Sobran's -- The Real News of the Month

 Journalism and Patriotism 

November 18, 2004 
As all the world now knows, a U.S. Marine shot and killed an unarmed captive in a mosque in Fallujah. Read Joe's columns the day he writes 
them.The incident has inflamed the Arab world like nothing since the Abu Ghraib scandals, canceling the military gains of U.S. forces in the city and damaging the Bush administration’s attempts to win “hearts and minds” in order to gain popular support for January’s scheduled elections.

It has also enraged American hawks against the American media. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, the military scholar Edward N. Luttwak says the incident was revealed by “a pool of unpatriotic American television reporters and the Marine officers who started an immediate judicial investigation, for strict American legalism is alive and well even in the Marine uniform.”

This passage stopped me. The reporters are “unpatriotic” for revealing the truth — or “deceptive fragments of the truth,” as Luttwak puts it — but those Marine officers are only being legalistic?

During the Vietnam war, reporters like Seymour Hersh were called unpatriotic for revealing American atrocities. Many people felt that American journalists had a duty to conceal American war crimes, a feeling that is far from dead. It was, and is, all the stronger when such crimes are shocking and sensational. This is why the military prefers “embedded” journalists to independent ones, who may not cover the war the way the military wants it covered.

But the rest of us should prefer independent journalists, precisely for patriotic reasons. If you love your country, you should want to know what your government and its military arm are doing in your name. Luttwak even acknowledges that we should be “thankful,” for “the last thing we should want are patriotic reporters who would conceal errors, embarrassments, and crimes in our armed forces.” But this still implies that candid reporting is unpatriotic but dishonest reporting is patriotic.

An editorial on the same page implies the same thing. It says that the point of revealing the incident “seems to be to conjure up images again of Abu Ghraib, further maligning the American purpose in Iraq.” That’s reading a lot into a moment of taping a story whose power nobody can deny. Would it have been better to suppress it?

[Breaker quote: War crimes and excuses]The editorial goes on to complain that the tape didn’t show the “context” of the killing: a ferocious battle for the city against “an enemy that neither wears a uniform nor obeys any normal rules of war.... These killers hide in mosques and hospitals, booby—trap dead bodies, and open fire as they prepare to surrender.” The Marine had been wounded the day before and “had seen a member of his unit killed by an insurgent pretending to be dead.”

The editorial asks, “Who from the safety of his Manhattan sofa has standing to judge what that Marine did in that mosque?” Finally, it condemns the “moral abdication” of equating “deliberate televised beheadings of civilians with a Marine shooting a terrorist, who may or may not have been armed, amid the ferocity of battle.”

So the Marine who shot an unarmed man is presumed innocent, while the dead man, in the space of a few paragraphs, goes from being a mere “insurgent” to being judged, without evidence, a “terrorist.” All this from the safety of a Manhattan sofa, as it were.

Maybe the Marine had some excuse. But an excuse isn’t the same thing as a justification. What he did was a war crime, even if he did it in the heat of battle. Who put him, and thousands of others, in that situation? How many other such acts have been neither reported nor caught on tape?

The answers to such questions don’t depend on the particularities of Fallujah, nor on the tactics, however grisly, of the resistance. They depend on the reasons President Bush gave for the invasion of Iraq in the first place: the “threat” of Saddam Hussein, his alleged arsenal, his alleged links to terrorism. All these reasons have been exploded.

So here’s the picture: A superpower, the greatest military power that has ever existed, invades a weak country on false pretenses, deposes its government, excites a popular resistance movement unconnected to the defunct regime — then not only complains about the new enemy’s guerrilla tactics, but uses them to justify continuing the invasion.

And journalists who show us unedifying details about the invaders are unpatriotic.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2004 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of Griffin Internet Syndicate

small Griffin logo
Send this article to a friend.

Recipient’s e-mail address:
(You may have multiple e-mail addresses; separate them by spaces.)

Your e-mail address:

Enter a subject for your e-mail:

Mailarticle © 2001 by Gavin Spomer
Archive Table of Contents

Current Column

Return to the SOBRANS home page.

FGF E-Package columns by Joe Sobran, Sam Francis, Paul Gottfried, and others are available in a special e-mail subscription provided by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. Click here for more information.

Search This Site

Search the Web     Search SOBRANS

What’s New?

Articles and Columns by Joe Sobran
 FGF E-Package “Reactionary Utopian” Columns 
  Wanderer column (“Washington Watch”) 
 Essays and Articles | Biography of Joe Sobran | Sobran’s Cynosure 
 The Shakespeare Library | The Hive
 WebLinks | Books by Joe 
 Subscribe to Joe Sobran’s Columns 

Other FGF E-Package Columns and Articles
 Sam Francis Classics | Paul Gottfried, “The Ornery Observer” 
 Mark Wegierski, “View from the North” 
 Chilton Williamson Jr., “At a Distance” 
 Kevin Lamb, “Lamb amongst Wolves” 
 Subscribe to the FGF E-Package 

Products and Gift Ideas
Back to the home page 


SOBRANS and Joe Sobran’s columns are available by subscription. Details are available on-line; or call 800-513-5053; or write Fran Griffin.

Reprinted with permission
This page is copyright © 2004 by The Vere Company
and may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of The Vere Company.