The Hero Myth

Posted on September 7, 2007

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One can never know oneself. I hope that I am not writing this for base reasons, for whatever dark urge motivates us to heap scorn on the suffering. My intent is to focus on the one group that few people ever talk about, but who have more responsibility than any other for the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq. The soldiers, those members of our all volunteer army, who could have, one by one, and platoon by platoon, taken off their uniforms and refused to serve, but went anyway. Who instead of leading Americans out of violence and repression, led us into what is now seemingly an un ending conflict. Now, as these veterans, appear in cynical ads designed to convince us of the importance of their sacrifice, we must strive to convince our own children against following their example, so that they do not get themselves killed and maimed while destroying another people’s civilization; and as I have recently become aware in two of the most ironic situations, that is not as easy as it should be.

Those soldiers that were involved in the invasion of Iraq have served their tours; they have had the opportunity to go home if they did not believe the war was just. Its true that many soldiers stationed in Iraq were called from reserve or national guard duty after the invasion, or were literally shang haied into service due to faustian education bargains with the military. Their stories should also be told.

But that leaves the rest. It seems that all too many troops joined the military even after the invasion, even after the supine mainstream media had revealed that the pretexts for war as provided by the Bush administration were false, even after it was revealed that there was no plan for Iraq and that corrupt embezzlement would be the only efficient undertaking of the Bush pack. These were the pitiful soldiers, such as the ones featured in Ari Fleishcher’s horrifying pro-war commercials, that still believe in the myths propigated by the Bush administration about Iraq, even after the horror that they have witnessed.

Rather than use the library or the internet to investigate the nature of the war, these men and women relied only on their intuition, jingoism, and media distortion before they made the most important decision of their lives. Rather than question, question and question again the rationales that would ask them to not only risk their lives, but, more importanlty, risk the lives of Iraqis and the Americans who will have to deal with the foreign policy nightmare that has subsequently emerged, they jumped in feet first.

Then, reality set in and there were no Iraqi children with outstretched palms bearing daisies. This was no cake walk, they were not firing mortars into undefended ‘terrorist’ compounds and emptying their rifles at inept and cowardly tv bad guys. They have returned with emotional and physical wounds that cannot be healed and they have no other option but to see the wasting of their lives, bodies and minds in heroic terms. But I insist we reject those characterizations.

Here is the truth about our Iraq War Hero Veterans. By the end of the invasion in 2003, at least 8,000 Iraqi civilians–or nearly 4 times the number of Americans killed in the World Trade Center–had been killed as a direct result of US military activities. It is a sad testament to the inhuman travails that we have visited on that country, that that number today seems so remarkably small. Almost all troops currently serving, especially those who have returned to the US wounded, did not arrive in Iraq until after 2003. They knew–or should have known–that the US had already been responsible for a considerable amount of misery and loss of life in Iraq. It would have been a great time for real heroes to declare that they would not support the four score 9-11’s, that they would not subject another people to what we had experienced in 2001, simply because we were blinded by narcissistic calls to ideology and self-involved paens to masculinity. What is amazing is that so few did.

I know there are most likely brave soldiers who did amazing things in the war in Iraq. Men and women who risked their lives to help another in a desperate time. For doing the right thing, at the right moment in time, during circumstances out of their control, they should be commended. But there are no war heroes from this conflict. There are dupes and fools, at best, and ignorant, hateful lunatics, at worst. But not one hero. That should be remembered as the damaged survivors of the Iraq war are trotted out by manipulative politicians to convince us to send more of our children, siblings, parents and neighbors to ruin their lives and the world.