William Arkin's Harsh Critique of U.S. Military Personnel

William Arkin's Harsh Critique of U.S. Military Personnel

This is a discussion on William Arkin's Harsh Critique of U.S. Military Personnel within the Law Enforcement, Military & Homeland Security Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Needless to say, I am angry....and I'm sure most you will be too, since in this "gentleman's" extremely biased opinion, we servicemen/women are "mercenaries," that ...

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    William Arkin's Harsh Critique of U.S. Military Personnel

    Needless to say, I am angry....and I'm sure most you will be too, since in this "gentleman's" extremely biased opinion, we servicemen/women are "mercenaries," that we are being "indulged" by the public (he needs to remember who it is that is bloody going off to these wars and which segment suffers the most manning the homefront while we do what we do!!!), and that my family was being "taken care of" by the public at large while I was gone doing my various military tours of duty including a deployment to Iraq (and another forthcoming...or somewhere in the AOR)

    Anyhow, read on....but be warned, this will likely anger a good many of you.


    William M. Arkin on National and Homeland Security

    The Troops Also Need to Support the American People

    Editor's Note: More than 900 comments have been posted to this entry -- making the page too long for some computers to download and display quickly and properly. We're therefore allowing no new comments to be added to the page. Please feel free to add any comments you might have on the topic of this entry to later posts by William Arkin on the same topic, including "A Note to My Readers on Supporting the Troops".


    I've been mulling over an NBC Nightly News report from Iraq last Friday in which a number of soldiers expressed frustration with opposition to war in the United States.

    I'm sure the soldiers were expressing a majority opinion common amongst the ranks - that's why it is news - and I'm also sure no one in the military leadership or the administration put the soldiers up to expressing their views, nor steered NBC reporter Richard Engel to the story.

    I'm all for everyone expressing their opinion, even those who wear the uniform of the United States Army. But I also hope that military commanders took the soldiers aside after the story and explained to them why it wasn't for them to disapprove of the American people.

    Friday's NBC Nightly News included a story from my colleague and friend Richard Engel, who was embedded with an active duty Army infantry battalion from Fort Lewis, Washington.

    Engel relayed how "troops here say they are increasingly frustrated by American criticism of the war. Many take it personally, believing it is also criticism of what they've been fighting for."

    First up was 21 year old junior enlisted man Tyler Johnson, whom Engel said was frustrated about war skepticism and thinks that critics "should come over and see what it's like firsthand before criticizing."

    "You may support or say we support the troops, but, so you're not supporting what they do, what they're here sweating for, what we bleed for, what we die for. It just don't make sense to me," Johnson said.

    Next up was Staff Sergeant Manuel Sahagun, who is on his second tour in Iraq. He complained that "one thing I don't like is when people back home say they support the troops, but they don't support the war. If they're going to support us, support us all the way."

    Next was Specialist Peter Manna: "If they don't think we're doing a good job, everything that we've done here is all in vain," he said.

    These soldiers should be grateful that the American public, which by all polls overwhelmingly disapproves of the Iraq war and the President's handling of it, do still offer their support to them, and their respect.

    Through every Abu Ghraib and Haditha, through every rape and murder, the American public has indulged those in uniform, accepting that the incidents were the product of bad apples or even of some administration or command order.

    Sure, it is the junior enlisted men who go to jail. But even at anti-war protests, the focus is firmly on the White House and the policy. We don't see very many "baby killer" epithets being thrown around these days, no one in uniform is being spit upon.

    So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society?
    "Obscene amenties?" What obscene amenties? Did I stand in the wrong line when I caught my flight into Iraq? By the way, I recall my elderly parents taking care of my boys when I was deployed each and every time while in the ANG. I certainly don't recall anyone else taking care of them, so I wonder who is this "we" he talks about! Further, anyone familiar with the "vast" medical care system known as CHAMPUS knows full well the frustrations of having to deal with that and DEERS.

    I can imagine some post-9/11 moment, when the American people say enough already with the wars against terrorism and those in the national security establishment feel these same frustrations. In my little parable, those in leadership positions shake their heads that the people don't get it, that they don't understand that the threat from terrorism, while difficult to defeat, demands commitment and sacrifice and is very real because it is so shadowy, that the very survival of the United States is at stake. Those Hoovers and Nixons will use these kids in uniform as their soldiers. If it weren't about the United States, I'd say the story would end with a military coup where those in the know, and those with fire in their bellies, would save the nation from the people.

    But it is the United States, and the recent NBC report is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary - oops sorry, volunteer - force that thinks it is doing the dirty work.
    This comment just floors me given that a mercenary is motivated by personal gain and has no allegiance to his/her employer beyond whatever personal gain motivated them to seek work as a mercenary.

    The notion of dirty work is that, like laundry, it is something that has to be done but no one else wants to do it. But Iraq is not dirty work: it is not some necessary endeavor; the people just don't believe that anymore.

    I'll accept that the soldiers, in order to soldier on, have to believe that they are manning the parapet, and that's where their frustrations come in. I'll accept as well that they are young and naïve and are frustrated with their own lack of progress and the never changing situation in Iraq. Cut off from society and constantly told that everyone supports them, no wonder the debate back home confuses them.

    America needs to ponder what it is we really owe those in uniform. I don't believe America needs a draft though I imagine we'd be having a different discussion if we had one.

    By William M. Arkin*| January 30, 2007; 8:51 AM ET
    Friends....please note that this has NOTHING to do with CCW. As such, you, my fellow mods, please can this thread as you see fit....I had to get this off my very peeved chest.
    Last edited by srfl; February 5th, 2007 at 11:57 PM.
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    I am too angry for words, as well. I think that man may need a visit over in Iraq himself....
    Coimhéad fearg fhear na foighde; Beware the anger of a patient man.

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    I must be getting numb. I've got Viet Nam ribbons and Army service decals plastered all over my car windows along with my Hanoi Jane Urinal Targets while I do my job driving around in occupied San Francisco. The cowards do their little drive-by insults once in a while but they always leave themselves room to run. I wouldn't waste my time on scum like this, but I keep that stuff on my car to test the waters and see if they are gaining any confidence. I'm right in the middle of Hell and believe me, the devil is a PUNK. I certainly wouldn't waste any ammo on them at today's prices. This guy Arkin would be just another ratboy here in SF. Don't let him get you upset. Osama want's to turn HIS kids into body parts FIRST. Pathetic wimps like this don't even understand that people like us wore the Uniform of The United States FOR THEM, not the GOVERNMENT!
    Last edited by LegalMonkey; February 6th, 2007 at 01:02 AM.

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    Fox News...

    Trapped this 'excuse' for a writer in a parking lot...and he was a coward...couldn't even make a comment...ran to get into his car...a TRUE jerk!

    Proverbs 27:12 says: “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”

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    I wish he was a piñata.
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    i'm really not upset about this... and i read it several times to make sure. i've been "over there" twice (101st) and any soldier with a good head on their shoulders would know, even if the majority don't support the war (i honestly don't anymore) that people do care for the soldiers, not necessarily the war.. I've had people come up to me in walmart and ask if they could give me a hug because my uniform made it obvious i just came back. others have offered to buy me drinks and even pay for my whole meal! yes, the reporter is full of it and treated the soldier like they were stupid, and he can.... my ...! my leadership of officers and NCO's played the game... they played it right, but also did it to get home to their families just like the average private. if you ask me (and i've seen it before) put a camera in a soldiers face and things get "so righteous". please don't take this out of context, but we knew/know what's real. we see through the empty headed press, that is really only thinking of what he wants for lunch. we are overwhelmed by the USO and care packages that support groups and families send us, that no media d.....bag can defer our way of thinking. all in all, people care about people, and that's all a soldier needs to hear. ...on a lighter note, to the USO, thanks, but we have plenty of toothpaste. :)
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    I served to defend his right and others to free speach. I don't have to agree with what is said. I do see a difference in how the military is treated now in comparison to the late sisties and early seventies.

    I feel that If they don't support the war and what the soldiers are doing then they don't support the troops. It seems to me, the majority of the vocal people are anti American in what they say.
    If they don't like it here they should move on. I wonder what all the anti war people would say if the war moved here and the military went on strike and wouldn't protect them.

    Rant off.

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    Quote Originally Posted by raevan View Post

    I feel that If they don't support the war and what the soldiers are doing then they don't support the troops.

    Rant off.
    That's a ridiculous statement. My dad was a Marine in Vietnam, my brother is a Marine in Fallujah, and I got a medical discharge from the military. None of us support the war. In fact, I know more military folks that dont then do, and friends from that very same Stryker brigade that oppose our being there. To a man, all of my dad's friends from the Vietnam era also oppose it, and they called it from the beginning, predicting our current situation. It's not either/or....you can very well support the troops without supporting the war. Our troops are so incredible it defies words....what they have done with what they've been given under idiotic leadership is simply amazing.

    Bush will go down in history as the biggest voter mistake in US history, and this war and specifically the way it is being run is a big reason why. One can recognize that while loving the troops.

    As far as the writer, I think it's a gross mischaracterization about how much they get out of the situation. Anyone who has dealt with Tricare or DFAS or any of the other components knows they work hard for what they get. But he wasnt being anti-troop, not in the least. He was disagreeing with the sentiment expressed by the troops, which I also disagree with.
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    Here is his reply to the 100's of comments left on his blog.

    William M. Arkin on National and Homeland Security
    A Note to My Readers on Supporting the Troops

    I knew when I used the word "mercenary" in my Tuesday column that I was being highly inflammatory.

    NBC News ran a piece in which enlisted soldiers in Iraq expressed frustration about waning American support.

    I intentionally chose to criticize the military and used the word to incite and call into question their presumption that the public had a duty to support them. The public has duties, but not to the American military.

    So I committed blasphemy, and for this seeming lack of respect and appreciation for individuals in uniform, I have been roundly criticized and condemned.

    Mercenary, of course, is an insult and pejorative, and it does not accurately describe the condition of the American soldier today. I sincerely apologize to anyone in the military who took my words literally.

    Almost every day, we can hear or read someone in uniform saying that they are just doing a "job." We don't necessarily take this to literally mean that they are only in it for the work.

    Of course those who choose to wear the uniform do so because they are patriots and because they feel compelled to take up arms to defend the nation. What we take from their self-deprecating description that they are only doing their job is that they are not glory seeking, and that in order to make war and put themselves in the unnatural position of risking their lives and killing others, they have to focus on their profession, to do what they have been trained to do, to put aside the seeming inhumanity, to just "soldier on."

    When we in society make war and consent to war, we accept the righteousness of those who fight on our behalf with the knowledge that they are a part of an organized and disciplined military force that operates lawfully and chivalrously. We also accept that they kill only as a last resort, and that they are engaged in a just endeavor that in its existence and though their conduct presents the prospect of restoring peaceful relations once the enemy has been defeated.

    In the 30 years that we've had an all-volunteer force, this is the first war we've had where the justness of the cause is questionable and where we are losing and still could "lose."

    Those in uniform who think about and speak out about this predicament are rightly frustrated and angry. Many seem to find some solace in blaming the media or anti-war "leftists" or the Democratic Party or the liberals, or even an ungrateful or insufficiently martial American public.

    But if those in the military are now going to argue that we are losing in Iraq because the military has lacked for Ssomething, then the absence of such support should be placed at the feet of the Bush administration, Rumsfeld and company, and a Republican Congress -- not on the shoulders of the American public, who have been nothing but supportive, even those who have opposed the war.

    Finally, the military as an institution needs to ask itself what role it plays in where we are today in Iraq. One of the reasons that the military is held in such high regard in our society is that we love and expect the honesty and toughness and professionalism of those in uniform. We expect the generals to know what they need and to speak forthrightly and without hesitation. We expect politicians and spinners to deflect responsibility and blame -- not the military.

    When I hear soldiers and war supporters expressing their frustrations about the American public or the news media, something doesn't quite seem right -- even when the soldiers and war supporters aren't talking about me. I know that those in uniform would like to bring the war to an honorable conclusion, but are they blaming those who are against the war and the news media for having tied their hands under a Bush administration which is certainly the most warrior-oriented in the past 20 years? Is there no space for respectful acceptance of the possibility that people who also love the nation and care about our security think that the country is wasting national treasure - lives and money - on an unwinnable cause?

    In the middle of all of this are the troops, the pawns in political battles at home as much as they are on the real battlefield. We unquestioningly "support" these troops for the very reasons that they are pawns. We give them what we can to be successful, and we have a contract with them, because they are our sons and daughters and a part of us, not to place them in an impossible spot.

    In our instant and globally wired world, these very men and women are additionally burdened by their access to our debates and words. This is a difficulty of our modern world, but I completely reject the notion though that we undermine them or support the enemy by debating at home.

    I also reiterate my core point, which is that military attitudes should not serve as a censor of the civilian debate at home, either literally or through intimidation.

    In the end, it is Specialist Tyler Johnson who deserves a thoughtful and respectful answer, and in my original piece, I failed to give him one.

    Spec. Johnson said "you may support or say we support the troops, so you're not supporting what they do, what they're here sweating for, what we bleed for, what we die for. It just don't make sense to me."

    Spec. Johnson, everyone supports the troops. But if supporting the troops comes to mean that we cannot raise questions about the military, about how wars are being fought in our name, that we cannot criticize those in uniform, can't protest, can't write, can't demand better, then what kind of country do we have?

    I know you are out there every day risking your life, and for that I am grateful. But I just can't stand by and do nothing when I can see that your risk is no longer being matched by a commitment or a plan or the prospect for victory or a just ending. I can't be silent when I can also see that you are a pawn in a Washington political tug-of-war that has become more about the Bush legacy and future power here at home than about Iraq.

    Spec. Johnson, I also firmly believe that you are wrong if you believe that Iraq represents the difference between freedom and slavery for all of us in the future. I understand, and respect, that you think it. I understand, and respect, that that's what keeps you going. I'm just asking you to understand that different people have different views of the world, and that those views don't mean that they are un-American, anti-American, or contemptuous of the military.

    By William M. Arkin | February 1, 2007; 5:31 PM ET | Category: Iraq
    Previous: The Arrogant and Intolerant Speak Out |
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    My daughter is now safely back in Germany after being in the sandbox......her husband is STILL there (second tour for him). I know what it's like to have a family members involved in this war.

    However, this clown doesn't! He, along with all his buddies who are 'anti-war...but we support the troops' are sitting safe at home behind their computers typing this drivel!

    They have not made ONE sacrifice for this war. It hasn't cost them ANYTHING! No money, time or BLOOD!

    Their taxes have gone down, so NO more of their money has gone to pay for it. (these are the same clowns who complained about Bush's tax cuts...)
    ALL of their liberal social programs are still being funded. (stupid stuff like...National Endowment for the Arts)
    They don't have to deal with any rationing (like during WW2).
    They can still drive their cars to work. (even if it is a hybrid)
    They can still buy groceries cheaply. (or go to their favorite French restaurant)
    Still have heat for their homes (even though they clamber about 'global warming'.)
    They can go about their daily lives without being attacked by terrorists with suicide vests, car bombs or IEDs.(unlike our young men & women in harm's way)
    AND they still have the freedom to ***** about it! (Thanks to the men & women who go into harms way.)

    All of these 'anti-war...but we support the troops' goof-balls, with the rare exception of Cindy Sheehan, haven't given, sacrificed or LOST ANYTHING!

    It's not costing them anything in real terms, but they still want to complain about how much they are against it, when they don't have ANYTHING at stake.

    I wish they would just stick their heads back in sand or some other orifice & let's get this accomplished successfully.

    Just for a moment, think about how this war would be going if:

    All the 'anti-war, but we support the troops' wackos were truly supporting this effort, that everybody here at home was for getting the war WON! If the MSM (Main Stream Media) was supporting this effort, if we were united like after 9/11...........................

    I think we would be in a lot better position in Iraq & in the rest of the world.

    (...end of rant.)
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    Not going to risk self flagellation by writing what I really think!

    Makes me think somehow of the aging nurse who never had kids - pontificating to actual Moms about what they should and shouldn't do and think! Like she knows it all!
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    Sounds like Arkin is trying to back pattle. This is the time our troops need our support. They don't need some one like Jane Fonda and Arkin to critize their efforts.

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    I was appalled by the fellow's first statement. I was surprised by and impressed with his follow-up. Support for or opposition to an administration policy decision does not equate to support or non-support of those whose duty requires them to implement it.

    Had the administration not botched the job from the outset, there would still be the same level of policy support from the mainstream media and the public.
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