On August 19, the New York Times published an op-ed by seven enlisted soldiers critical of the Iraq war. At midnight on August 24, THE WEEKLY STANDARD posted on our website a response by seven Iraq vets. The Times had rejected the vets' response.
The piece carried the straightforward headline "Iraq Vets Respond . . . to the New York Times seven." It was a sober rejoinder to the arguments in the Times op-ed. It suggested the antiwar soldiers' analysis was incomplete and "misguided." The vets emphasized, "We understand the frustration our fellow soldiers feel. All of us were in Iraq before the 'surge' and lament never seeing a coherent, security-based counterinsurgency strategy. In truth, we were only clearing--not holding." But, the vets argued, "We also know what's possible when even small portions of counterinsurgency strategy are applied. . . . It's unfortunate that soldiers in the 82nd Airborne have not yet benefited from the new strategy, but it will ensure that their actions, and those of their fallen brethren, will not have been in vain."
And the vets concluded, "Meanwhile, we applaud our brothers in the 82nd Airborne for their courage under fire, thank them for their commitment to our nation, and pray for the recovery of their injured coauthor."
At 10:21 that morning, Joe Klein of Time posted the following on his blog, under the headline "Heroes Trashed":
Well, I suppose it was inevitable that THE WEEKLY STANDARD would figure out some way to trash the 7 enlisted men from the 82nd Airborne, who wrote the courageous Op-Ed piece about the unreliability of our Iraqi allies in the New York Times last Sunday. At least the piece is written by other Iraq war vets and the tone is respectful . . . although the neocons continue to try to use Anbar, an all-Sunni province, as an avatar of what will happen in the rest of Iraq, which is utter nonsense.
But where on earth are the Democratic politicians on this? Why haven't they embraced the grunts from the 82nd the way the Republicans have embraced the "liberal" Brookings scholars? It's just very frustrating and truly outrageous.
Now Joe Klein prides himself--quite often, in print--on being different from nutty, hysterical, suffering-from-Bush-derangement-syndrome left-wing bloggers. But here he is exhibiting nutty, hysterical, Bush-derangement syndrome himself. After all, how had THE WEEKLY STANDARD "trashed" the seven enlisted men? By publishing a substantive op-ed that called no one's motives into question, that expressed good will to the seven antiwar soldiers--and whose tone Klein himself called "respectful"?
It would be silly to make too much out of one item on a Time blog. But it does suggest that even the respectable elements of the antiwar movement have jumped the shark. Unwilling seriously to debate the choices before us, and the consequences of those choices, antiwar advocates are now down to name-calling.
Meanwhile, a motley crew of antiwar groups, including Iraq Veterans Against The War, CODEPINK, ANSWER, and MoveOn.org, are organizing a week of demonstrations in Washington beginning September 15. The "mobilization" will be kicked off with a "Die-In," sponsored primarily by ANSWER and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). As they explain, "IVAW is asking that participants in the Die-In/Funeral select the name of one of the almost 4,000 soldiers who have been killed in Iraq. You can select a family member, friend or someone from your city, town or state. Please bring a photograph of that person and a sign with his/her name on September 15." Needless to say, the protesters who will be appropriating the names of soldiers and Marines killed in action have no intention of asking the permission of their families. But why should the families think their loved ones' sacrifices are being exploited in an unbelievably offensive way? After all, as one organizer explains, "The die-in will be led by an Honor Guard of Iraq Veterans Against the War who will simulate a 21-Gun Salute before taps is played to initiate the die-in."
Will mainstream antiwar groups and antiwar politicians denounce this action, which is scheduled to begin the weeklong protest? Will the respectable parts of the antiwar movement stand with veterans and veterans' families who intend to protest this disgusting appropriation of their loved ones' names? Surely most critics of the war still have a sense of decency.