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WorldWatch - October 7, 2007 - Phony Soldiers and Patriotism - The Ornery American


WorldWatch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card October 7, 2007

Phony Soldiers and Patriotism

It was quite a spectacle. Democratic Congressmen and Senators standing there denouncing Rush Limbaugh for attacking American soldiers by calling them "phony."

We already know how much they hate Limbaugh and other conservative radio talk show personalities.

Talk radio is the only part of the American media that the Left does not already control, one way or another; that's why they're trying to reintroduce the "fairness" doctrine (equal time for all points of view) only for talk radio, while the media the Left controls remains "unfair."

But if they can make Rush Limbaugh look unAmerican, unpatriotic, well -- then all those patriotic people who listen to Limbaugh and never listen to the Left, maybe they'll be fooled into losing track of who's on their side!

After all, the Left knows that America is divided into Smart People (the Left) and Stupid People (the rest of us). They know that if the Smart People can just control the information that the Stupid People receive, the Stupid People will let the Left do all the insane things they just know we need.

One little problem. No one among us Stupid People believes for one second that Rush Limbaugh said anything that a sane person could interpret as an attack on American soldiers.

The Left asserts that Limbaugh was saying that soldiers who return from Iraq and then denounce the war are "phony soldiers." But that is not what Limbaugh said or even what a rational person (i.e., one who has not surrendered his mind to groupthink) could construe from the context.

What Is a Phony?

But let's examine this from the point of view of the Left themselves. They are the first in line to call people phonies -- only because they're Smart People, they use the word "inauthentic."

Let's take a few examples: Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, and John McWhorter. The first is a black Supreme Court justice; the second, a black scholar specializing in the study of community; the third, a linguist.

All three of them committed the cardinal sin of not following the groupthink that is required of American blacks today. They are still black; but the Left has labeled them "inauthentic" (i.e., phony) because they do not repeat the "representative opinions" of the "majority" of the black community in America.

The Left has no qualms about denying these three their membership in the community of black people, despite their obvious credentials. There is no grant of free speech to these men -- or rather, they can say what they want, but not as black men.

So now let's flip this on its head. We have a volunteer military. We have been at war -- an active, shooting war -- since the invasion of Afghanistan. Most of our current crop of military personnel joined up after the war began.

Who is it who joins the military? Well, the Left have their opinions, but since most of the Smart People don't actually know any soldiers well enough to talk to them, their opinions are based on ignorant speculation.

We Stupid People know who joins, because they're our sons and daughters, our friends, our neighbors: Patriotic young men and women who believe America needs defending and take responsibility for their part in defending it.

They entered the military because they saw that America and American values were under attack, here and abroad; they saw a President determined to fight the war and win it abroad so it would not bloody our citizenry at home; they put themselves into the military led by him.

So it doesn't take opinion polls to tell you that the vast majority of American military personnel are committed to ideals like patriotism, courage, discipline, and victory.

Soldiers Hate War

Now, wars are wars, and armies are armies (and navies are navies, etc.). That means that every soldier is going to be given idiotic orders from time to time; they hate the thought that they might die because of some stupid general's stupidity.

It's happened before -- at Kasserine Pass in Tunisia in World War II, when the criminal stupidity or negligence of two American generals left American soldiers in an exposed, indefensible position, where the Germans could, and did, destroy them.

When officers do dumb things, soldiers die. It's no surprise that soldiers hate that, and when they don't believe in their commanders, they're reluctant to obey their orders. Especially American soldiers, who don't grow up with the belief that they should blindly obey authority.

Plus, life at war stinks. Rare indeed are the soldiers who like it. They'd rather be home.

So if you ask soldiers at the front, "Do you want to go home?" the answer is "Duh. Yes." If you ask them, "What do you think of your leadership?" the answer is bound to include a lot of remarks like "A bunch of clowns."

And if you ask them "Are you winning this war?" they don't know. They're on the ground. Chances are, they'll echo whatever they've heard from the press back home. About the war as a whole, the common soldier rarely knows the big picture, only the small, close-up one.

Only occasionally does the GI or Marine actually get a sense of the big movement. The obvious movement: If we retreated, leaving a lot of dead comrades behind, we're losing; if we're steadily advancing into enemy territory, we're winning.

But Iraq is an odd situation. We won -- faster than anyone thought possible. Our enemy almost evaporated in front of us.

But the occupation has been plagued by insurgents, who take control of urban neighborhoods like the mafia does, terrifying the locals into protecting them. The Americans come in, the thugs melt away; the locals won't help the Americans because they know that when the Americans leave, the thugs will come back and punish anyone who helped or informed to the Americans.

And by "punish" I mean "kill them and their families in gruesome ways."

So for years, the American military kept winning and winning and winning and yet they made no headway.

Then General Petraeus was given command over the plan he helped devise, based on the principles that have worked against insurgencies elsewhere.

(Believe it or not, we actually learned a lot of it from the French in their war in Algeria. People think the French lost that war, but they won it; it was only after they had nearly neutralized the insurgency that their government went ahead and handed the victory to a defeated enemy.)

The soldiers felt this new wind, understood the new doctrine, and watched as it worked. Now the Americans came and stayed, along with Iraqi forces that could talk to the locals. As soon as the locals knew they would not be abandoned, they cooperated and helped -- they hated being governed by the Islamic fascists as much as people in poor American neighborhoods hate living in terror of gangs of criminals.

The result is that if you asked American soldiers serving right now, they would tell you, "We can win this. We are winning it."

But even a year ago, when everyone was talking about the need to withdraw now, you would still have gotten the answer, "This war is worth fighting. We want to win it. We don't want to go home without winning it."

That is, that's the answer you could get from an overwhelming number of soldiers. Along with answers like "The Army sucks" and "I want to go home."

But among those soldiers there were some who believed the propaganda at home more than they trusted their officers. And war is ugly -- some were shocked by the reality of it, disillusioned; it no longer seemed worthwhile.

Many of them, in good conscience, came to oppose the war, and when they came home, they spoke out as American citizens, opposing the war.

But they are a minority -- a small minority -- of soldiers. They do not remotely speak for the whole.

That doesn't mean they're wrong. But it does mean that, by the standard the Left uses for black intellectuals like Thomas, Sowell, and McWhorter, they are certainly "inauthentic." That is, they do not echo the views of the vast majority of the group they purportedly represent.

So the Left, following their own moral logic, would have no qualms about calling them "inauthentic" and "nonrepresentative of their culture" -- except that instead they find them useful. For propaganda purposes. So these soldiers get exploited, trotted out at every opportunity, so that Stupid People will get the impression that "soldiers oppose the war."

When you use American soldiers that way -- even sincere soldiers who now oppose the war -- you make them phony by using them to deliver a false message.

So even if Limbaugh had meant to speak of all veterans who oppose the war as "phony," by the logic of the Left he would have been right; and in the context of how the Left uses them to try to break American morale, he would have been right yet again.

Genuine Phonies

But that is not how Limbaugh used the term. Instead, he was referring to the kind of "soldier" who, like Jesse Macbeth, claimed to be an Iraq War veteran and became one of their poster children, making claims that his unit in Iraq regularly committed war crimes.

Of course, Jesse Macbeth turned out to have been in the army for only 44 days before he was dismissed as unfit for duty; he never was under fire, never entered Iraq. It was all lies.

Though he was, in fact, for 44 days, a U.S. soldier.

Does he qualify as "phony"?

What about other ex-soldiers -- or non-soldiers -- who made false claims about military service in order to get veterans' benefits? Phony for sure.

But there's another category partway between a complete fake like Jesse Macbeth and a sincere veteran whose conscience now leads him to oppose the war.

I'm talking about the soldiers who suffer from "Kerryism." This is the kind of soldier who enters the war zone and does indeed see combat. But he gets out of it as quickly as possible, perhaps by inflating a trivial wound into Purple Heart status so the rules will get him out. Then, having abandoned the war, he gets exposed to enemy propaganda and then starts making statements about what he saw Americans doing in combat -- statements that exactly coincide with the false claims of our enemies and that are designed to destroy American morale.

His former comrades deny that his claims are true, but if you believe those claims, then you assume that those who deny them must be lying to protect themselves. Besides, the anti-American American vet has a powerful support group trotting him about the country to make speeches, while the regular guys, once they come home, just want to get on with their lives.

What do you think? Really a soldier, for a while at least; but now lying about what Americans actually do, or at least putting the worst possible spin on it. Wouldn't you call them "phonies"? And a real soldier who tells phony stories about his service, wouldn't that be one meaning of "phony soldier"?

Of course, there's no way to judge how many soldiers suffer from an acute case of Kerryism, and how many are speaking the full truth of their hearts. We have to listen and observe and make our judgment.

But one thing is certain: When Rush Limbaugh referred to "phony soldiers," he was not referring to a group that has no members. Nor was he referring to a group that consisted of all veterans who oppose the war.

The Left's Disposable Patriotism

I'm of the generation that was too smart for patriotism. It was called "flag-waving" and it was sneered at. Politicians who invoked it were chauvinists, jingoists, cynical exploiters of trite public sentiment.

Then a funny thing happened. Patriotism, the thing that the Smart People all inveighed against, disappeared. Not everywhere -- just among the Smart People. It was a motivation that other people had. Strange people that the Left never actually met.

Oh, when you say the Smart People aren't patriotic, they get so angry and righteous! Suddenly they wave the flag and say, "How dare you impugn my patriotism!" As soon as they've silenced their critics, of course, they flush their "patriotism" down the toilet; it's a flimsy garment that, if you get up close, you can easily see through.

I have been that close, many times; I have hung out with the Smart People and listened to them talk. I've heard them jeer at patriotism, mock the military, sneer at ordinary Americans who shop in malls and watch television. Their contempt for the Stupid People is so thick and deep that if the target of this hatred were members of a minority group, we'd know them for the bigots they are.

They deny it, like Klan members pretending not to know what you're talking about.

Meanwhile, the Stupid People who believe in patriotism and volunteer for the military -- they're not a minority, they're the majority. They still have the power to elect presidents and change the makeup of Congress. And since the Smart People try to avoid ever meeting or spending time with any of these Stupid People, the only thing they can do to get control of the parts of the American power structure they don't already own is to lie.

The Smart People don't even think they're lying, though. They don't count it as a sin (they don't even believe in sin) to lie to Stupid People. It's sort of the Santa Claus principle. You tell them whatever you need to tell them in order to get them to let you have your way.

You tell them we're losing a war we're winning. You tell them that the best-behaved army in history is routinely committing atrocities. You tell them that the war that has the lowest rate of civilian casualties in history, proportionate to the number of combatants, is the cruelest. You tell them that a fully justified war based on many principles of international law and historical precedent is "based on a lie."

That's the favorite one. Your best lie. You accuse the Stupid President of lying all the time, though in fact that's the Smart People's primary tactic. Like pretending that Rush Limbaugh meant something that he obviously didn't mean and making a huge deal about it -- while declining to condemn the outrageous lies of MoveOn.Org as they slander a fine commander.

The biggest lie in this little flap about Limbaugh is not what they say about Limbaugh. It's their pretense that they actually care about American soldiers.

They don't care. Give me a break. Most of these Smart People are so filled with bile about the military that when they actually meet a soldier in uniform they are revolted or frightened or angry.

Nobody that they know ever enlists in the military. Since patriotism doesn't exist in their social circles, they have to invent other motivations for people to become soldiers.

It's like science fiction to them. Soldiers are an alien species. These people must love violence, that's what it is. Or they're such losers they can't think of another career. Or they're bullies. Or simply stupid, so that recruiters can trick them.

(And you watch: Some Smart Person would just love to quote that paragraph and claim that it's what I said about American soldiers!)

Yet whatever the motivation is, the military keeps filling up with volunteers; hopelessly underpaid, often badly led, whenever they're called upon to do something, they perform ...

Superbly.

When it's time to destroy an enemy force, they're very good at it. But when it's time to restrain themselves and avoid inflicting harm on the civilian population, no Army in history has ever been better at it than the American Army (with the possible exception of the Israeli Army, but that's not a good example, since the vicious propaganda against U.S. soldiers pales in comparison with the vile slanders heaped on the soldiers of the Jewish nation).

The task of the Smart People would be so much easier if our military really were what they claim it to be. But instead our soldiers are smart, courageous, disciplined, resourceful, and creative -- traits that aren't supposed to coexist with "patriotic" and "self-sacrificing." And when they're well led, they run circles around their enemies and, later, compared to other victorious occupying armies, they are astonishingly well liked by their defeated enemies.

Tokyo Rose

We are in such a bizarre position today, as a nation. The portion of our society that has benefited most from our culture is the Smart People: They are the elite, they have influence, their voices are taken seriously by the major media, they are looked up to.

Yet these are, by and large, the very people who hate traditional American values, who deny the value of America in the world, who have complete contempt for ordinary Americans and especially for the ordinary Americans who volunteer for military service.

And they pour their money into political organizations and movements whose primary purpose is to attack our military and break down America's war morale.

Like Tokyo Rose and Axis Sally, they speak with American voices, but their message is lies designed to discourage Americans, to spur ordinary citizens (i.e., Stupid People) to demand the end to a losing war.

And in recent weeks, we've seen their desperation as the evidence piles up that it is not a losing war. It has always been a necessary one, so that defeat would be, not a relief, but the beginning of a national nightmare (not to mention a nightmare for the rest of the world, especially the Middle East and Europe). But now it is clear that our new strategy in Iraq is working.

So what do the Smart People do?

They desperately lash out, telling lies that are increasingly obvious. After all, lying has worked so well up to now; all we have to do, they think, is lie louder and it will still work!

But it doesn't work. The Stupid People aren't as stupid as the Smart People like to think. In fact, the Smart People aren't as smart as they think, either. They're so dumb, in fact, that they actually believe their own lies. In fact, they believe so many lies that they don't even notice when their tall tales directly contradict each other. And their vaunted intellectuality is exactly identical to a particularly smug and fanatical religion, where everything is believed on faith and social pressure is relentlessly used to keep anyone from thinking an incorrect thought.

The leaders of the Smart People, though, don't believe the lies. Let's call them the Smarter People. They -- George Soros, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, and others of their ilk -- understand that General Petraeus is actually winning the campaign in Iraq, and that, to them, is a disaster.

That's because they aren't thinking as Americans, for whom victory in this desperate war against fanatical Islam is of prime importance. They're thinking as power-hungry people maneuvering to win the next election.

They discovered -- too late for Hillary, since it came after she cast that vote for the Iraq invasion -- that the Iraq War was a great stick to beat the Republicans with. It won them back control of both houses of Congress in 2006, and they fully expect it to win them the White House in 2008.

But all that falls apart if we actually win. That's why the Smarter People have absolutely got to get all the Smart People to fall in line and keep pretending that we've lost the war so we can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Defeat is what they want. Defeat is what they're working hard to achieve. They came so close -- the polls showed for many months that they had fooled millions of Stupid People into thinking the war was lost and we might as well go home.

Well, in the run-up to World War II, Neville Chamberlain had the complete complicity of Britain's national media and it worked for a while: They hid from the British people the truth about Hitler. Translations of the most dangerous statements from Mein Kampf were not published; Hitler's atrocities wherever he gained power were downplayed or unmentioned. The British people were systematically lied to ...

All in support of "peace" and "negotiated settlement." And it worked for a while. The people who recognized the danger of Hitler were isolated and denigrated and despised. Chamberlain was treated as a hero for turning over little countries to Hitler so he could kill their Jews and destroy any shred of democracy they might have had.

And what was the result of those Smart People lying to the Stupid People so they could stay in power?

The result was predictable: The Smart People were actually the stupidest of all; their groupthink was self-delusion; the people who saw the danger of Hitler were right; and by the time the truth was clear, France had fallen and Britain stood alone, with bombs falling on their cities.

We have been far more blessed this time around. We stand on the brink of a vicious world war between the West and fanatic-led barbarians who can enlist millions of people into their service and who may soon have the use of a nuclear weapon.

But we have been fortunate enough to have a President who, no wiser than anyone else when he took office, got the message from the planes crashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and started fighting the war against our declared enemies before our situation was catastrophically bad.

He has not waged this war perfectly -- though his blunders don't begin to compare with some of the howlingly bad, often politically-motivated decisions of Churchill or Roosevelt during their war against fascism.

But because he took action before the desperateness of our situation was clear to even the stupidest intellectual (as was the case when Churchill finally became Prime Minister in 1940), his opponents have not been shamed into silence.

They glory in their bigotry; they are flagrant with their lies. Not since the American Civil War has a President had to wage a desperate war while enduring a constant barrage of criticism, slander, and meddling from his own people.

Of course, we might well have military setbacks or new terrorist assaults between now and the next election. And you can be sure that anything that can't be blamed on global warming will be blamed on President Bush and the Republicans and, most especially, on conservative talk radio.

Let's just hope that the American people have sense enough, in the middle of a war, not to elect Tokyo Rose as commander-in-chief.

http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2007-10-07-1.html

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