Saturday, December 25, 2004

Supporting soldiers/glorifying war

If the Left learned one thing from Viet Nam, it was not to hold the soldiers accountable for the idiocy of their commanders. Watching CNN on Christmas Eve, there was an unrelenting succession of heartwarming stories about our soliders in Iraq, told with compassion if not reverence for our "brave men and women" putting their lives on the line for us.

While showing us the lives of the footsoldiers caught up in our war machine is admirable, the media barrage risks going beyond storytelling to glorifying war as a way to solve problems. Commentators seem hell-bent on reiterating the government line that the solders in Iraq are saving us from having to fight terrorism here, though the lack of attacks on our soil in the intervening years since 9/11 may instead be evidence that al Qaeda is not the international juggernaut we once supposed.

How refreshing amidst all this propaganda about war to find the Washington Post article on the Christmas truce of 1814, when Allied and Axis forces at the front line spontaneously put down their arms and celebrated together. As a survivor said, had it been left to the front-line troops, the war might well have ended there.

The article speculates about why there have been few cases since -- the advent of impersonal modern warfare and the death of the idea that the enemy are also "gentlemen." Yet my job shortly after graduating from high school in 1962 was to research a local educator. Doing so meant scouring the microfilms from seven local Jackson, Michigan, newspapers from 1900 to 1930. The Kaiser and the Huns were hardly treated as gentelemen. In fact, there were barely considered human.

Yet there is a worrisome difference, it seems, when the enemy is of another race. Beginning with Korea, then Viet Nam, and now Afghanistan and Iraq, there is a sense that it is easier to abuse, torture, and kill people with a different skin color. The previous century was the bloodiest ever in terms of civilians as well as soldiers killed in political conflicts. It would seem the media would serve us better by honoring our soldiers without crossing the line into pro-war propaganda, particularly as communication and transportation technology remind us how small and diverse a world we really share. Wouldn't that be a suitable Christmas message?

1 comment:

Tata said...

It was 1914, oui?

Thrilling to see this articulated. I haven't seen it anywhere else. Brava!