My first column for the Miami Herald (then as a guest columnist) was published on April 3, 2003. The subject: the invasion of Iraq. I was working at an NBC affiliate at the time, and needless to say, my boss on the web desk was not amused, particularly since the paper inadvertently included my job title (web news editor) and the station website in my byline.
At the time I wrote the column, almost the entire media consensus, and I mean nationally, not just in the local news world, was strongly supportive of the idea of invading Iraq. And the Bush administration had done a thorough job of fusing Iraq and 9/11 in the public’s mind. The vast majority of Americans favored the war (A March 2003 Gallup poll (we’ll just assume they were more reliable back then) found that 72 percent of Americans supported the invasion, and George W. Bush enjoyed a 71 percent approval rating.) I was not one of them. That’s not a brag, but I have to say that never supporting the idea of invading Iraq is one of the things I’m most proud of. This despite my strong love and respect for the military. A clip from the column, which can no longer be found on the Herald server but was republished by CommonDreams.org, is below. Full column after the jump.
I am about the same age as Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson, who is at the upper end of the age range of Americans fighting in Iraq. Johnson was taken prisoner by Iraqis when she and her convoy took a wrong turn on the road to Baghdad.
I don’t pretend to speak for everybody my age but do know that most of us are ambivalent about this war. Even the hard-core Republicans I know are more fiercely supportive of President Bush than they are coherent or persuasive in explaining why our soldiers and Marines have been sent to fight and die thousands of miles away.
Weapons of mass destruction? Haven’t seen ‘em. To stop Iraq from getting nukes? Two words: forged documents. Two more: North Korea. Preventing another Sept. 11? Go after Osama bin Laden. Avenging the Kurds? 20 years too late. Liberating the Iraqi people? They are not cooperating. Enforcing U.N. resolutions? Give me a break.
Many of us are still shaken from Sept. 11, but there is no proof that Saddam Hussein was involved in it. Despite Bush’s mantra — ”Saddam is an evil man who gassed his own people and who must be disarmed for the sake of peace” — many of us don’t think that it’s worth the lives of our soldiers to topple the Iraqi dictator.
Americans like me respect the military, because unlike those who advocated this war, we tend to know people who joined up — public-school kids who did ROTC in high school and who enlisted for good jobs, pay for college or to get some direction and discipline in life. Conquering the world was definitely not a reason. Even the most anti-war people see our military as dedicated professionals who aren’t at all culpable for the political policies that they are duty-bound to implement.
So what’s the disconnect?
- Maybe it’s the creepy, neoconservative crowd whose decade-long determination to go to war makes the whole exercise look suspect.
- Maybe it’s time to bring back the draft. Unless we all have a friend or family member in the Gulf, Americans have surprisingly little at stake in this war. For many young people, it’s just another TV reality show — great graphics, banging soundtrack and ”embedded” reporters becoming the next superstars. But this reality show is full of real tragedy, real dying and real suffering, on both sides. The question is: Without the prospect of being whisked off to the front lines, how deeply will the generation that grew up on Mortal Kombat feel it?
- Maybe it’s the fact that while a war with potentially dire consequences for the world is raging in Iraq, the United States isn’t on much of a war footing. We’re told to go about our business. We don’t even sweat the orange alerts anymore; they’ve become background noise.
When we get tired of watching the MOABs lighting up Baghdad, we can watch undeployed soldier Scott Grayson belt one out for a chance to get signed by Simon Cowell (the bad Brit to Tony Blair’s good, dutiful one). For all its great coverage at the beginning of the war, MTV hasn’t pre-empted The Real World, and BET is still booty-shaking and bling-blinging for all but 30 minutes a day.
There are no calls for sacrifice, no war bonds or rations (in fact, if we make enough dough, we’re even getting a tax cut) and no exhortations from our leaders to get involved. The people most inclined to get involved — on the anti-war side — are being told to quiet down. Meanwhile, the two major parties are busy dolling out the post-Hussein spoils to their corporate friends — and Specialist Johnson and other young soldiers are still waiting to be rescued.
America is about to produce a whole new generation of grizzled war veterans in their 20s and 30s. This Greatest Generation might turn into the Most Cynical Generation as well.
Full column also reprinted here.
And here is a piece I wrote at NBC 6 about the families of some troops deployed in Iraq.