November 11, 2009
Victims, Villains, and Heroes
American soldiers find themselves once again caught in the inhumane crossfire of the media. Since the Vietnam War, the media has designated soldiers as falling into one of two unfortunate categories: victim or villain. The current struggle to make meaning out of the Hasan Nidal terror attack at Fort Hood is indicative of the immoral rhetorical frame created by the national punditry. Even the president has entered the fray, departing from his rash indictment of the Cambridge police officer to urge caution in judging Nidal's actions.
For NPR and related "journalistic" outlets, Nidal is a "victim" of the trauma associated with war. Though he had never been deployed, as a psychologist he witnessed the trauma of combat soldiers, which he found "too much to bear." Consequently, because of America's "warmongering character," psychologist soldier Nidal Hasan "snapped" and fired more than a hundred rounds at Fort Hood, killing a dozen American soldiers and wounding dozens more.
The careful consideration of Nidal's victimhood stands in sharp contrast to the treatment of American soldiers at Haditha denounced as cold-blooded killers by a member of the United States Congress. A U.S. Senator was willing to refer to American soldier interrogators at Guantanamo as comparable to Pol Pot and Hitler.
What American soldiers are not allowed to be is heroes. The moral consequence of this propaganda war fought by "journalists" is increased deaths of our soldiers at home and abroad. With attacks on our bases here at home and hundreds of attacks overseas, the world has been conditioned to believe that American soldiers do not enter the world to protect the innocent but to kill them.
In reality, from Kosovo to Kuwait and Indonesia to Pakistan, no military force does more to protect innocent Muslims than the American army. The refusal to provide a public space for this argument has incited a global contempt for the American soldier, which, if applied to any other group, would be termed a "hate crime." American soldier medics even work to save the lives of those who seek to kill them -- like Hasan and the suicide-bombers of Baghdad. Even as these monsters are strapped to gurneys hurling epithets, American soldiers work to extract the shrapnel of the suicide-bombs that killed so many other innocent Muslims but by some freak act of nature spared the life of the bomber.
The careful, concerted refusal of our media to allow a candid discussion of how Saddam Hussein delighted in dropping weapons of mass destruction on Muslims in northern Iraq, or the brutal slaughter of Muslim women by the Taliban in Afghanistan, allows the global propaganda against humanity's heroes to rebound in echo-chambers of hate. Saddam referred to his WMD for Kurds as "human insecticide," and using it was a powerful act of eliminationism that killed more than 300,000 Kurds. The lack of this vital context deprives American soldiers of the heroic stature they deserve in saving Muslims from such inhumanity.
And so the mythic tale of the American soldier as aggressor continues without interruption. The American soldier is a ruthless murderer like the ones portrayed in "The Valley of the Wolves," the global cinema blockbuster released by our "ally," Turkey. American movie stars Gary Busey and Billy Zane were happy to take their thirty pieces of silver to betray their freedom-creating brethren as craven, bloodlusting monsters. Millions watched the film and drank in its antisemitic and anti-American poison so their lust for dead American soldiers could be better-fed.
The deliberate actions of Nidal were not those of a madman or a solitary freak. They were the byproduct of a concerted six-year misrepresentation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The murder of American soldiers came in response to these consistently inaccurate depictions of our soldiers as merciless killers of innocent Muslims. Those misrepresentations continue today, largely unabated.
But the American soldiers and their human allies are prepared to stand against this propaganda onslaught that fires away at light speed. Like Kimberly Munley standing against Nidal Hasan, the bullets pierced her thighs and wrist, but she continued to fire against a man convinced that the death of American soldiers was his greatest moral service. As a police officer and former soldier, Munley recognized the evil threat and immediately risked her own life to save the innocent. She did this because this is what an American soldier truly is -- a hero.
Ben Voth is an associate professor of Communication and Director of Debate and Speech at Southern Methodist University.