these first ten days of November. That's a Vietnam-sized body count. On Friday we called in the Marines and resumed aerial bombardment as well, launching tactical sorties against the town of Takrit.
Now, despite that this is a war in which I'm rightly qualified to fly nothing more dangerous than my stateside easy chair, this Air Force veteran's tenure followed his squadron's clandestine orders into the less-than-friendly skies of China, and the Soviet Union, before returning me to a cushy stateside stint test flying reconnaissance aircraft destined for Vietnam. Despite that none of this was terribly kind to this yellow-bellied scribbler's nerves, I still found it less frightening than running away from duty back in the Sixties. So what? It's the deal I and countless other young Americans made and fulfilled to our country and the memory of our forbears. Though I was never scratched or even cold and dirty, to my albeit unique way of thinking, it leaves me and every other veteran in this country -especially those who were scratched and cold and dirty - one helluva lot more qualified than is our current Commander In Chief of AWOL1 to decide what is and what is not "major combat." And I say that actions and reactions of November 2003 in the Middle East theater of operations are clear and sustained examples of combat, and combat that kills people is major combat to them and their loved ones even if not to their "leaders." Like me most of those leaders have never been scratched or cold, but a whole lot of them are sure as hell dirty.
Despite the body count, however, for the moment our terrorist-obsessed CIC says nothing relevant. No aircraft carriers, no banners, no ill-fitting poopers, nothing much has come from Jet Jockey George this bloody week. And most residents of the brothel we still call the American fourth estate have decided to focus their short-span attention once again on the more lucrative news stories of this war. Among them, of course the story - real or imagined - of former Army Private Jessica Lynch. In this way they can continue to reduce the American-inflicted humanitarian disaster unfolding in the Middle East into an entertainment for bored Americans here at home. Thus they sell more stuff.
Now, this new focus on Private Lynch is of course merely the red herring of the moment, the week's serving of bread and circuses intended to take our simple minds off the killing and maiming behind the curtain of media censorship. But its timing is in anticipation of the TV movie and forthcoming books ostensibly detailing the anything-but-private Lynch's combat experiences in Iraq. The timing of the movie and book in turn, will inflict both of these works of art on an eagerly awaiting public precisely on Veterans Day, Tuesday November 11th.
Oh, happy war!
Veterans day is a tribute Americans used to call Armistice Day. The act creating it in 1938 declared that each November 11th be set aside in order that the "United States observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples... a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace."
After WW-II Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day. Perhaps next year we can rename it yet again. This time perhaps Exploitation Day would be apropos. For in 21st century America, nothing is sacred before the altar of commerce. Nothing. We're witnessing exactly the kind of orchestration the parasites who make their living by inventing, augmenting, or trivializing the deeds and misfortunes of others, dream about. They fondly call it "marketing genius." And while not exactly nuclear fission, such products of American "genius" have no less an ability to mutate the sensory comprehension of the simple life forms upon which they are dropped: their "target" audience - their readers - a legion of whom are sure to be gathered and waiting, dollars poised, at ground zero of the mind come November 11, 2003.
Unkind grousing? Hell no.
Exploitation of the uninformed? Damn right.
To consider what's unfolding this Veteran's Day, this day of friendly relations with all other peoples and world peace, we must travel back to other conflicts, wars of the very recent, the not-so-recent, and the by-no-means-recent past.
Concurrent with the very recent conflict we named Operation Desert Storm, a publicist from the New York PR firm of Hill and Knowleton made up an absolute lie about Iraqi soldiers removing Kuwaiti babies from their hospital incubators and throwing them on the floor to die. The "story" - which is precisely what it was - made it to the screens of CNN whose star was rising as fast then as it is falling now. We at home watched awestricken as a distraught young Kuwaiti woman testified on our television tubes bearing witness to the Iraqi atrocities she had seen unfolding before her tear drenched eyes. Though it was reported as fact, the bomber-jacketed talking heads on TV never so much as bothered to check that this was a story obviously swiped by the H&K publicist directly from an incident attributed to the Nazi invaders of Warsaw in the early days of World War II, back in the not-so-recent past. Though the very recent version was a bald-faced lie, based on nothing factual, it nonetheless got worldwide coverage and greased the skids that led us into that Gulf War. It would later be revealed that the tearful young woman who "witnessed" it all was none other than the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, and a member of the Kuwaiti royal family. It was further revealed that she had seen absolutely nothing. In fact she was nowhere near the scene… for there was no scene. Her story was coached into her by a publicist from, you guessed it, Hill and Knowleton, of New York City.
The lie got worldwide coverage - its retraction barely a line. That New York publicist's name is Lauri Fitz-Pegato. She's now a Madison Avenue legend. Rather than descending into unemployed obscurity when the story was finally debunked by Amnesty International, she has instead been retained by Harper-Collins (Rupert Murdoch's publishing house) to publicize a new Jessica Lynch book entitled, "Because Each Life Is Precious." This sort of proclivity for horrific fabrication apparently matters little to the mental giants who buy such books.2
So it must matter not at all to them that the author, Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief's baloney-ridden Jessica Lynch yarn has been contradicted by Private Lynch's own account of the "rescue." But let's face it, the legions of book-buying (if not reading) credulous will believe whatever they're told to believe.3 After all, it is a free country.
As if that's not enough, Lynch's own book, "I'm a Soldier Too," scheduled to be released precisely on Veteran's Day, details an even less plausibly-deniable atrocity. The book claims she was raped by her Iraqi "captors" despite that the young "author" herself has no recollection of any such violation and claims to have not been imprisoned and tortured at all, but hospitalized and medically treated by Iraqi doctors. This, too, seems of little interest or concern to her publishers. Neither should we be surprised that the rape story is also traceable to wars past, this time the not-at-all-recent past. In a well-known speech made by Pope Urban II to stir 10th Century Christians to the Crusades (That would be the 2nd Crusades of millennia bygone. Not to be confused with the 6th Crusades, which is the one in which we are now engaged), the good cleric spoke of "the shocking rape of (Christian) women" by Persian (now Iraqi) Muslim raiders.4 Like Pvt Lynch, the victims in question were doubtless pretty blonde Christian women. Creative, don't you think? I'll never again accuse Madison Avenue of not having a sense of history.
Witness that these two sure-to-be-enduring works of literary art (..Soldier and Precious..) have attracted six-figure advances that to most writers (and soldiers) that kind of money is simply incomprehensible.
The commercial travesty being made of Pvt. Lynch and of Veterans Day is all the more repugnant for its effect on the soldiers actually fighting and being blown to bits daily in Iraq and Afghanistan even now. Further, Private Lynch's demonstrated strength of character shows her to be a soldier worthy of much more than the circus or the machinations of its ringmasters with which she finds herself (and us) surrounded.
Not only did this obviously gentle young woman have the courage to go to war when called, but she showed and continues to show a brand of courage that might be considered even more praiseworthy at her tender age. She showed the world her moral courage. Young Private Lynch had the guts to admit that her injuries were not inflicted by enemy weapons, as was originally reported by an overeager press and lying Pentagon, but were in fact the result of a vehicle collision between two American Humvees. This week she admitted that she never even fired her weapon, but prayed on her knees while being surrounded by Iraqis. Her insistence on accuracy is a gesture of respect for her fallen American comrades. That's news. But we need listen very hard to hear it above the keening of Lynch's parasites. Neither are we likely to read or hear a monosyllabic reference to it in the books or movies or "news" casts sure to inundate us this week upcoming. But that is the real Jessica Lynch story, and it's heroic because it comes from Jessica Lynch herself.
That the "rape" inflicted upon her by her publisher, if not her "captors" does not correlate with memory and is uncorroborated by the Iraqi doctors who treated her wounds at the time of the ordeal is a story unreported. Why? Because it's boring to those who need titillation to stay awake at least through the next commercial.. That soldiers of a disarmed nation are capable of taking time from a reportedly frantic pitched battle against the most powerful army on earth to rape one of its troopers is what's really worthy of a book and movie. Talk about your grace under fire! Do these guys have ice water in their veins, or what?!
Well, we know where Madison Avenue's sense of history is, but where, one wonders, is the rest of America's? Do you think for a moment that the flacks who invent these stories to make money while young people die, expect that their audience is aware that it was the Iraqis who invented the concept of the military hospital? Do you think the likes of Lauri Fitz-Pegato expect their readers to know that it was during the Crusades (That would be the 4th Crusades of 1200 C.E. Again, we're now in the 6th. We'll keep at it until we get it right!) that Richard Lionheart decapitated his Muslim prisoners only to come upon a field hospital where the Persian (now Iraq) leader Saladin's Christian captives were being treated for their wounds? Think they knew that part up at Hill and Knowleton? If they do, they ain't talkin'.
The tragedy here upon tragedy here is that as a nation and as a people we've descended into a pattern of willful ignorance, bigotry, and denial that is being exploited by our government and by our media for tawdry personal gain. The credulity of our countrymen is borderline psychotic.
So let's get real.
Lynch was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. The Bronze Star is recognition for heroism or meritorious achievement in ground combat. The Purple Heart is awarded to those wounded in action.
This begs many a troubling question. But primary among them is this one. If Private Lynch's non-fatal injuries, acquired in a vehicle accident, are worthy of (and acknowledged by) a Purple Heart, and I certainly do not dispute that, then why are the numerous FATAL injuries that have been sustained by our other troops, the less pretty, less blonde, less marketable troops who died in vehicle accidents in Iraq being virtually ignored altogether? Are they not "soldiers too"? are not their lives "precious"? Also being ignored are the wounded and maimed (over 2000), the fatalities from friendly fire, collateral damage, those from accidental explosions, the others from accidental air crashes, and so on all the way up to 114 unreported deaths to date since Bush decided it was over. Who sends the letter to the parents of these nameless dead and maimed? What do the letters say? The majority of casualties among American soldiers - the majority! - are being deliberately ignored by the press, the military, and the Bush Administration in reporting the war's statistics since Bush's poop-suited "end of major combat" speech in May. Since that day, 255 young Americans have been killed in country.3
Before May 1st some 114 Americans had died in Bush's Iraq war. That's 369 deaths, not the 141 we're being spoon fed by the obedient and credulous mainstream press. To make the casualty figures seem less dire, less "major," we're being told to ignore deaths from injuries not directly inflicted by Iraqis and we're never reminded of those that occurred prior to May 1st. Since all the deaths resulting from the despicable World Trade Center attacks occurred prior to May 1st, and since we now know that none of the fatal injuries were inflicted by Iraqis either, should we learn to ignore those as well?
If these 114 known fatalities are not combat related deaths, then why did these kids die in Iraq? If these 114 known but unreported fatalities since May 1st were not combat related deaths then why is a Purple Heart awarded to Jessica Lynch for injuries of identical proximate cause in a non-fatal, albeit highly publicized, injury incident? Like so very much about this war, neither the numbers, nor the morality reconcile.
Today, the death toll was reported as 114 killed since the end of major combat operations in Iraq. That's how it's reported over and over again. But the actual death toll among American military forces in Iraq is much higher.5 Between May 1st and today another 255 have died (most estimates are higher). None died of natural causes. None were derelict in their duty. None were vacationing tourists. They died in a war. They died from a war. They should be respected as such. Must one write a book in order to claim "I'm soldier too"? Is not "every life precious?"
I would submit that every life is. Every one of them counts to somebody, even if not to our "leaders."
Of all the lies, damned lies, and statistics, promulgated by the political criminals and media ghouls who now presume to run America, this one is surely the most vile.
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