Today, in my mail, I found our local free paper, the Pacific Sun. This week’s cover story is on the cover as “A Farewell to Arms : Iraq war veterans reject their mission– and now may have to fight for their own freedom.” In the body of the magazine, it gets the title “Why We Won’t Fight : Fairfax author’s book spotlights Iraq soldiers who refused to return to ‘a terrible mistake.’
The cooing story profiles a book by Peter Laufer, who’s made a job of being an anti-War activist since the 1960s. His current effort is a book entitled Mission Rejected : U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq. It’s a love fest between Laufer and Jill Kramer, the interviewer, in which she throws him a series of softball questions that give him ample opportunity to expound on his favorite anti-War subjects.
Kramer gives her game away quickly, showing that she does not intend to challenge any of Laufer’s assumptions, when she poses this question:
It struck me as I was reading your book that the issues raised by the conscientious objectors are not just the immorality of wars in general or of killing in general, but specifically the illegality of this war that’s been based on lies. [Emphasis mine.]
Now, I don’t know about you, but when an interviewer asks a question like that, I’m going to assume that the interviewer believes that the Iraq war is an illegal war based on lies — a premise that, in her own mind, removes from her any obligation actually to challenge the subject of her interview. Kramer, playing the role of intrepid reporter, later lobbed this softball to Laufer:
I was very moved by the bravery of these soldiers. And it’s ironic because they’re being accused by war supporters of cowardice. I remember one of the men in the book who, despite his disgust with the war, chose to sign up as a sniper because he felt he’d be better able than somebody else to make moral decisions about whom to shoot.
With questions like that, the interview has all the credibility of those hagiographic star interviews in People Magazine or Vanity Fair.
On Laufer’s side, there aren’t really any surprises. He doesn’t know the numbers for troops who are opposed to the Iraq war, which allows him to assume it’s high. He distrusts the Pentagon numbers on those who have actually petitioned for conscientious objector status (rather than going to the Press first), especially since “[t]his is an administration that not only has shown that it lies, it’s an administration that has announced that it will lie in order to further its policies.” His proof for this last statement? A wee bit of bootstrapping, mixed in with a conspiracy theory:
They announced that they will lie when they created a department within the Defense Department that was designed as a propaganda office for the purpose of perpetrating false information. And when it was spotlighted as an element of the Pentagon, they then said, OK, we’ll close this down. Now, realistically, if the design of that office is to perpetrate lies, should we believe them when they say they’re going to close it down? And certainly we know they have lied about the reasons they have gone to Iraq. And that’s just Iraq. We have all the other problems with this administration that are blatant lies. It’s a criminal, immoral bunch of gangsters who have hijacked our country.
In other words, in Laufer’s world view, the Administration “announced” that it will lie because Laufer doesn’t believe anything it says. I mean, really, how can you trust the word of a “criminal, immoral bunch of gangsters who have hijacked our country.” (Calling Cindy Sheehan — someone’s plagiarized your script.) That’s not an argument, that’s a monomania.
The story has a lot of sobs for those soldiers who go AWOL. Some of these poor things actually have to get jobs as manual laborers because, having reneged on their voluntarily signed contracts with the United States government, the United States is actually doing mean things like denying them medical care through the VA. Indeed, the whole decision to go AWOL is fraught:
If you are a deserter or if you’ve gone AWOL, or if you are a conscientious objector, how this will affect your future certainly depends on what you do in your life. It depends on your career choice, it depends on how carefully an employer will do a background check. If you desert to Canada and you then want to come back here, you’re likely going to face those charges. And a lot of the people profiled in the book who have spotlighted their cases, when they’re adjudicated they get hard prison time. And that’s another record. There certainly are employers who would embrace someone like that—especially in our community—but elsewhere in the country, who knows?
The fact is, I doubt anyone disputes that being in the middle of a war is hellish and that there are lots of soldiers who regret their decision to enlist. (Although I have to admit that I grew up in a family where my father, while acknowledging the horrors of his time in North Africa and Southern Europe during WWII, considered his RAF and ANZAC service the most exciting, meaningful time in his life.) Indeed, there are often soldiers who not only want to get out, they don’t even want to get in, a fact evidenced by the notorious draft riots during the Civil War. Even the Good War, World War II, had its share of deserters — 21,000, to be reasonably exact — although they were certainly not accorded hero status.
As it is, I find conscientious objector status a little bizarre right now, considering that we have an all volunteer army. Normally, conscientious objectors, such as Quakers, aren’t the kind who enlist in the first place. After all, no matter how the military dresses it up (“Be All You Can Be;” “An Army Of One;” etc.) the ultimate job of the military is to kill to protect our nation. If that’s a problem for you, you shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Additionally, as Michelle Malkin regularly points out, the most recent crop of “conscientious objectors” have had some problems. One was apparently a confabulator who would have done John Kerry proud. Another one, Ehren Watada, a self-styled “dissenter,” rather than a true conscientious objector, enlisted after the war began for the sole purpose of objecting — that is, he was making a political point when he enlisted, rather than making a decision to join the American military.
Neither Laufer, the interviewee, nor Kramer, the interviewer, confine themselves just to the War. We also get to hear about Air America, with a full frontal attack on the kind of talk radio American’s like most — the conservative stuff:
What do you think of Air America?
I think it’s important that Air America is out there. It’s tragic for radio that something as compelling as talk radio has been largely co-opted by the selfish, opportunistic hate-mongers of the right wing. So anything that provides some balance to that is extraordinarily important to support—not just for political reasons, but for the art of radio. I wrote a book about this 10 years ago called Inside Talk Radio and it’s unfortunately still quite relevant. There are business reasons why the foaming-at-the-mouth type of talk radio is so prevalent. It’s easier for the holding companies that maintain the licenses for radio stations to accommodate the kind of programming that comes out of these shows than it is to accommodate shows that are not trying to paint complex issues simplistically. But there is some acknowledgment in the business community that there might be some money to be made with other types of shows, and that’s why we’re seeing Air America and other alternatives on more and more stations.
I guess calling America’s most popular talk radio hosts “selfish, opportunistic hate-mongers of the right wing,” is meant to be a companion piece to his description of our elected officials “a criminal, immoral bunch of gangsters who have hijacked our country.”
Laufer also has strong opinions on the immigration debate. He’s spelled it out in his book Wetback Nation, but isn’t shy about stating the book’s bottom line premise: Completely open borders (something it seems we already have, but that’s another story).
I won’t bore you (or me) any more with this kind of fatuous nonsense. You can read the whole thing at Pacific Sun‘s website, if you have the stomach for it. I don’t. Even if I agreed with his various premises (anti-War, pro-Air America, pro-open borders), this kind of pap, which is simultaneously maudlin and aggressive, as well as illogical and weak-minded, really puts me off.