Meditations on betrayal

This past Wednesday (Sept 26, 2007), the US House of Representatives voted to condemn because of an ad they ran in the New York Times. The Senate had also voted to condemn move on the previous week, so its now clear that all three branches of the US government (the White House has expressed its displeasure from the start) now “condemn MoveOn and the ad.” For the most part, the rationale used by senators and congresspeople to justify the decision to support the condemnation was fairly understandable. I can sympathize with notions that we need to be careful how we treat active soldiers in a time of war, especially ones in leadership roles whom we address by name. Senator Mitch McConnell (R, Kentucky) expresses the concerns fairly concisely with the following quote …

It’s been more than a week since the Junior Senator from Texas offered an amendment condemning an ad by MoveOn.Org that appeared last Monday in The New York Times.

The ad was, by any standard, abhorrent.

It accused a four star general who has the trust and respect of 160,000 men and women in Iraq of betraying that mission and those troops, of lying to them and to us.

Who would have ever expected anybody to go after a general in the field at a time of war, launch a smear campaign against a man we’ve entrusted with our mission in Iraq.

Any group that does this sort of thing ought to be condemned.

Mitch McConnell (R, Kentucky) quoted by Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Strong words, and words that I think have some basis in fact, words that we should pay some attention to. Which is why I was shocked to something very similar on Fox News (thanks to Greenwald for alerting readers). In an article entitled “Top Military Officials are a disgrace to those they LeadCol. David Hunt (retired) pens an interesting and fairly long piece that goes well beyond anything found in the MoveOn ad. Hunt starts his article by stating “Our generals are betraying our soldiers … again.” Before he even gets to the substance of his argument, the first words out of his mouth are an accusation of betrayal against senior military leaders.

When faced with the MoveOn ad, McConnell states that accusing a four star general “of betraying that mission and those troops” is “by any standard, abhorrent.” Presumably, that means the article by Fox News is equally abhorent, at the very least, and likely more so as it goes into greater detail, and levels the charge at an entire class of soldier, rather than a single individual. McConnell went on to say anyone who “does this sort of thing ought to be condemned” which leaves me wondering when the move to condemn Fox News, and David Hunt, will happen.

If this were the only example, I might write it off as individual hypocrisy, and leave it at that. Trouble is, its not an isolated incident. Recently, Rush Limbaugh said that only soldiers who think we should continue to fight in Iraq are to be considered “real” soldiers. Anyone who thinks differently, according to Rush, is a “phony soldier.” Once again, while MoveOn is condemned for criticizing a General making political presentations, Rush Limbaugh seems to be free to impugn the honour and integrity of soldiers who disagree with his view of the war.

And the sad part is, those aren’t the only examples either. Anyone who watched the 2004 election will recall the savage beating that two highly decorated former soldiers, Kerry and Murtha, were given simply for the crime of being on the other side. Murtha was ridiculed (as was John McCain) when they spoke on torture, which is ironic since both Murtha and McCain know what torture IS first hand, while those ridiculing them (and questioning their patriotism … essentially calling them Betray-us) had not only never experienced torture first hand, but had largely never even fought a war. Likewise with Kerry … he was savaged specifically based on his combat record, which is distinguished enough to have earned him multiple decorations. While its “abhorent” for MoveOn to criticize General Petraeus, its apparently not a problem for people who have never served in a combat zone to question the patriotism of decorated combat veterans like McCain, Murtha, and Kerry, and to claim that those with no combat experience have more “reasonable” views on the war than people who have actually done the dirty work.

There was no move to condemn those responsible for questioning the patriotism of men who fought, and were tortured for, America during the 2004 campaign. There was no call to condemn Rush for calling soldiers who disagrees with him about how the war should proceed “phony soldiers.” There was no call to condemn Fox News for explicitly accusing the current US military leadership of treason. There WAS a call for condemnation of MoveOn over their ad, an ad using the same language as the Fox News article. So now I wonder when the Congressional call for condemnation of Fox News, of Rush Limbaugh, of the 2004 Bush campaign team will come in. I know that I certainly won’t be holding my breath, waiting for it.


2 Responses

  1. You lost me somewhere. If the gasbag Rush can say somebody who served is a ‘fake soldier’ without people feeling real sacrifice is being dissed – where is the cut ? ‘Support the troops’ is quite the canny ad-man’s coup anyway : did you see the item where families of injured soldiers are suffering financial hardship – to the tune of 185,000 faithful Americans being shit on ?

    Editor’s Note: Thanks for the comment … I think based on this I may not have been totally clear. I am arguing for some consistency in dealing with criticisms of the war effort and soldiers. Clearly, MoveOn has been treated FAR differently than Rush or Fox News, for essentially the same comment, and I object to that. Given that the condemnation of MoveOn has already happened, the only “remedy” seems to me to ensure that anyone else who similarly criticizes troops is treated the same way. I’d much rather see a return to proper form where free speech of organizations like MoveOn, or Fox News, isn’t subject to Congressional review and possible action. To me, that very review of free speech flies completely in the face of the First Amendment, and is thus a violation of the Constitution. But since one organization has already had its free speech censured by Congress on this subject, the LEAST we can ask for is consistency in dealing with people like Fox or Rush who say the same things. I don’t think ANYONE should be censured by the state for speaking freely, but given that seems to be the tenor of the times these days, and given that MoveOn was censured for insinuating General Petraeus might have betrayed us, I think Congress now has a responsibility to act in a similar fashion against anyone who has behaved in similar fashion, or to publicly rescind the censure of MoveOn. It can’t go both ways … either its wrong to question the loyalty of a General or a soldier, or it isn’t … as things stand now, its appears its only wrong to question the loyalty of a soldier if you are on a certain side of the debate (MoveOn and the anti-war side), but such questions are fair game for the “other side” (Fox and the Pro-Bush side). That strikes me as a pretty basic betrayal of one of the most basic rights Americans are supposed to have. The correct action was not to have censured MoveOn … but given the censure happened, then there needs to be some sort of re-adjustment now to bring the hypocrisy levels back down again …

  2. On the question of ‘dealing with’ criticism the First Amendment being ignored is obviously getting ‘beyond the pale’ in any case. The outrage is that lawmakers sworn to defend the Constitution are dissing it : a definite sign of “Something Rotten in Hoboken”.

    Editor’s Note: We are in 100% agreement here 🙂 We can smell whatever it is thats rotting all the way up here in Canada 😉

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