William Arkin Ignites a Controversy

On January 31, William Arkin of the Washington Post chastised American troops in Iraq who complained about the news coverage back home. The troops had the brazenness to ask critics to visit Iraq and see what was going on first hand before they criticized.

It would seem that the troops have a reasonable complaint about news coverage that is relentlessly negative, with nary a mention of heroic and humane efforts by the troops. The abuse at Abu Grab makes the headlines day after day, but the soldier who crawls under gunfire to rescue a civilian is largely ignored.

Arkin has a different view. Arkin claimed that the troops had enjoyed tremendous support and the provision of “obscene amenities” (whatever they are) despite the murders of civilians and abuses at Abu Grab. Does Arkin believe such events were typical rather than aberrations? Suggesting that American troops were “mercenary,” Arkin was tired of their complaints because it “wasn’t for them to disapprove of the American people.” Rights to criticize presumably are reserved for Washington Post writers.

As anyone with a marginal perception of public sentiment could easily predict, there was a deluge of outrage expressed on the forum pages of the Washington Post, as well as countless blogs, and even from US Senators.

In response, Arkin whined indignantly about those who disagreed with him. Admittedly, some of Arkin’s reader mail could euphemistically be described as colorfully disrespectful. Arkin tried to about wrap himself in the protective cloak of victimhood, fretting that he was being censored. Arkin must learn to master the difference between censorship and the rights of others to criticize him. If he can complain about the way the troops are doing their job, certainly others enjoy a right to criticize the way Arkin performs his.

Arkin belated conceded that, “I knew when I used the word `mercenary’ in my Tuesday column that I was being highly inflammatory.” If Arkin knew he was being “inflammatory,” then why was he surprised when he ignited a reaction? When writers are deliberately provocative, it seems hypocritical for them to be upset when they succeed in provoking.

But wait, it is the readers fault for misunderstanding Arkin. Later Arkin writes: “Mercenary, of course, is an insult and pejorative, and it does not accurately describe the condition of the American soldier today. I sincerely apologize to anyone in the military who took my words literally.” So which is it? Was Arkin being purposely inflammatory, or was he using mercenary as a mild metaphor?

Arkin’s original point had some merit. One can criticize the wisdom of the war in Iraq, was without condemning the troops, indeed even while strongly supporting them. However, Arkin then goes on to trash the troops, suggesting that the American people have put up with a lot of shenanigans from the troops. Arkin inadvertently tramples upon his own thesis and adds further evidence to the notion that those who are against the war harbor not-a-little anti-military sentiment.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.