For Liberals, Soldiers are Victims

Not surprisingly, something went unnoticed in the establishment media's coverage of Barack Obama's latest gaffe. What got the play was that Senator Obama had a great-uncle, not an uncle, who was involved, in some way or another, in the liberation of Buchenwald, not Auschwitz.  Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army.

What didn't get much, if any, play was the Illinoisan's observation that his now great-uncle was, presumably, so traumatized by the experience of liberating a death camp that, when he returned stateside:

"...he just went up into the attic and he didn't leave the house for six months, right.  Now obviously something had really affected him deeply but at that time there just weren't the kinds of facilities to help somebody work through that kind of pain."

What insight does Senator Obama's words give us about his and the liberal mindset?  It gives us this: that war is largely about injury to our fighting men and women, not just in body, but in mind and soul.  Senator Obama's great-uncle was a shattered man, so shattered that he holed-up in his family's attic for a half a year.  And that if only the facilities were available, his great-uncle would have found proper treatment for his psychic and emotional wounds. 

It is curious that Senator Obama would have had the need to add this detail.  Memorial Day is about celebrating the triumphs of our men and women in uniform, living or dead.  And, yes, it is certainly about remembrance of their sacrifices, and about mourning, though that mourning is vivified with the knowledge that their deaths were not in vain; that their sacrifices served noble ends, and that those ends -- the advancement or preservation of freedom - gave their sacrifices great worth and meaning. 

For liberals, war is a no-win proposition.  Since Vietnam, a compromised and venal United States engages in conflicts with enemies -- if they can be called that -- who are, at the very least, the nation's moral equivalents or, perhaps, like the Communist North Vietnamese, its superiors.  Soldiers, when not despised by liberals (again, see Vietnam) are pitied as dupes, under-educated and unemployable youths who sought paychecks in the military.

And the consequences for these youths being duped into military service?  Mental and emotional illness, drug and alcohol addiction, rage and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  In fact, the latter is practically a rite of passage for men and women exiting the military, or so seems the liberal belief.      

Some of the best evidence for liberal thinking about military service and its effects is found in popular culture; specifically, the movies, where liberal perspectives dominate. 

Post Vietnam War movies are chockfull of crazies and the traumatized.  Apocalypse Now featured a gonzo Colonel Kurtz (played by the bizarre Marlon Brando) being pursued by a troubled Captain Willard (played by Martin Sheen).  The Deer Hunter featured a tightly-wound and anger-driven Michael (Robert De Niro) whose final - personal - mission in Vietnam is to rescue his friend, the AWOL and zombie-like Nick (Christopher Walken), from the games of Russian Roulette he indulges because he doesn't give a damn if he lives or dies.

The list can go on.  Coming Home, with Jon Voight and Jane Fonda.  Voight is a paralyzed Vietnam vet badly in need of a catharsis, which "Hanoi Jane" Fonda helps facilitate.  Born on the Fourth of July has Tom Cruise playing yet another paralyzed Vietnam Vet, Ron Kovic, whose trauma and bitterness turns him into a full-fledge antiwar activist.  In Full Metal Jacket, the first half of the movie is devoted to watching a simple, if unstable, Private Pyle (Vincent D'Onofrio) ground down by the merciless Drill Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey).  Private Pyle finally shoots himself, in the latrine, no less.  But first, he dispatches Sergeant Hartman -- in the latrine.

And there is a growing list of Iraq War films depicting soldiers as either coldblooded killers (Battle for Haditha) or broken (In the Valley of Elah).  It seems there are no new storylines in Hollywood.  Neither movie, to the credit of the paying public, has fared well at the box office.   

Today, the unpopularity of the Iraq War hasn't spilled over onto the nation's soldiers and vets.  However unfavorably the war is viewed by many Americans, fighting men and women are generally esteemed.  Returning soldiers are met with gratitude and as heroes.  Liberal politicians may try to deprecate General Petraeus, but they have the good sense not to mess with GI Joe or Jane. 

Instead, as reflected in Senator Obama's comment about a great-uncle who fought in a long-ago war, liberals see soldiers as victims, who need access to "facilities" to cope with the inevitable traumas that result from the unspeakable horrors of war.  It is surprising that Senator Obama didn't tack onto his remarks a proposal for additional hundreds of millions dollars for counseling and psychiatric care for vets.  One senses that's where the Senator wanted to go, and still may. 

Is combat a trauma?  A firefight, with bullets flying and bombs falling, isn't quite like checking into the office at nine a.m.  Are most soldiers traumatized by their combat experiences?  No, most are not.  Most Vietnam vets have gone onto live normal and productive lives.  Most Iraq vets will do the same.  Some will not, and most certainly, the facilities, as Senator Obama termed it, need to be available to make them whole again. 

By virtually all accounts, combat is a searing experience, a life-altering experience.  The soldier who has gone through that crucible has a greater appreciation for the value and fleetingness of life and the suddenness of death.  His bonds to his comrades, living or dead, are greater still.  And afterward, upon consideration, he knows that he's given his fullest measure to his country.
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