Mary Katharine Ham

Well, everyone's been over and over this, but it doesn't mean I can't throw in my two cents. After all, even William Arkin himself is "all for everyone expressing their opinion, even those who wear the uniform of the United States Army."

Even? How kind, Arkin.

So, Arkin-- a national and homeland security writer-- penned this screed for the WaPo yesterday. At first, when I heard he had "smeared the troops," I cruised over to read the thing in context thinking he might be making a legitimate lefty argument against the views of the troops in this video. After all, my outrage dial requires a lot of torque to twist, so I wasn't sure of what I'd find, or how mad I'd be.

Woo, boy, Arkin did not do himself any favors. More importantly, he didn't do American troops any. Read the whole thing. It's illustrative of an underlying sentiment in a lot of lefties I've known throughout my life. A lot of times, when I'm discussing issues with the lefties in my very, very blue hometown, it takes only a few minutes to get past "I support the troops, but" to "mercenaries" and the "military-industrial complex, maaannnn," and "paid murderers" and "rapists" and Abu Ghraib. Sometimes it doesn't even take a few minutes. Sometimes they're unabashedly anti-military. They don't think fighting is ever justified, they think the young and dumb and poor are duped into serving, and they don't even consider the military a legitimate career choice, much less "honorable."

Yes, I'm generalizing. They're not all like that, but I've met enough otherwise mainstream, nice, lefty folks who feel that way that it's always seemed more than a bit disingenuous for the American Left to get so indignant about the suggestion that it exists within their ranks. You wanna see it? Here's Arkin:

I've been mulling over an NBC Nightly News report from Iraq last Friday in which a number of soldiers expressed frustration with opposition to war in the United States...

I'm all for everyone expressing their opinion, even those who wear the uniform of the United States Army. But I also hope that military commanders took the soldiers aside after the story and explained to them why it wasn't for them to disapprove of the American people.

Here's that report. It features a whopping two American soldiers voicing opinions different from Arkin's, and it was enough to compel him to denigrate the entire military as "mercenary" and write a very angry column in one of the nation's most-read newspapers to counter two soldiers' opinions. A little prickly, huh? Dude, you're the one with a megaphone in a national newspaper, and it so upsets you that these two guys have their say that you go off like this? Someone needs some self-examination. Also, I'd like to see him "explain" to those men on the film exactly what's "for them" and what isn't. Heh.

These soldiers should be grateful that the American public, which by all polls overwhelmingly disapproves of the Iraq war and the President's handling of it, do still offer their support to them, and their respect.

Well, I'm sure they are grateful to, you know, people who give them things like support and respect. They come across as well-raised boys with good home training. Unfortunately, William Arkin is not one of those people, and that's who they were talking to.

Through every Abu Ghraib and Haditha, through every rape and murder, the American public has indulged those in uniform, accepting that the incidents were the product of bad apples or even of some administration or command order.

A) Every Abu Ghraib, Haditha, rape, and murder? Surely you don't suggest that after that number of incidents, it's time for us to just throw up our arms and admit the troops are, in fact, mostly baby-killers? That's kinda what it sounds like. Like, "this fantasy has gone on unchecked for too long, and I'm drawing the line!" B) Troops are part of the American public, too, Arkin. C) Indulged? What does one usually "indulge?" Petulant children? Fantasies? Also, I'd like to see him tell those men on the film that he's finished "indulging" them. Heh.

Sure, it is the junior enlisted men who go to jail. But even at anti-war protests, the focus is firmly on the White House and the policy. We don't see very many "baby killer" epithets being thrown around these days, no one in uniform is being spit upon.

What is it that Bush always calls it? The soft bigotry of low expectations? The Vietnam generation so lowered the bar for "supporting the troops" that not being called baby-killer and not being spat upon is now something for which the troops should be "grateful." No wonder Arkin thought "mercenary" was all right. Is it just me, or does anyone else get the feeling these thoughts have been bubbling underneath Arkin's surface since back when he was marching on the Mall in the 70s?

So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society?

I thought the liberal line was that we don't pay them enough or send nearly enough amenities into the war zone? Michelle has a picture of the obscene amenities to which Arkin refers

Listen, liberals support the troops in the exact same way they care about the poor. They have the government confiscate their "care" straight from their paychecks---preferably, someone else's, actually. Like, the rich!--and hand it over to the appropriate groups, so they can later claim compassion without actually having to do anything.

I think Americans should feel free to learn and opine about the war even if they haven't been to Iraq. The left says the right can't be pro-war unless it's been on the ground, and now pro-war types say anti-war folks can't speak out against it unless they've seen it up close. Everybody's a chickenhawk these days! It's so hot right now. The fact is, while there's much to be learned from being on the ground in Iraq and expertise to be cited by those who have, there aren't that many people who are able to travel to Iraq to experience it. Since it's the No.  political issue of our day, to exclude all those who haven't been there from speaking about it would be ridiculous.

There's a legitimate point to be made here about whether the troops' opinions, by virtue of belonging to the troops, are more important than the rest of society's and, therefore, beyond reproach. Is it fair to ascribe absolute moral authority to someone who supports your view and then say no one can argue with him? The Left doesn't seem to have a problem with it when they're employing Cindy Sheehan and the Jersey Girls to do the exact same thing. Of course, you can easily make that point/ask that question without calling all the troops "mercenaries." That'd be rather simple, really.

Is there a way to support the troops without supporting their mission? I think there is, but lefties aren't allowed to count their confiscated tax dollars as "support." If you're not gonna support the troops' mission, you gotta pony up and send over some cookies or volunteer at a USO or something, but most of the lefties I know are apparently also conscientious objectors to the conveyance of confections to a war zone. The sentence, "I support the troops" doesn't really cut it alone, especially when it's followed up with--oh, I don't know-- this:

...the recent NBC report is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary - oops sorry, volunteer - force that thinks it is doing the dirty work.

Oops! That's cute. Oh, but Arkin "apologized" for the mercenary shot in a blog post today:

I was dead wrong in using the word mercenary to describe the American soldier today.

These men and women are not fighting for money with little regard for the nation. The situation might be much worse than that: Evidently, far too many in uniform believe that they are the one true nation. They hide behind the constitution and the flag and then spew an anti-Democrat, anti-liberal, anti-journalism, anti-dissent, and anti-citizen message that reflects a certain contempt for the American people.

Maybe it's just an anti-jerk-journalist-who-called-us-all-mercenaries message? I wonder why you'd be on the receiving end of that? I don't think they think they're the one true nation, but I do think they feel a bit more of a kinship and are more "grateful" for support from those Americans who don't call them "worse" than mercenaries.

Anyway, back to the column:

I'll accept that the soldiers, in order to soldier on, have to believe that they are manning the parapet, and that's where their frustrations come in. I'll accept as well that they are young and naïve and are frustrated with their own lack of progress and the never changing situation in Iraq. Cut off from society and constantly told that everyone supports them, no wonder the debate back home confuses them.

Cut off from society and constantly told that everyone supports his point of view, no wonder the backlash confuses the liberal, Beltway columnist.

I'll now toss you over to Op-For, where one of our young, naive mercenaries is anything but confused about how he feels about Arkin.

Last, you know what really bugs me about this? Arkin's attitude in his follow-up post that he

Update: Forgot to link Allah's audio of Arkin on Fox Radio on the "indoctrinated" troops--our "servants" who should "tread lightly" when they talk about their opinions. Just like Arkin, who treads oh-so-lightly-- light like a Bradley.

This guy is a military writer for a national paper. Fabulous.

 


Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of HotAir.com, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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