HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » General Discussion (Forum) » Why Does the Media Make O...
Introducing Discussionist: A new forum by the creators of DU

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 07:51 AM

Why Does the Media Make Our Generals Into Heroes When the Wars They Commanded Are Failures?

http://www.alternet.org/world/why-does-media-make-our-generals-heroes-when-wars-they-commanded-are-failures



He was “an ascetic who... usually eats just one meal a day, in the evening, to avoid sluggishness. He is known for operating on a few hours' sleep and for running to and from work while listening to audio books on an iPod... an encyclopedic, even obsessive, knowledge about the lives of terrorists... a warrior-scholar, comfortable with diplomats, politicians..." Those were just the descriptions New York Times reporters Elisabeth Bumiller and Mark Mazzetti themselves bestowed on General Stanley McChrystal in May 2009 soon after he had been appointed the new U.S. Afghan War commander. They had no trouble finding interviewees saying even more extravagant things.

He was “the most influential general of his generation,” “a celebrated soldier with extensive knowledge of intelligence gathering in both Afghanistan and Iraq... reputation... so formidable, officials said, that it was difficult to rotate him to another military post” and a “biographer who is keeping his name in lights.” That was Bumiller on General (later CIA Director) David Petraeus and, given the press he ordinarily got in Washington, her reportage could almost be considered downbeat.

For both men, though, those were the glory days when things were going spectacularly. Okay, maybe not in the wars they were directing, but in the personal image-making campaigns both were waging in Washington. What about after both went down in flames and shame, though? Once a “celebrated soldier,” it seems, always a celebrated something or other.

As Bumiller had been on the generals beat in the good times, she evidently ended up on the generals-in-shame beat as well. And you know what? They turn out to be whizzes at shame, too. In May, she found McChrystal teaching a course on “leadership” at Yale. He was, she reported in a charmingly soft focus piece, a spellbinding professor (willing to go out and drink with his students, just as he had with his military colleagues). Judging by her article, the former “warrior-scholar” had held onto the “scholar” part of the label -- and a knack for (self-)image making, too.

41 replies, 2686 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 41 replies Author Time Post
Reply Why Does the Media Make Our Generals Into Heroes When the Wars They Commanded Are Failures? (Original post)
xchrom Dec 2012 OP
leveymg Dec 2012 #1
coalition_unwilling Dec 2012 #14
leveymg Dec 2012 #17
coalition_unwilling Dec 2012 #18
redqueen Dec 2012 #19
Iggy Dec 2012 #2
tech3149 Dec 2012 #4
redqueen Dec 2012 #20
2naSalit Dec 2012 #33
Iggy Dec 2012 #37
coalition_unwilling Dec 2012 #15
leveymg Dec 2012 #21
coalition_unwilling Dec 2012 #23
leveymg Dec 2012 #26
coalition_unwilling Dec 2012 #27
leveymg Dec 2012 #29
SHRED Dec 2012 #3
zeemike Dec 2012 #5
WinkyDink Dec 2012 #13
zeemike Dec 2012 #38
JDPriestly Dec 2012 #6
treestar Dec 2012 #7
pangaia Dec 2012 #8
Sekhmets Daughter Dec 2012 #9
pangaia Dec 2012 #16
Sekhmets Daughter Dec 2012 #24
pangaia Dec 2012 #28
Sekhmets Daughter Dec 2012 #31
pangaia Dec 2012 #34
Sekhmets Daughter Dec 2012 #36
WinkyDink Dec 2012 #10
Sekhmets Daughter Dec 2012 #32
Democracyinkind Dec 2012 #40
UTUSN Dec 2012 #11
bemildred Dec 2012 #12
The Wizard Dec 2012 #22
Coyotl Dec 2012 #25
GeorgeGist Dec 2012 #30
freshwest Dec 2012 #35
Tom Ripley Dec 2012 #39
Egalitarian Thug Dec 2012 #41

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 08:16 AM

1. Same reason we still remember Homer's Odysseus, but forget the Peloponesian wars destroyed Greece

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to leveymg (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:41 AM

14. Wish you would elaborate on this a bit. Homer was\is a great poet and the

 

portrayals he created in the Iliad and Odyssey are larger than life and even archetypal. If we want reality, we can go to Herodotus or Thucydides, but no one ever mis-took Homer's poetry for history. (See Philip Sidney's 'Defense of Poetry' for more on this.)

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #14)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:55 AM

17. "History is written by the winners." That includes Thucydides and Herodotus "factual" accounts, as

well as Homer's mythology. For some reason, there is a need for heroics and larger than life leaders, as well as an equally strong desire to suppress the disasters of war, particularly when told about the "winning" side - which is really all we know in most cases.

Even today, because of over-classification and the curse of secrecy (and just plain lies), much of what we know about today's military operations is largely myth. Take Gen. Petraeus, for instance, and his role in the Iraq WMD falsification. Please, see, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/10/1159965/-Petraeus-was-the-Original-Official-Source-of-Iraq-Biotrailers-WMD-Deception I'm sure that few Americans have any idea of how his misrepresentations and omissions went to further the lies of the Bush Administration, and how he was rewarded for that.

Here's something that goes further to your point: http://www.historyinanhour.com/2011/07/27/what-is-history/

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to leveymg (Reply #17)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:06 AM

18. It's been quite awhile since I read Homer, Herodotus or Thucydides and I may have

 

to re-visit them, as I have very fond memories of hours lost dreaming great dreams and pondering great vistas.

IIRC, Herodotus flays Greek hubris and leadership. But, like I say, it has been awhile.

Thanks for your links, btw. Will peruse them later today, schedule permitting.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to leveymg (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:07 AM

19. +10000000

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 08:50 AM

2. Uhhh, It's not Just the "Media" doing this;

 

it's also the current administration, which is even more disturbing/wrong.

Let's be clear as to why Petraeus is a "hero". We were LOSING badly in Iraq; he turned it around-- but I'm not sure most people here understand just how he accomplished that.

Hint: the "missing" hundreds of millions of dollars in cash flown into Iraq.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Iggy (Reply #2)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 09:24 AM

4. Rule # 1

You don't challenge the MIC without risking your existence. Not just media and political figures who question our deification of all things and people in the military/security structure but a lone individual risk their lives and livelihoods by challenging that power structure.

From the insider point of view, we do have a voluntary military service. That leads to a careerist mentality. You don't want to challenge your career by questioning the groupthink and want to advance your career potential by putting the most positive spin on everything you do and or steering your career path toward the most beneficial outcome for you.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to tech3149 (Reply #4)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:09 AM

20. Yep. These changes have to come from the bottom up.

We have to disabuse OURSELVES of this worship of military might, and our need to believe these people are worthy of the power they're handed.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to tech3149 (Reply #4)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 12:32 PM

33. Yup.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to tech3149 (Reply #4)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 03:13 PM

37. Rule #2:

 

Rule #1 almost always, if not always, leads to statism/fascism.

"Sorry", not interested...

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Iggy (Reply #2)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:47 AM

15. Betray-us "succeeded" in putting Iraq largely within Iran's

 

sphere of influence (by buying off the Sunni resistance). Perhaps that's as it should be, but Iranian control of Iraq was never a stated or even desired policy goal.

I call it a "Pyrrhic victory".

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #15)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:10 AM

21. Iraq is within Iran's sphere because the majority of the population is Shi'ia. When Bush overthrew

the ruling Ba'ath Party, that outcome was inevitable, as the Sunnis only predominate in the central part of the country. Iraq largely doesn't exist as a single, unified state anymore, as it has effectively split into the Kurdish north (lots of oil, not much population), the Sunni center (not much there except a large, hungry population in and around Baghdad supported by the Saudis), and the Shi'ia south (lot of oil and population density, aligned with Iran).

There's little the Sunni resistance, the "Awakening" and "Sons of Iraq" (created by the DIA/CIA which operated largely as a terrorist group alongside Al-Qaeda in Iraq as part of the Salvador Option implemented under Negroponte in 2004 and then as part of Petraeus' CI strategy) could have done about that outcome.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to leveymg (Reply #21)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:17 AM

23. I agree with you on one level (hence my comment that "perhaps that's as it

 

should be"). But do remember that one reason the U.S. backed Saddam Hussein so long (going back to at least the 80s and even earlier) was to use him and Iraq as a buffer against the spread of Iranian influence into the oil fields of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.

Thus, even while Reagan traded arms for hostages with Iran, he was also arming and abetting Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war.

As for Betray-us, he and his cohort bribed the Sunni resistance to the occupation to 'stand down' and cooperate with the CPA. We will never know what the outcome would have been, had the Sunni resistance continued, although I suspect it would probably have ended up much as your post suggests (Kurdish North, Sunni Center, Shia South). But Betray-us' efforts smoothed out the consolidation of Iranian influence in the organs of Iraqi governance, its parliament and executive.

That said, Iranian control of Iraq was NEVER a policy goal, stated or otherwise, that I'm aware of. Hence my "Pyrrhic victory" comment.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #23)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:28 AM

26. The US armed both sides against each other, and have successively destroyed each. The timeline is

measured in decades, and now that Iraq is largely out of the way, we've moved against the Shi'ia sphere around Iran. The pulverization of Iraq and Syria are just part of that long-term process.

I too never thought the goal was to strengthen Iran vis-a-vis the Sunni states in the region. If we have intended clients, it's the Israelis and the Saudis/GCC states, which are Sunni. A state of nearly continuous warfare in the region also helps the oil companies to maintain a "risk premium" in their pricing. Then there are the arms manufacturers and private military/intelligence complex - but, that much is obvious.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to leveymg (Reply #26)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:36 AM

27. Well, the jury is still out on Iran. Last time I checked it had 1,000,000+ soldiers in its

 

army and 80,000+ commandos in its Revolutionary Guard. And it is an ethnically homogenous country (Persian) for the most part, so will not be easily subsumed into civil war and ethnic cleansing the way Iraq was under the CPA.

I was fully anticipating a bleed-out of Stalingrad-esque proportions, had Romney won the election and a ground war commenced. Looks like that nightmare scenario won't come to pass now, at least for another 4 years.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #27)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 12:02 PM

29. There are nightmare scenarios other than a direct invasion of Iran to worry about.

The one that I think is most likely is a repeat of blowback, only more numerous and ultimately more destructive, of the sort that accompanied and followed onto U.S. covert operations that have used al-Qaeda and Jihadi terrorist groups in secret resources wars fought under the "humanitarian intervention" banner. 9/11/2001 was one such instance, 9/11/12 was another. I don't think we'll have to wait another 11 years for the next, and it won't just be an isolated target of opportunity that gets hit.

We are playing a high-risk game in MENA that has the potential for really disastrous outcomes. The policy of regime change that predictably released arms to terrorist groups -- large numbers of highly destructive missile systems including MANPADs -- will come back to bite us, and it's just a matter of when, not if. If you liked the atmosphere in America after the WTC and Pentagon attacks, you are going to love the police state we're about to become.

I see the US plunging headlong into the middle of a 1,300 year long genocidal religious war fought between the most militant branches of Islam. There is no completely effective defense in such a global war of eternal revenge. It has already changed us into something we don't want to become, and the long-term effects are as historically significant (and destructive) as the wars between Athens and Sparta, along with the Persian wars of antiquity.

There is yet another unwholesome historical parallel to avoid: the Crusades.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 09:21 AM

3. lipstick on a pig

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 09:48 AM

5. They have created a cult of heroes.

And when that happens, as it has in the past, the decline of the country that goes there is certain.
They are not dead soldiers they are fallen heroes...making dead soldiers into something to be worshiped...and no one dare say anything bad about a war, or you are not supporting the troops...

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to zeemike (Reply #5)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:41 AM

13. Dulce et decorum est....

Dulce et Decorum Est



1 Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
2 Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
3 Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs,
4 And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
5 Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
6 But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
7 Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
8 Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

9 Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!--An ecstasy of fumbling
10 Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
11 But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
12 And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.--
13 Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
14 As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

15 In all my dreams before my helpless sight
16 He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

17 If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
18 Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
19 And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
20 His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
21 If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
22 Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
23 Bitter as the cud
24 Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
25 My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
26 To children ardent for some desperate glory,
27 The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
28 Pro patria mori.


Wilfred Owen

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to WinkyDink (Reply #13)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 04:28 PM

38. I did not know that poem.

and thank you for posting it....the old lie indeed.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 09:57 AM

6. Our civilian president is supposed to be the commander in

chief.

Problem is, the president is subject to election and re-election and may serve, at the most, eight years. Our military "heroes" on the other hand, join up in their teens or twenties and serve as many as twenty, maybe 30 years. The military officers who survive that long know the system, don't have to answer to the people in elections and have already proved they know how to kiss the way to the top.

To become a military officer, you have to learn strategy, how to win or at least appear to win, the art of surprise and how to gauge your strength and understand the terrain on which you are fighting. You have to be able to use the equipment and the people that are assigned to you.

Politicians have to understand strategy too, but they don't have nearly as long to put their strategy into effect. So the military leaders have a head start on their civilian commanders when it comes to maneuvering in D.C. The military runs rings around the politicians.

We are not supposed to have a standing army. The fact that we do throws our entire system of government, our checks and balances, the delicate scaffolding of our Constitution off balance.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:03 AM

7. Holdover from the old days

Wellington and Nelson were leading troops that were really protecting England from French invasion. Washington led the army when we won our existence. So we see them as instrumental in leading our defense, etc.

Now we are not always so certain that a war is really for our defense.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to treestar (Reply #7)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:33 AM

8. " Now we are not always so certain that a war is really for our defense."

Exactly. And I would ask, when was the last war that one can argue WAS for our defense?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to pangaia (Reply #8)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:38 AM

9. WW II

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Sekhmets Daughter (Reply #9)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:54 AM

16. Right I agree..

And the one before that? :>

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to pangaia (Reply #16)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:23 AM

24. The second was really the first,

Part II.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Sekhmets Daughter (Reply #24)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:57 AM

28. Good one. :>)

What's your take on the American civil War?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to pangaia (Reply #28)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 12:22 PM

31. I think what is too often

forgotten by those who think Lincoln should have let those southern states secede is the simple fact that the "union" was less than 80 years old at the time.... The precedent would have been disastrous for many reasons, not the least of which is that England was salivating over the possibility of retaking the continent.

The flaws within our constitution, the 3/5th clause i.e., made the Civil War inevitable. However, I'm not at all certain the neophyte nation could have survived the early days without the southern states.

Your thoughts?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Sekhmets Daughter (Reply #31)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 12:56 PM

34. I agree.

I don't think the 'union' could have survived either.
The balance between the 'agrarian' and the' industrial', if I can put it so simply..

I am certainly no expert, but Lincoln was, as I understand it, between a rock and a hard place. And once the fighting started there was always the possibility that if the British felt the CSA actually had a chance of winning, which I still think they certainly did, they would support them...cotton, etc. And Davis and Lee knew it.

And I think it came close as Lincoln ran through so many mediocre Generals-
McClellan, Burnside, Hooker, even Meade. (Whom did I leave out?) Even though Gettysburg was the beginning of the end for the South, it wasn't until Lincoln finally got to Grant that it was a done deal.
So, yes if any war is necessary, I would say that was one.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to pangaia (Reply #34)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 01:30 PM

36. But he did finally get to Grant...

Grant demonstrated at Vicksburg that he was entirely willing to fight Total War, none of the other generals on either side had been willing to do so. Sherman kept his promise to "make Georgia howl" and the Union was preserved.

I frequently joke that the north won the battle, but the south seems to have won the war. Today it is the southern republicans who gladly adopt a scorched earth policy.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:38 AM

10. Still working in some quarters for Powell, too. I guess Custer just had lousy P.R.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to WinkyDink (Reply #10)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 12:25 PM

32. He was a long-haired Hippie

Never a favorite of conservatives

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to WinkyDink (Reply #10)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 06:45 PM

40. "That blue eyed criminal fuck had it coming"

- George Carlin

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:40 AM

11. Not only their wars, their own personal fuck-ups: Poppy BUSH; Mc5planes; Shrub; Colon POWELL n/t

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:41 AM

12. They think we still need father figures, or maybe it's them that like's father figures. nt

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:14 AM

22. The reaction to

the failed Vietnam War is an unwarranted form of uniform worship, making everyone wearing a uniform into some kind of hero. The higher the grade the more heroic.
Excepting Wesley Clark, Anthony Zinni and a couple of Admirals, and a few other flag officers, many just get promoted for time served. We have a glut of flag officers with no real responsibilities.
I served in uniform and in combat, but I was / am far from a hero. I just did my job, kept my head down and eyes and ears open. That and a degree of good fortune is why I'm here today.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:26 AM

25. Umm. That's why they need to! n/t

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 12:20 PM

30. I wanna kill ...

I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and
guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill,
KILL, KILL." And I started jumpin up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL," and
he started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down
yelling, "KILL, KILL." And the sargent came over, pinned a medal on me,
sent me down the hall, said, "You're our boy."

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 01:14 PM

35. No mystery. Media owners profit from MIC contracts and mentality.

They don't report news, they reinforce whatever line of propaganda that will increase their take. I don't know why anyone is surprised at this. These are not publicly owned stations, they are not requried to work in the public interest as they are private property. They mainly advertise and behave as entertainment, so are held to a lower standard. The faux journalists will gush on about whoever their owners admire. If they don't adapt their mentality, they're fired.


Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 05:07 PM

39. Robert E. Lee Syndrome

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 08:19 PM

41. According to American mythology, everyone in the military is automatically a hero.

 

As long as they don't go on a publicized killing spree or eat a puppy, they are the pinnacle of American achievement.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread