Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Difference Between a Soldier and Journalist? A Journalist Explains

We are not merely a different species to career soldiers, but also an inferior one. They have taken the oath to flag and country and have sworn to serve, under lawful arms, the cause of democracy. Journalists, on the other hand, have often sworn, usually, under the influence, because they're unable to find a taxi. Simply, journalists know they are a lesser breed, which is why the military so often inspires a Judas-like bipolar syndrome in them, one of both fawning and betrayal.
Kevin Myers Irish Independent Columnist
That is about right, sir!

For context -

General McChrystal was, and remains, a fine soldier and a true patriot. And yet today, his career lies in ruins. Why? Simple. He trusted a reporter.

Now -- apparently unlike some commentators on this matter -- I have read, very closely indeed, the 'Rolling Stone' article by Michael Hastings that brought about General McChrystal's downfall. It is a silly stew of out-of-context remarks and anonymous quotes. It is also glibly wrong, as in an early aside about the US not having any allies in Afghanistan, which is now the "exclusive property of the US".

No allies, eh? Exclusively US, you say? Interesting. What about the 303 British soldiers, three of them Irish, killed in action to date?

What about Private Sophia Bruun (22), the first Danish woman and the 33rd Danish soldier to be killed in the Afghan war? For Denmark's casualty rate is proportionally twice that of the US.

Hastings' story also included a lurid account of a drunken night with the general and his staff at Kitty O'Shea's in Paris. Such capers would be incomprehensible for Barack Obama, whose African blood cannot conceal the fact that, spiritually and culturally, he is just off the Mayflower. Moreover, no gentleman should ever squeal on what happens during down-time, though that is precisely what Hastings did. But what he didn't say was that whatever hour General McChrystal's men caroused to, they were certainly at their desks by 6am, whereas their journalist buddy probably still had another four hours' sleep ahead of him.

Hastings' story also referred to the general's first one-on-one meeting with Obama. It ran: "It was a 10-minute photo-op," said an adviser to McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run this fucking war but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed."

We've all seen President Pilgrim-Father speak. He does lucid, gravitas-filled rhetoric as easy as McDonald's does milkshakes. Alas, the latter also compare with the toughness of the presidential skin.

So those worthless, anonymous words, which were certainly not spoken by the general -- "but he didn't seem very engaged" -- probably fired a Semtex-tipped harpoon between the sixth and seventh ribs of the largely blameless McChrystal's career.

The insanity of bringing a great patriot down because of one really poor, badly researched article has since been compounded by the triumphalist lynch-mob caterwauling of the US East Coast "intelligentsia" (from which filth, angels and ministers of grace defend us).

Thus Maureen Dowd of the 'New York Times', who sneered with toxic inaccuracy: "Military guys are rarely as smart as they think they are and have never gotten over the fact that civilians run the military. Gen Stanley McChrystal and his hard-bitten, smart-aleck aides nuked the president, the vice-president and other top advisers as wimps, losers and clowns in a 'Rolling Stone' profile meant to polish the general's image."

THERE you have it, the essence of the bitter culture war within the US: the supercilious denigration of a patriot-soldier by a well-paid hack, hammering out tabloid prose that I never thought to see in the 'New York Times'. And Dowd is probably oblivious to the fact that those witless, scattershot musings effectively put her on the same side as schoolgirl-killers of the Taliban.

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