Slime of War

If there can be a good war, then World War II was it. It was an unambiguous battle between good and evil and the good guys won. Another bonus was – oddly – the universal draft that pulled men from all walks of life and ranging in age from late teens to early 40s. The army that resulted after the war, after all the draftees went home, was probably a better reflection of the American cross-section than this nation had seen since the Civil War. In recent years, the military has not presented such a clear reflection of America’s face.

While the military reflection has changed in several aspects, the most important is the drift to the political right. Evidence for that can be seen in the last two presidential elections, in which the Republican Party went to great lengths to ensure mail-in ballots from overseas military personnel were counted – even if they arrived after the deadline. There’s nothing wrong with the military’s rightward drift, per se – soldiers and sailors are as free to enjoy the political liberty they defend as the rest of us. From a professional point of view, however, the military as a whole and its individual members are supposed to shed their politics when they pull the uniform on in the morning.

Evidence that that may not be the case was presented in last Friday’s Washington Post. A story in the middle of the front section was titled: “Lawmakers Describe ‘Being Slimed in the Green Zone.’”

A delegation of two Democrats and one Republican congressional representatives visited Iraq during the August recess. Although the politicians expected their Army tour guides to give them a sanitized “there’s nothing but progress here” version of events on the ground, they couldn’t help noticing that every one they met with, from Iraqi politicians to U.S. civilian officials, to uniformed military personnel were all holding pieces of paper when the politicians arrived for a meeting.

Finally, Rep. James Moran (D-VA) asked a solider to see what was on the paper in his hand. Mr. Moran was shocked to see the paper was about him, with a short biography and a section called “Moran on Iraq policy.” That section then proceeded to list the most critical statements Mr. Moran had made about the Bush administration and Pentagon’s policies on Iraq.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher’s (D-CA) bio sheet got the same treatment as Mr. Moran’s. It neglected to mention that just before the recess, Ms. Tauscher introduced a bill that would require troops to have at least as much time away from combat as they had been in combat before being shipped back to Iraq. She told the Post that was probably omitted because it would make her too popular with the troops if it were known.

Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV) told the Post he hadn’t seen his bio sheet, so a bipartisan comparison was not available. The U.S. Central Command’s press office did not respond to requests for information from the Post reporter.

It’s been sad enough, these last seven years, to watch the Bush administration undermine America’s national interests in favor of the political goals of the Republican Party. One need only look at the ruins that once were the Department of Justice to see that. It’s truly frightening to think that George Bush, Dick Cheney and their henchmen are politicizing the military.

If a politician visits a war zone and a solider is assigned to protect that politician then the soldier should not be thinking anything – good, bad or indifferent – about that politician’s record. Once the soldier’s shift is over, if he or she wants to investigate that politician’s record on her or his own time, he or she is free to do so as a citizen. For the Army to distract soldiers from their duties with political tracts is against regulations, not that the cowards in the upper echelons will ever find out who was responsible for the slimy little pieces of paper.

Perhaps even worse (if that can be imagined) is that while the congressional delegation was in the Green Zone – the secure area in central Baghdad – “an American urgently tried to get their attention, apparently to voice concerns about the war effort, the participants said. Security whisked the man away before he could make his point.”

Sounds like a scene Josef Stalin would have approved. That and the one-sided briefing sheets are a giant leap toward a nation Stalin would have easily recognized.

© Mark Floegel, 2007

Link to Washington Post story:

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