Friday, November 03, 2006

When the Mask Slips...

The recent comments by Seymour Hersh and Senator John Kerry were the slippage of a mask that some prominent members of the anti-war movement have had for a while. Often, when the anti-war movement has been protesting, they claim that they support the troops.

Senator Kerry’s comments concerned an alleged lack of intelligence among the troops and the notion that many of the recruits are poor. First of all, the comment was grossly inaccurate. Every year since 1983, over 90 percent of all recruits have at least a high school diploma. Many officers and enlisted personnel tend to get college degrees (both graduate and undergraduate), often paid for by the armed services. The claim that most of the recruits are poor also did not stand up to facts. Most of the recruits come from middle-class families. These recruits also score high on the AVSAB tests (two-thirds of recruits score over 60 percent on the test).

Kerry’s comments, for which a lame “I’m sorry if you were offended” apology was issued, are not the worst concerning the troops. Some scurrilous and very incendiary charges came from Seymour Hersh, a journalist who broke various stories in the Vietnam War. Hersh openly called for American troops to be treated as they were when they returned from Vietnam.

Hersh claimed that the American forces in Iraq were carrying out atrocities. In one instance, he claimed a video of a massacre at a soccer game in the wake of an IED attack existed. Yet Hersh made this claim at a lecture at McGill University in Canada. He apparently had not heard of the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (the latter of which is the subject of a popular prime-time TV series). One just has to ask why Hersh did not try to pass this evidence on to the Department of Defense – or one of the investigative agencies – so it could be investigated.

The history of claims of abuse and torture – not to mention massacres – against American troops has shown that more often than not, there wasn’t much in the way of facts to back up the charges. Claims concerning mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in 2005 were discovered to have been blown out of proportion and lacking context (for instance, an interrogator who was spat on smeared red ink on a detainee she was questioning). In 2002, claims of a massacre by Israeli troops at Jenin were discovered to be unfounded (of the 52 killed, at least 30 had been terrorists with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups). Claims made earlier this year of a cover-up with regards to an alleged massacre at Haditha were proven to be false.

Given this track record of accepting (and making) dubious claims, and insulting the troops while opposing the mission they are on, the anti-war movement's mask has slipped significantly. Underneath it all, when it comes down to it, their support of the troops is little more than lip service to the concept that is belied by their actions.

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