OxBlog

Monday, July 31, 2006

# Posted 12:16 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PATRIOTISM HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. NOTHING! This is from the cover story in this week's Outlook section, by a correspondent returned from Iraq:

I was on a nine-month assignment as an embedded reporter in Iraq, spending much of my time with grunts like [Private Green] -- mostly young (and immature) small-town kids who sign up for a job as killers, lured by some gut-level desire for excitement and adventure.
Well, I guess it's good we've got all of our killers in the armed forces, so we can export them to other countries.

Anyhow, the whole story is very much worth reading, because Private Green is Steven Green, now accused of raping a 14-year old Iraqi girl, then murdering both her and her family. (Not to be confused with the other Stephen Green.)

Andrew Tilghman, the author of the Outlook cover story, recounts a series of conversations he had with Private Green a number of weeks before the killing took place. Tilghman describes one conversation as follows:

"I shot a guy who wouldn't stop when we were out at a traffic checkpoint and it was like nothing," [Green] went on. "Over here, killing people is like squashing an ant. I mean, you kill somebody and it's like 'All right, let's go get some pizza.' "

At the time, the soldier's matter-of-fact manner struck me chiefly as a rare example of honesty. I was on a nine-month assignment as an embedded reporter in Iraq, spending much of my time with grunts like him -- mostly young (and immature) small-town kids who sign up for a job as killers, lured by some gut-level desire for excitement and adventure.

This was not the first group I had run into that was full of young men who shared a dark sense of humor and were clearly desensitized to death. I thought this soldier was just one of the exceptions who wasn't afraid to say what he really thought, a frank and reflective kid, a sort of Holden Caulfield in a war zone.

That last observation seems to say a lot about what Tilghman expects from our soldiers. From his perspective, the vicious words of an [alleged] murderer seemed to reflect the hidden truth about America's military.

What strikes me as a bit unusual, however, is that Tilghman was a correspondent for Stars & Stripes, the US military paper. You think he'd have a more nuanced perspective regarding the men and women who serve in our military.

Now, a fair question to ask is why I am writing this post about Tilghman, and not about Green. What should get my attention is a horrific crime that seems to have been committed by an American soldier. Instead, I have written about the supposed bias of yet another journalist.

If you've read this blog for a while, you know that I favor the harshest justice for those who commit such crimes, as well as full accountability for any commanding officers who made them possible.

I want to know more about such crimes and have no reservations about their being front-page news. But I want substantive analysis, not more of the same coverage clouded by pointless cliches.
(14) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
As I read through the article I got the distinct impression the the author was implying that this was the norm.

130,000 in Iraq and this journalist finds the one already dismissed from the army and accused of rape and murder in Iraq.

The layout in the Post gave the story top billing.
 
Frankly, Mr. Tilghman's expectations may in some slight way have contributed to the rape and murder. Private Green sounds like a real psychopath. I know plenty of people and friends who serve, and none of them are like that. If Mr. Tilghman hadn't assumed that all soldiers were total psychopaths and that the others were just less honest than Private Green, perhaps something could have been done.

But probably not. Psychopaths are an issue, and it's true that they can do more damage in the military than holding other sorts of jobs. But I still worry about how that reporter seems to think such viciousness is a sign of being "frank and reflective."
 
This sort of media framing is lame (and old) enough to have been satirized by the Simpsons in 1994.

Kent Brockman voice-over:
"Tonight, on 'Eye on Springfield': just miles from your doorstep, hundreds of men are given weapons and trained to kill. The government calls it the "army", but a more alarmist name would be -- "The Killbot Factory."
 
David: A fair question to ask is why you're not posting an article about Qana, in my opinion.
 
Anon, a fair response would be that he's only posted 4 times in the past five days and even if he shares your interests (which he need not) he doesn't work according to your schedule.

In my opinion.
 
Actually, the odd thing aboutthis post is that, coming up against a fact that should give the writer pause -- the eight months experience of Tillighman in Iraq, his interviews with more soldiers than I imagine anybody on this site has ever met -- he simply dismisses this experience because it doesn't correspond to his prejudice. Interesting.
 
No, Roger, like Davod said, this article tries to pass off as representative a guy who we know is aberrent, as he has been discharged and is under criminal investigation. Tillighman may have interviewed every soldier in Iraq, but he only quoted this one guy - and Tillighman dismissed the fact that the none of the others talked like him because the rest of them didn't fit his prejudice.
 

Frankly, Mr. Tilghman's expectations may in some slight way have contributed to the rape and murder. Private Green sounds like a real psychopath. I know plenty of people and friends who serve, and none of them are like that. If Mr. Tilghman hadn't assumed that all soldiers were total psychopaths and that the others were just less honest than Private Green, perhaps something could have been done.


Yes, and in that case doubtless the John Thackers of the world would be on his case claiming that he was taking the words of a young soldier out of context.

Something david doesn't mention is how the reporter describes the brutal strain and combat stress of the camp.
 
Actually, Tilghman emphasized several times how much unlike other soldiers Green was. He emphasized, for instance, that he was the only soldier in the camp to visit Iraq soldiers unofficially. He emphasizes that no other soldier was quite that blunt. He emphasizes that he thinks Green was speaking to him because Green was seeking an emotional outlet. And he also emphasizes that he heard similar rhetoric about killing, though not as over the top. He had written other stories about other soldiers he'd interviewed. If he is to be criticized, it is, perhaps, for covering up -- for not writing about soldiers like Green earlier, for not telling us about the effects of demoralization in the ranks in Iraq. Unfortunately, if he did, he would be attacked for stabbing the war effort in the back. The people who really stab it in the back, of course, are the one's who have abandoned any pretence of intellectual integrity and operate as yeah sayers and cheerleaders, sounding much like the official soviet intelligentsia about Afghanistan.

Almost everything David said is contradicted by the article itself. Which makes me suspect that, indeed, vide his last sentence, he doesn't want to find out about soldiers like Green, he simply wants to rack up trivial political points.
 
Tilghman does not say one word about hearing any rhetoric about killing from anybody besides Green. He says other soldiers were desensitized to death, which you could say about any ER doctor in the country. He doesn't have any quotes from anyone else who shares Green's monstrous indifference to human life, but he's comfortable implying other soldiers do feel the same but aren't honest enough to say so.

But for his casual slurs against the military in general, this would have been a compelling story about a writer's failure to do anything when confronted with a potentially dangerous interview subject. It could also have been a expose on Army recruiting that they were willing to let that guy in the service. 9Newsweek did a good job with that angle. I support the military, and I want to know when parts of it don't work so they can be fixed. It's really hard to tell what parts are broken when I'm learning about the organization from people who think the whole thing is irredeemable.
 
Dear me, what is the point of this discussion, exactly?
 
An Aussie so-called journalist just resigned his position when he found he'd been taken in by a hoax named Jesse McPhee. His comment was that he believed because he wanted to believe.

Wonder what Tilghman would say if he got a belt of sodium pentothal in his coffee.

See details at Tim Blair.
 
Oops. Jesse MacBeth.
 
Look everyone, the story wrote itself.
 
Post a Comment


Home