I was dropping off my dry cleaning last week and I noticed a guy dropping off some uniforms. He was a black male about 40 years old.
I heard his conversation with the owner of the shop, and he said he had just gotten back from Iraq.
I told him I was glad he was home safe, and I hoped he didn’t have to go back, and that this was all over soon.
He looked at me and said, “The media isn’t telling you the truth about what is going on over there. We can’t leave. The average Iraqi is counting on us setting up a real government. Regardless, the media wants us to leave and is making its own case for that.”
Then he said, “All the guys getting killed over there is because they aren’t trained. They aren’t prepared to go out there and get home safe”.
I am against the war. I want it to end. But this guy shook me. Also, I am loathe to take the media as my source for things on the ground in Iraq. However my only alternative is the US military perspective.
Knowing that Rush Limbaugh is broad casted everyday in Arm Forces Radio, I’m not surprised. In any case, another black male soldier, son of a co-worker that I know, told me that in his opinion we are training the military that will shot at each other when we are gone.
He was one of the Iraqi trainers and one of his friends died in front of him in a rocket attack to his barracks.
The media, I’d like to argue, is not one cohesive hive-mind (though it sure seems like it at times). Different (and often opposing) perspectives exist if you look for them. How diverse are your current media sources? I mean, you can get news from all over the place… American TV, newspapers, newsmagazines, online, foreign sources (from both US allies and “enemy” countries), US footsoldiers, maybe even policymakers if you know the right people.
Even if nobody is actively gaming us, maybe we simply don’t know enough? What if the problem isn’t so much malevolence but simply ignorance? These different perspectives don’t have to be mutually exclusive; perhaps they’re just parts of the “bigger picture”. The media reports what it’s seen; that guy, too, is just one more perspective out in the field. Add up enough clues and maybe the truth will start to appear?
Speaking of the military perspective… wonder if there’s any way to see what they see without actually signing up to fight?
If you want information from soldiers “in the trenches,” it can be found. They are one of the most connected armies, ever. There is a transparency that is unheard of in the history of the world. What the American press says and does is completely independent of reality, they are playing to their audience.
You must also remember, that members of the armed forces are just like any one else. They all have different opinions. What someone experiences in Fallujah of Iraq in 2004 is different from what a British soldier experiences in Basra in 2004, or even what a soldier experienced in Fallujah in 2005, or 2006.
It would be like me telling you what I did today, and you extrapolating what America is like. Just doesn’t work.
I always found it interesting when I would talk to a buddy of mine about some action in a certain area. What he would tell me what happened, what the jihadists would say what happened, what the mainstream press and international press would say, what Al-Jazeera would say, everyone had a different spin.
Incidentally, what are we supposed to be thanking these guys for? I think it sucks for them that they’re over there. I think they’re victims and I think they’re being exploited, but I don’t think they’re defending me from anything. They’re part of a non-defensive occupation. That’s not their fault, but why am I supposed to be grateful for it?
I wouldn’t be surprised if most American soldiers do see themselves improving the situation. I can believe that their presence does improve the security, at least in the area they are patrolling. The question is how long-lasting and widespread this improvement is.
I have to wonder how he’s come to that conclusion. Do you think he speaks fluent Arabic and conversed with locals?
You know, I think about that a lot (as a journalism student). It always struck me that it’d be really cool if there was a way to easily see the different perspectives for a given event… something like Google News (which collects different perspectives) but that goes one step further and also compares and contrasts them and presents them side-by-side. Like a meta-analysis of all the mainstream and independent viewpoints out there.
Maybe people are so ill-informed because their experiences are limited (generally) to the people around them and to the media companies with the most bang and buck. They see what they want to see and not necessarily what they need to. If everyone could look beyond their comfort zones just a little more… man, what a different world we’d be in.
Here is a link to one of the fastest and more comprehensive conglomeration of news articles. It has reports from the Chinese, Kuwaiti, BBC, AP, Reuters, DoD, etc. I read it extensively when my buddy was over there, sometimes I knew stuff before he did. I haven’t used it for a while, but it was good resource.
When my son got back from a 1-year deployment (in Baghdad and Ramadi) he told me that our troops were the only thing preventing a full-scale civil war.
He seemed to think that a lot of the hostility towards our soldiers was because we are keeping them from killing each other the way they want to. Most of the IEDs his squad defused were aimed at civilians, not combatants.
He feels that whenever we withdraw, no matter how long we stay, things will fall apart quickly. Keeping an American military presence there is merely putting off the inevitable. Waiting for things to settle down before pulling out is a naive dream.
I realize that this is just one of many perspectives, but FWIW I trust my son’s judgement on all things military and he definitely knows his history.
I admire the fact that people sign up for the military to defend our country - we would be in a sorry state of affairs if we didn’t have a military force and the people who risk their lives should be better paid, treated far better and be given, at a minimum, armor that works and keeps them safe.
But Iraq is a major fuck-up from the get-go and the poor schmucks doing duty, or second round of duty, or third - most did not sign up for this crap. This whole war makes Vietnam seem like a success in comparison…
I don’t hear any of those soldiers coming back saying, “we’re winning!”
They know what is happening and from what I have seen, most are not impressed with the results and in no hurry to return.