Army Times

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Bush Administration, Iraq War

A couple of days ago I wrote about the editorial running in the military Times newspapers calling for Donald Rumsfeld to go — I’m not sure they care where, as long as it’s out of the Pentagon. As I explained, the editorial was quickly dismissed by a number of rightie bloggers on the grounds that “the editorial position of the Army Times has been and still is VERY liberal” and “Their editorials are always dripping with disdain for the military and have a huge liberal bias.”

As I said in the post, I do have some contacts in the military, and I finally heard from one of them about the alleged liberalism of the Army Times. This is from Robert W Thomas, Colonel (Retired), US Army, and he is responding to this rightie blog post that calls the Army Times “VERY liberal.”

The writer of this article seems to be using the term “liberal” to mean anyone who disagrees with the administration. I guess it is better than calling them stupid. I have been reading the Army Times for 40 years and I have never thought of it as a “liberal” newspaper. Nor would I call it particularly conservative. The Army Times is primarily an advocate for soldiers. The target audience is the enlisted soldier and they report on things that impact the soldier’s welfare and career. The editors and staff of the Army Times have a long term and close association with service members and like all community newspapers, try and keep up with the pulse of the community. What they are reporting on and offering opinions about reflect the concerns of the community they serve.

So, it seems that the writer is misinterpreting the word “liberal”. The military wants to and tries to hold itself to extremely high morals/ideals. Professional soldiers are shocked when things like Abu Ghraib happen. We’re not supposed to allow ourselves to fall to those depths, and the Officer Corps in particular doesn’t forgive lapses like that amongst our own. The typical reaction is that good soldiers wouldn’t do things like that if they had good leadership, therefore it’s the leadership’s fault, and therefore the leadership needs to go. This would be true for whatever level of leadership is found to be accountable.

The Officer Corps takes its role in the preservation of our democracy very seriously. As such, it is absolutely committed to the principle of civilian control over the military. For this level of discontent to be voiced so openly through the “community newspaper” is quite stunning. Military folk are not particularly liberal by nature. They would not tolerate, nor would they read a “VERY liberal” newspaper. This isn’t about being liberal, its about us holding ourselves to an unbelievably high standard and having no tolerance for those that don’t appear to live up to that standard.

(Full disclosure, Col. Thomas and I have a long acquaintance owing to the fact that we have the same parents and grew up in the same household. We have several other relatives in common, as well. Pretty much all of them, actually. Funny how that works.)

The question of the “liberalism” of the military Times papers is now settled, as far as I’m concerned, and the rightie bloggers I quoted are officially designated whackjobs.

Along with addressing the newspaper question, I posted the Colonel’s email because I believe the point of view of professional career officers is not much found on the blogosphere, left or right.

Righties, who think they have a copyright on all things military, make excuses for Abu Ghraib and Haditha and other such incidents, and they blow a gasket if any Democrat calls attention to them and shriek that liberals “hate the military” and “blame the troops.” Righties like to think they represent the “military” point of view, but I do not believe they do.

Stories — true or not — of antiwar protesters insulting or spitting on troops during the Vietnam War persist to this day to cling to the Left and fuel a belief that liberals “hate the military,” but on the whole this is nonsense. Since the invasion of Iraq, most of us leftie bloggers have been respectful of the troops and are careful to aim our criticism of the war at the White House and the Secretary of Defense, plus the SecDef’s civilian minions. Nor have I seen much hostility toward the military from the antiwar left these days. The only exception I am aware of are incidents of students harassing military recruiters on campus. As I wrote here,

For the record, I disagree with the students’ position. The military services are not our enemies; they are not the ones who make decisions to wage unjust wars. Blame the bleeping idiot civilians running the military for that. As long as the recruiters are not press-ganging students into boot camp, I say leave ‘em be.

As I wrote here, the troops are not only doing a job they should not have been asked to do, they are subjected to more stress than the human nervous system was designed to bear. I am probably more forgiving of those who have fallen short of the ideal than my retired officer bro’.

Although invididuals must be held accountable for their actions, ultimately the fault for failures both ethical and military is the fault of leadership — especially the Commander-in-Chief — and the civilian political factions that rushed us into an unnecessary and costly war. I believe most leftie bloggers have been clear about that.

In fact, both sides of the blogosphere accuse the other of “blaming the troops.” But as this fellow wrote in March,

How many times have you heard right-wingers twist a criticism against the president or against the war into sounding like a criticism against the troops serving in Iraq? I’ve heard it countless times. When John Kerry directly and specifically criticized Bush, RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie immediately transformed that into Kerry blaming the troops. Or when Wesley Clark criticized Bush for allowing an unnecessary war in Iraq take resources away from finding bin Laden, a Fox News anchor directly accused him of denigrating the troops. This technique is used widely and often by conservatives to deflect criticism about the war, essentially using the troops as a human shield to make Bush and the conservatives in general impervious to criticism for their massive blunders and incompetence.

The essence of this strategy is simple: conservatives say that liberals, or any critics of the president, hate the troops. Liberals want to blame the troops for everything.

The irony here is, it’s Bush who blames the troops. Take prisoner torture, for example. Bush and Gonzales advocated torture as an acceptable technique. Bush advanced the use of torture in the military hierarchy, giving the go-ahead for its use. But when we actually see the horrifying images of how prisoners were treated at Abu Ghraib, who gets blamed by the Bush administration?

The troops.

It’s a plain fact that low- and middle-level service members have borne most of the blame for the Abu Ghraib. That’s got to change.

And it’s a plain fact that the neocons, more than anyone else, are responsible for stampeding the nation into Iraq. And now they want to escape blame. Folks, this will not stand.

And in case any military personnel stumble on this blog, please understand that we have the same purpose — to protect and defend the United States and the Constitution. It’s righties, not lefties, who are the odd ones out these days. They’re the ones who support sending the Constitution through the shredder.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. A. Citizen  •  Nov 6, 2006 @6:58 pm

    None of this matters one iota. Bush will never allow Rummy the Dummy to step down as it will mean real big trouble for him, Bush.

    If you want to understand why see my post here: http://takeaction.wordpress.com/2006/11/03/the-walls-start-to-close-in-on-buschcos-crimes-against-humanity/

  2. maha  •  Nov 6, 2006 @7:09 pm

    A Citizen, you missed the point by several miles.

  3. Doug Hughes  •  Nov 6, 2006 @8:12 pm

    The word ‘liberal’ gets tossed around quite loosely by some. It falls in a category with no title I know of. But other words in the category are ‘cult’,’ infidel’, ‘hethen’, ‘blasphemy’. These are words with high negative associations. But usually they just mean the person is not like me. Maha is an author who (to her great credit) uses words with precision, to the degree that she will include the definition of a term in an article – to ensure the writer and reader are on the same page.

    Thinking about Gannett, who owns the Military Times publications. It’s possible that there is a huge liberal conspiracy to subvert our nations warriers into a bunch of pot-smokin’ hippies and the secret takeover of the Times pubs was the first step.

    Quite possibly by purchasing a popular Jewish publication, you could convince them that the Nazis were actually good for them. More likely you would find yourself with damn few readers. And the advertising would evaporate right after. Extinction would be the last step.

    Gannett can’t take a stand that’s universally unpopular with their readers without risking extinction. It can be controversial, but if the average foot soldier reveres Rummy, Gannett risks serious loss of circulation and loss of revenue from advertising. I never shook scorpions out of my boots in Iraq, but the brass at Gannett must have considered the foot soldier who has, and decided that a significant portion of GI readers would NOT be offended.

  4. anonymoose  •  Nov 6, 2006 @8:26 pm

    Oh how gratifying to have one’s views affirmed by such an impartial source! How very convincing!

  5. maha  •  Nov 6, 2006 @8:46 pm

    Re #4 — where do these geniuses come from?

  6. moonbat  •  Nov 6, 2006 @9:53 pm

    The thing ideologues are most blind to and what they sorely lack – be they righties or lefties or whatever – is the overriding need to be committed to the truth, wherever it comes from and wherever it may lead. The worst right wing ideologues wouldn’t know the truth if it hit them over the head – which it inevitably does.

    Re #4, I would bet that the brave anonymous was never in the military. If s/he could provide some evidence rebutting the position laid out by your brother, I’d like to see it. In other words, put up or shut up.

    This is a primary method for arriving at the truth – presentation of evidence and counter claims. Whether the evidence affirms or contradicts any opinions I may have is irrelevant. That is what the brave anonymous, or anyone who doesn’t have a fundamental need to find the truth, doesn’t seem to get.

    For someone who is committed to finding the truth, it doesn’t matter if the evidence contradicts my opinions – I can change them, and in fact I want to change them in the light of new evidence. If the evidence affirms my opinions, that might feel good (anonymous used the word “gratifying”), but feeling good or “winning” an argument is not the point. Being in reality is.

    Because when you’re not in reality, the world has a nasty way of bringing you around.

  7. lafrance  •  Nov 6, 2006 @10:45 pm

    I think the reason for righties being so sensitive to military things and trying to pin the Hate the military tag on lefties is because of guilt and shame.
    Most righties are chickenhawks. A list of vets in congress and the administration shows an overwhelming amount of vets in the democratic party. A handful in the republican – most of those from John Warner’s generation.
    My whole family is of left leaning ideas and my brother, a very democratic supporter, served 8 years in the army.
    My stepson served several years as a Marine. he’s a democrat.
    But, everyone under the age of 70 that are righties have never served a day in the military.
    I wish this fact would be pounded home so that it’s common knowledge that righties are essentially chickenhawks.
    Maybe you should look for this list and post it all over the righies blogs and ask who hates the military, chickenhawks?

  8. Swami  •  Nov 7, 2006 @12:16 am

    It doesn’t matter to me if the Army Times is liberal or Conservative because their editorial board got it right in calling for Rummy to get the boot. His deficits outweigh his assets and it’s past time for him to go. It has to be kept in mind that Rummy is a charter member of the PNAC club and that the whole Iraqi fiasco is in part his doing.

    My sense of Rumsfeld is that he was born at the wrong time and in the wrong place. I can see him better suited historically in the planing and execution of Operation Barbarossa than Operation Iraqi Freedom. I can easily picture him with a monocle and a Field Marshal’s baton.

  9. freD  •  Nov 7, 2006 @12:54 am

    Macsmind? That coward deletes every sane comment posted. Almost as bad as that Riehl turkey. Or maybe Noonan is worse, I dunno. It wont be long before these rightwing defectives are getting the cultists to spit on Iraqi war veterans because they were way “too liberal.” Didn’t kill enough babies..

  10. pecunium  •  Nov 7, 2006 @5:43 pm

    anonymoose: I too am a member of the military, and in no way related to the author of this blog, and her take is pretty much on the mark.

    On the whole Army Times (the one I read, because it’s the branch I’m in) is a bit more conservative than the rest of the press (which isn’t all that liberal, despite books like Bias making claims otherwise).

    The editorial focus is on the troops, and if there is an agenda, it’s to see we get what we need. If the editorial board thinks we need to have Rumsfeld removed, it’s perfectly within their “agenda” to say so.

    They have advocated for more armor, (yep, that’s a “liberal” position to take) as well as publishing Ralph Peters on a regular basis.

    You really ought to pick one up, and take a look at the lettercol, so as to see the sorts of debate soldiers are willing to have, in public.

    Then recall that we are limited in what/how we can express our political views (we don’t lose them at the guardhouse gate), and ponder what it takes for those who disagree with the brass/administration, to publically say so, in print.

    On that scale you can be sure there are a lot of people, in uniform, who agree, or they’d not be willing to risk the hassle/repurcussions (which include jail/felony conviction and a dishonorable discharge, if the offense is seen to be grave enough by their command).

    TK



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