News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Parsing Nonsense

“Would you send your child to die in Iraq?” was a question posed recently by straw man Michael Moore to stuffed shirt Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly countered that the issue was better settled by asking whether he personally was willing to risk his life, trying to bring a wholesome manliness to the issue and sensing somehow that Moore was trying to spin the question for emotional effect. Moore sensed that he might lose some tear-pulling momentum and tried to return the spotlight to sending in the children, as opposed to saving them, given the awesomely tedious predictability of the emotional tug this would have for most folks. It has none for me, and injections of manliness usually serve to squeeze sense out of the picture, and just leave me looking for the door. But these are other issues for another day.

However, on the bike in traffic, on a doomed quest to get to the south of the island today during Chinese New Year, and in between taking the bike boldly on to sidewalks and otherwise ignoring the elastic traffic laws to the south of Taipei City, this question entered my mind a few times:

Would you SEND your CHILD to DIE in Iraq? Something was wrong with the question. Some buffoonery was afoot.

To DIE? Nobody sends children to die in Iraq that I’m aware of except for the parents of Muslim martyrs. US soldiers go to Iraq to achieve military ends but with the goal of returning alive. This is why grunts wear body armor; why armored divisions have – what else? - armor; why evasive maneuvers are designed to evade incoming bullets and missiles. In other words, one doesn’t send one’s children to Iraq on suicide missions. They go there to accomplish military objectives, to live and fight another day. Ergo the rapid rotation of experienced troops out of Iraq to train fresh recruits back in the US. Who in the US military goes to Eye-rack to die?

CHILD? Are there any children serving in the US forces, as opposed to Third World militaries where they’re often to be found? No. But of course Michael was referring to adult children. But one doesn’t send adults to war. Adults aren’t children. Adults make their own decisions. Bill can no more send his adult children (if he has any) to war than my father could have prevented me from enlisting in the reserves and possibly being called up to serve in Beirut during the early 1980’s. My father was adamantly opposed to my weekend warrior service. The hell with him, I thought. I’m not a child. I can do what the fuck I want. So I joined up. I also applied later to serve as a regular in the Canadian Air Force and was tested and accepted but turned down the position offered (navigator; I wanted to be a pilot). In other words, nobody is sending any children, either juvenile or adult, to any military theater. If adult children go, it’s of their own accord. After all, the military is not conscript-based, it’s professional.

Which brings us to the next issue: SEND? How do you send your children to die in Iraq? Clearly Mike doesn’t mean putting kids in a box and mailing them there. And you can’t just show up as a Rambo vigilante character with grenades, rocket launchers and an M-16 because you’ll be arrested and probably sent to a loony bin for R&R. Mike means send your (adult) children to join the US Armed Forces and send them to Eye-rack. But if you sign up, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get there. The Armed Forces decide, not you. You could be posted to Korea or Japan or a myriad other locations. You could be deployed to Iraq. But there you’d probably not see action, as most of the military works in logistics (everything from accounting to running warehouses to kitchen patrol). In other words, Bill doesn’t have the power to send his adult children anywhere dangerous if they’re in the military.

So, NOBODY growing up in democratic America is likely to be in a position to SEND CHILDREN to DIE in Iraq.

So ‘would you send your child to die in Iraq?’ is a moot question for it implies the impossible on three fronts, at least.

So maybe Mike phrased it badly. But the key question, if rearranged, is still valid, right? No. Watch. Mike’s hard question, when tempered with a dose of reality, translates to this: Bill, would you encourage a relative of yours to make up his own mind, as an adult, and apply to the US forces, apply for deployment in Iraq, apply for non-logistics-related duties in patrol or active military theater that would place this relative at a low risk for suffering bodily harm. (As I understand it, it is a low risk) In other words, Mike is asking Bill: “Do you support the war and are you willing to encourage other adults to support it in their own way?”

Well, this dispassionate mainstream news phrasing of the question doesn’t sell mockumentaries like Fahrenheit 911. No zip. No pizzazz. If it doesn’t bleed, how can it lead? So, it’s much better for corporate sales and ad revenues, much easier to get the customer’s attention, by asking: “Would you send your children to die in Iraq?”

Mike seems guilty of more of that best-selling wishful thinking and populist fustian that’s made him such a household name and a multi-gazzilionnaire who travels by private jet to feel our pain in person. And Bill’s no-spin zone seems to have met its match and been spun by a whopper, the Big Lie, in this case three implied ones, at least.

Thus are the issues debated and decided by the elect. More times than you might think.

Biff Cappuccino

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