An Alternate Take Re: Obama’s Speech

From the bizarro world courtesy the oft wack Victor Davis Hanson (my emphasis):

The convention’s final workmanlike message: The country is wrecked. Our freedoms are lost. Our soldiers are victims, not triumphant heroes.

Here is the full text of Obama’s speech from this evening. I have taken the liberty of quoting the passages directly referring to soldiers/veterans–see if you can spot the “soldiers are victims” theme. I will highlight where appropriate/necessary the specifically relevant piece:

Because for two hundred and thirty two years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women – students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors — found the courage to keep it alive.

Much more after jump:


We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty;


Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and respect.


A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint.


Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton’s Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

How bout some more:

I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts.

For good measure:

As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

Or perhaps this one?

The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America – they have served the United States of America.


I’ve seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.


America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for.

Now presumably the veterans are victims not heroes comes from the repetition of better care for wounded veterans and the line about homelessness among veterans. There are any other number of references to the proud tradition of military service–John McCain’s, Obama’s grandfather’s, the young veterans he sees coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

So what about those homeless vets? They do exist. Or the double than average suicide rate among US vets?
This is not the Vietnam Syndrome of the 70s–which is where Hanson out to go back to imo. This is simply a recognition that war is hell. And individuals who fight are brave people. And again war is hell for real human beings who fight in them–not mythic characters in literature. Hanson is a military historian, you’d think he might recall that fact, but it tends too much towards the romanticization (deification) of the military life. That is why he can not see any other position as nothing but its inverse (vicitimization/demonization). Instead of just perhaps facing the complex reality of war.

It is not say people are victims but rather (and this is the key point)–they are humans. And no one has any right to stand in judgment of soldiers who face traumatic experiences. Nor for those who respond anti-socially or struggle with living a coherent life in the face of that trauma. That is human. No one could ever know going into war how they would be coming out or how they would deal with they experience. How would anyone be able to say how people should or shouldn’t deal with situations that I can’t possibly fathom. And I say this after having lived with a man who had PTSD, as a vet of the First Gulf War. I wouldn’t call him a victim. He had a disease. Just as I wouldn’t call someone with cancer a victim, simply ill, someone facing immense challenges. There is no blame for someone with a disease.

Further the point is that soldiers/veterans deserve from the country they served proper care. To do otherwise is to be irresponsible and to denigrate their bravery. Since when did wanting to help people turn into making them into victims? Particularly when they are undoubtedly owed something by the country they served military The country they defended and fought for.

But when you have so politicized US soldiers and turned them into your version of a hero as has been done on the National Review/Weekly Standard right, then those who do not conform to the image are abandoned. They won’t want to bring up facts contrary to their mythos of the military. They will do whatever to hide the dark sides of war. e.g. Not allowing caskets to be photographed.

Such ones break the sacred trust Obama described, the fair deal that is to be offered–health care for wounds (physical and psychological), a chance at an education and a better life (GI Bill), and the promise of not sending them into harm’s way without a realistic plan for getting them out and a legitimate mission in the interests of US national security. Don’t get them killed in essence for anything other than a war that must be fought.

Now I’ve never fought in a war. Hanson certainly hasn’t either. But I’m tired of these armchair chickenhawks. I’m tired of the petulance, bad faith, and narcissism that Hanson displays in the above post. He doesn’t agree with Obama’s platform or policies, fine. But please get off the high horse. No more of this sanctimonious bulls–t, especially from someone who clearly gets his rocks off fantasizing and basically eroticizing soldiers and warfare. They’re people who exist for themselves not for your wish fulfillment man.

Since when was it some great conservative value to diss wanting to help soldiers once they leave the battlefield?

The speech referred to the failure of a society and the politicians in dealing with an issue not the victimization of the soldiers. What a jerk.  Clearly Obama hates the military, their families, and the US.  What a jackass.

Update I: VDH’s response is to back to the well and (mis)read everything only in light of 1970s Democrats. I guess that is one option given that the McCain Camp–who perhaps actually heard it and not just what they wanted to hear a la Hanson–was completely stunned and had no response to the speech. The Republican Convention is going to be a freak show of the highest order and McCain can not come anywhere close to the bar Obama set tonight. If he comes out with more celebrity ads after that speech, they are going to look unbelievably out of touch and pathetic in this new context.

Published in: on August 28, 2008 at 10:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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