Wednesday, May 11, 2005

They could slander your name, they could brand you with shame

Some observations in parallel: BoingBoing ponders the outcome of last November's manufactured notoriety of and lefty outrage over the Fallujah mosque shooting, captured on tape by embedded reporter Kevin Sites. Sites has made the complete, unedited video available for viewing online. During the discussion with NPR's Chadwick, Sites said that while releasing only an edited version of the tape seemed at the time like the most responsible thing to do, given the heated political context -- he now questions that decision. Should media second-guess the public's ability to handle the whole truth? Would the additional detail have provided context that might have changed the way the public understood the incident? "Second-guess the public's ability to handle the whole truth?" What I'm hearing here is regret that the Marine in question wasn't sufficiently crucified by the media, just for properly doing his job. In a war zone, playing dead isn't surrendering. But that doesn't matter if there's a chance to bag another trophy in the form of a disgraced soldier, to unjustly gnaw away at the credibility of American forces with specious accusations, right? You can almost taste the writer's longing to force a "proper" understanding on the public. The Marine's been cleared of wrongdoing; to assume that he wouldn't have been if "additional detail" was available is to profoundly insult the intelligence of the public, to say nothing of the blatant spin shown. Meanwhile, in Canada, Peter Worthington of the Toronto Sun questions another attempt to tar a nation's entire military forces as reckless abusers and sadists: Beware the rage of aging war veterans! Cliff Chadderton, as the champion of Canada's veterans, has written a restrained but pointed letter to Heritage Minister Liza Frulla, asking ("demanding," really) an investigation into why money donated for the new Canadian War Museum was used to buy the controversial painting by Toronto artist Gertrude Kearns. "In accordance with museum policy, the Canadian War Museum is to accept only donated exhibits," says Chadderton, who chairs the 51-member National Council of Veteran Associations (NCVA) and speaks for most of those who've been to war. Chadderton's clout is considerable, and his disgust and indignation not something to casually dismiss or ignore. So how come the CWM decided to buy a three-metre painting (copied from a photograph) of Master Cpl. Clayton Matchee of the disbanded Canadian Airborne Regiment choking a young and bloodied Somali prisoner with a baton? The painting is titled Without Conscience. Does this reflect the ethos of "ordinary" Canadians who served and sacrificed in wars, as the museum's mandate declares? It seems, oddly enough, that the decision to buy and showcase the painting was made without consulting the museum's advisory council, on which not a few actual veterans sit. I wonder why their opinions might have been bypassed? There will always be a few bad apples in any organization, civilian or military, and incidents like that of the Airborne Regiment or the sadists at Abu Ghraib need to forcefully be dealt with; we're better than that behaviour, and must necessarily purge the tiny minority who would tarnish our respective country's honour with their actions. But they are a minority. Some, however, would be downright gleeful to seize upon isolated incidents of these disgusting few to shame and condemn thousands and thousands of honourably serving men and women, taking them down by any means necessary - and, sadly, in their rage against recent wars, such bureaucratic and media elites are becoming more obvious in their figurative bloodlust.

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