Image and reality

The gap between what many have established in their minds and what is actually in front of their eyes gets notice in a report about police training in Iraq.

There is the image we get from the ‘Boomer elites:

“[T]he films…present the war as incomprehensible mayhem,” he wrote, “and they depict American soldiers as psychopaths who may as well be wearing SS uniforms. The G.I.s rape, burn, and mutilate corpses, torture detainees, accelerate a vehicle to run over a boy playing soccer, wantonly kill civilians and journalists in firefights, humiliate one another, and coolly record their own atrocities for entertainment.

There is the reality that can be seen on the ground:

Have these things happened in Iraq? Many have. But in the cinematic version of the war, these are the only things that happen in Iraq.

American soldiers and Marines aren’t the bloodthirsty killers of the popular (in certain quarters) imagination, and that they are far less racist against Arabs than average Americans. They are also, famously, less racist against each other, and they have been since they were forcibly integrated after World War II. This is due to sustained everyday contact with each other and with Iraqis. The stereotype of the racist and unhinged American soldier and Marine is itself a bigoted caricature based almost entirely on sensationalist journalism and recklessly irresponsible war movies.

See The Final Mission, Part III. Michael J Totten

There is much to change and its happening will not a flipping of the switch. Experience and culture and circumstances all make the transition from ‘might is right’ to a more modern ethic difficult. There is explicit instruction in the words of international law about conflict and human rights but those words are so far from the current reality in Iraq that their meaning seems to be a dream. It is just one part of the message. Over time that part will connect with others. One of those others is the behavior of the American Soldier that actually illustrates those words in practice and whose behavior is watched and experienced. That example is why the words of those soldiers are being heard, if not yet fully understood beyond simple meaning.

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