Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Protesting cigarettes instead of an unjust war

Maggie says:
Naomi Klein has an interesting piece in The Nation this week looking at Americans’ psychological distance from the bloodshed in Iraq. Her symbolic example is James Blake Miller, the Marine now known as “The Marlboro Man” or, if you’re Robert Novak, “The Face of Fallujah.”

This famous photograph shows Miller fresh from battle with a cigarette dangling from his lip. Instead of being celebrated as an iconic image (which it was clearly intended to be), this photograph has instead infuriated much of the American public because he was photographed smoking. According to Klein, a Texas woman asked her local newspaper why the photo couldn’t have been taken of a non-smoking soldier. A man from New York suggested that the correct photo for the Post to carry would be one of “a Marine in a tank, helping another GI, or drinking water” because “it would have a more positive impact on your readers.”

What’s clear here is that much of this country is unable to accept or process anything but a benign cheerleading stance when it comes to our military in Iraq. The fact that Miller’s smoking habits have garnered more attention than that other Marine in Fallujah – you know, the one caught on tape killing a wounded and unarmed Iraqi – is a perfect example of how sometimes Americans would rather not know the truth, would rather not hear the details, and would rather not think too hard about what’s actually happening versus what they’re being told.

Here are my questions to those folks: What, exactly, do you think Bush&Co were sending troops off to Iraq to do? And if you’d rather just rah-rah the effort and not think about the dirty details, what about at least acknowledging that war has a horrific effect on soldiers – seen today in Iraq through record-high suicide rates, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder?

Personally, I think that after asking James Blake Miller to go to Iraq on a lie, getting him stuck in an un-winnable war, and pretty much guaranteeing him depression if not a full-blown moral crisis, a cigarette is the least we can offer him.