The enemy within

Villainous Company:

The fog of war: I have always found this a particularly apt term for the confusion and chaos that result when men contend on the field of battle. As the daughter of a Navy captain and wife to a Marine, war has been a constant refrain in my life, a song playing in the background: mostly quietly, at times receding to a barely-heard whisper; then suddenly, without warning growing to a menacing roar before subsiding to a gentle murmur again.

I grew up with Vietnam. If anyone asked me a few years ago, I'd have told them it had little effect on me. I was just a child, you see. I'd have been wrong.

During the election when John Kerry simply would not shut up about Vietnam I was surprised to feel a growing anger. Where did it come from, this cold rage, this bitter sorrow that overtook me when I least expected it? Why did I care? I was so small then. I didn't really understand it until Laura Armstrong, another service junior, contacted me and I did something very strange for me: I decided to attend the KerryLied rally in DC. I didn't want to go, really - I can't stand that sort of thing. But I felt compelled, somehow, to be there. And standing in a crowd of people I did not know that sunny day, at times with tears running down my face, it all came flooding back. How I felt as a little girl, watching my parents' black and white TV set as the news anchor read the body counts.

Because that was the war, for me. The magic of television brought the war home, right into my living room. Through the fog that permeates battles going on half a world away, that is all we can ever know of bloody struggles taking place in places we will never see. And it was enough. It was more than enough.

I remember, at times, leaving the room silently and curling up in my bed and trembling, just thinking of all those brothers and daddies who would never come home. I wasn't afraid, really, for my Dad: he was 10 feet tall and bullet-proof. Dads are that way. They fish monsters out from under your bed and fix your bike when it doesn't work; a tiny country in SouthEast Asia ain't no big thang to a dashing hero with a battleship and gold braid on his uniform.

I cringed at the body counts and sterile recitations of battle statistics. But towards the end of the war when journalists began to discover activism, I discovered there were worse things. I hated the napalm pictures and the graphic pictures of the wounded and the way nothing good ever seemed to be reported. I noticed that, even as a child, because my Dad was in the Navy.

Today's coverage of the war is so different. It's even more pronounced because as an "insider" I know more about the successes we're having and I see so few of them reflected in TV and newspaper accounts of the war. Where does this "news" go? What filter separates the good from the bad, allowing only the dismal and discouraging details to penetrate the fog of war? Bob Herbert is disturbed about this filter, too....
She nails Herbert. Read the whole thing. I appreciate her taking the time to do so, because I just do not have the patiences to wade through his maudlin mess.


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