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The Art of Denial
June 2, 2004
By Scott C. Smith

Since the launch of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" fourteen months ago, over 800 American troops have been killed and thousands more injured. Not that you'd know it from the conservative pundits and politicians.

In their world, no one is dying, and America is building infrastructure, schools and hospitals. Conservatives look at Iraq through rose-colored glasses, all the while refusing to acknowledge the reality on the ground, and blaming liberals and Democrats for "politicizing" the war.

Conservatives have also politicized the war, but in a different way. When the footage of Nick Berg being murdered by terrorists was released to the world on May 11, the conservative pundits quickly latched onto that horrible footage to justify war.

The footage was also used to minimize photographs released from Abu Ghraib prison, photographs showing Iraqi prisoners being sexually abused by American guards. While the photographs from Abu Ghraib were bad, many a conservative pundit said, they were not as bad as the footage of Nick Berg's murder.

To conservatives, the death of one American at the hands of terrorists is bad, but the deaths of almost 800 Americans because of war is something not to be discussed. The pro-war conservatives know that showing any images of flag-covered caskets returning to the United States could change public opinion of the war. And they don't want the war to end.

Conservatives use the excuse of privacy as the reason not to release any photographs of our war dead. They say they're trying to maintain the privacy and dignity of family members who have lost brothers, uncles, fathers or cousins in the war.

Unless the dead soldier is famous. Pat Tillman, a pro-football player for the Arizona Cardinals, left behind millions of dollars to enlist into the U.S. Army. He was killed last month in Afghanistan. Suddenly conservatives were not all that concerned over his family's privacy. They could talk about his death because it was politically advantageous to do so.

Another subject conservatives do not talk about is the number of injured U.S. soldiers. It's not a figure that's mentioned often, even by the "liberal" media, due to the fact that the data is so hard to find. In today's European Stars and Stripes, the number of injured troops treated at Landstuhl hospital in German was listed at over 7,000. That's just the one hospital.

Why are we ignoring the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives and bodies to the war in Iraq? It seems that the conservative politicians would rather sweep the information on our wounded under the rug, rather than honor the sacrifice made by our dead and injured forces. To not do so because of the possible negative political consequences is simply wrong.

"Out of sight, out of mind," is how the saying goes. And if we're not careful, we're going to reach a point where the general public really does forget about the men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. When that happens, their sacrifices are rendered irrelevant.

Yes, the footage of Nick Berg being murdered is horrible to watch, and Americans were rightly outraged by this very public execution. But we also need to recognize and acknowledge our men and women in uniform, whether it is good news or bad news.

It's time for conservatives to remove the rose-tinted spectacles and recognize the reality of war. They wanted war more than anyone, these conservative pundits and politicians. And it's about time we stopped sweeping its ugly reality under the rug.


About the author: Scott C. Smith is a freelance writer from Beaverton, Oregon. Scott's column has been featured at the Democratic Underground, Counter Bias, and the Smirking Chimp web sites. In addition to his column, Scott writes for his web site, What's In Scott's Head.

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