May 12, 2004

Sunshine patriot...

I mentioned with disgust in this post Senator Kennedy's statement: "Shamefully we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management, U.S. management." In the comments my friend Andrew wrote:

How is it loathsome to note that Saddam used to torture people where are (hopefully _were_) torturing people? Or do you deny that we are (were) torturing people?
Posted by Andrew Cory at May 12, 2004 12:09 AM

If you have to ask, you will never understand...
Posted by John Weidner at May 12, 2004 06:41 AM

Try me.
Posted by Andrew Cory at May 12, 2004 08:28 AM

The long answer: I think the statement is logically and morally obtuse, but that's not what makes it creepy.

It's the place from which he's speaking that's the wrongness. I recently read Washington's Crossing. (Don't miss it folks. It's great.) and I'm thinking right now about our soldiers marching through snow and mud, retreating from catastrophe at New York, our army reduced to a few thousand men, then turning, attacking with shocking effectiveness and skill against some of the world's best, winning at Trenton and Princeton...That was us. Not some strangers in a dim past. WE were there. We were passionate debaters both then and now, and many of the questions are exactly the same. (For instance whether problem of whether to aid other peoples who were seeking liberty, or stay home and tend to our knitting, was a hot-button from the earliest days of the Republic)

If you're American, and you know about those people (you probably won't learn much in school) then you love them. You don't excuse their flaws and mistakes, or eschew criticism. But you love them first, like parents love their children. And they did commit crimes, though those tended to be things like treating a Tory to some tar and feathers, or burning his barn. [Tory meaning loyalist, not the British political party] Americans were shocked utterly by the rapes and the looting at gunpoint that came with European troops. Imagine some prissy little Sociology professor telling you the Continentals were just a bunch of racists and war criminals!

This new war was imposed on us at 9/11. And the invasion of Iraq was debated and approved by Congress. Our country is now at war! It is wrong to now assume an attitude of distance. Of remoteness. Of, "this icky war is something the cat dragged in. It has nothing to do with me." Mr Kennedy, as an American citizen, should be with our soldiers in spirit. Sandstorms in Iraq should chafe his skin. On a hot day he should be thinking about our guys wearing body armor at 120 degrees. His first reaction should have been, "If it will save our soldiers we should torture a bunch more of those scumbags!" Then he should have had second thoughts, and said to himself, "No, that's not us. That's not what we are all about. We shouldn't do it even if it saves some of our lives. And the responsibility is mine, as a US citizen, and I think it's what our guys would really want."

That's how an American reacts. Mr Kennedy's words are wrong because they reek of distance. Of lofty disdain for ordinary soldiers and their problems. It was something the Mayor of Paris might be expected to say.

I recently had a long comments-debate about Abu Ghraib here, with Sgt Stryker. We disagreed, but I was never offended. He's one of us, he's criticizing from inside. Not looking down at our people like they were bugs.

(The short answer: He's a Tory. He should be tarred-and-feathered.)

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman...--Tom Paine

Posted by John Weidner at May 12, 2004 5:54 PM
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