Saturday, April 28, 2007

Everyone a hero

The policy in the Pentagon apparently is that anyone who is killed or captured in Iraq or Afghanistan is automatically a hero. No matter what the facts are, they have stories on hand to apply to each and every case, so that fighting morale is maintained, the home front is satisfied and the media is happy. If everyone is a hero, no one needs to worry.
But, its not actually like that in real life. Pvt. Pat Tillman, the footballer who volunteered to go to Afghanistan, was killed there in 2004. Although he was said to have died a hero while fighting the enemy, it turned out that that was a lie, and he had actually been shot by "friendly fire" coming from his own troops. His comrades were told that they would get into a lot of trouble if they told anyone the truth.
The case of Jessica Lynch is well known. She was injured when her convoy of trucks got lost in Iraq in 2003 and was ambushed. She was the only survivor while 11 others were killed. She was subsequently rescued from an Iraqi hospital by a platoon of marines. It was said that she was a hero who had fought the Iraqi Army singlehandedly and had then suffered bad hospital treatment. Actually she was badly injured in the encounter and had not fired one shot. Furthermore in the hospital, the staff had treated her very well and had saved her life. Practically everything told about her was a lie, in order to make her into a "little miss Rambo."
So who is it in the Pentagon who is responsible for making up these lies and propagating them. Three generals and several other officers have been accused of being involved in the charade, but so far the person who is actually responsible for inventing these lies has not been found. If they are, it will undoubtedly be justified in order to maintain the morale of the troops, to keep relatives happy, and to give the press a positive story to tell. I suppose they'll say that we all know that "war is hell," but when you're actually at war there's no point in wallowing in it. Just change the story and everyone will be happy.
But, we hope that this kind of thing doesn't happen in Israel. It's different here, people talk to each other all the time about the incidents in war. Within minutes cell phones (that are not supposed to be used from the front) are ringing. Soldiers call their Moms and Dads and their comrades back home. It's a lot harder to cover things up when you have a tight knit community that is more like an extended family than a usual army. Also, I'd like to think that here we face reality more practically, we can't afford to lose, so we have to know what's happening and why, so as to avoid the same mistake next time.
In the Second Lebanon War, the IDF under-estimated Hizbollah. When troops went into villages in southern Lebanon they chose the closest and largest houses for cover. Once the troops had crowded in there, during the day they were easy targets, Hizbollah had mined those houses and also had rockets pointed directly at them. Many Israeli soldiers were killed and wounded because they fell into this simple trap. Hopefully never again!
We did have some heroes in our war in Lebanon. But, we prefer not to have dead heroes, we want live soldiers!


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