American Elephants

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same by The Elephant's Child
February 12, 2008, 9:10 pm
Filed under: History, Humor, Pop Culture | Tags: , , ,

Winslow Homer

Like most Americans today, Civil War soldiers had a kind of love-hate relationship with the media, which in their case consisted of newspapers and illustrated weeklies like Harper’s, Frank Leslie’s and the Southern Illustrated News.  Soldiers often denounced the biases or inacuracies of these journals but could not stop reading them….Even more than the editorials or political news, soldiers read newspapers for war news, especially stories about their own units or accounts of battles in which they had fought.  But they were by no means uncritical readers — quite the contrary.  The notoriously exaggerated, distorted, partisan, romanticized, and in some cases fictionalized accounts of battles provoked increasing cynicism among soldiers. 

James M. McPherson, the great historian of the Civil War, is describing the military of 143 years ago, but as much as things change, some things stay the same.  He goes on to describe the drawings for the illustrated weeklies — the visuals that portrayed the battle descriptions in the newspapers.

Some of the woodcuts were superb, such as Winslow Homer’s drawings of life in camp, several of which became the basis for his earliest oil paintings.  But the depictions of combat by many of the illustrators, especially in the war’s early years, were so stylized and sentimentalized that soldiers ridiculed them.  Next to Homer, one of the best illustrators was Alfred Waud.  By the latter part of the war, Waud had learned how to draw realistic pictures of the chaotic, brutal, confusing reality of combat.  But earlier, for example, in a drawing of a Union charge at the battle of Fair Oaks, Waud depicted nearly five hundred men in a perfect line, every man running with the same leg forward, every bayonet leveled at the same angle and height.  When this issue of Harper’s Weekly reached camp, veterans of the battle howled with derision.  Cavalrymen alternately laughed and groaned at illustrations showing them riding straight at the enemy in perfect order at a gallop on fierce-looking horses while firing their carbines with one hand and waving their sabers with the other.

Not all members of the media today have much understanding of warfighting. The military has attempted to remedy that situation by embedding reporters with military units.  An understanding of history, however, would put a greater sense of balance in media reporting.  Some reading in history would benefit all of us who are too ready to condemn mistakes and attach blame.  Things are always far more complicated than they seem to non-participants and the terminally naive anti-war crowd.

The above quotations come from McPherson’s This Mighty Scourge, which I recommend heartily.  But consider also the Pulitzer prize winner, Battle Cry of Freedom, and Crossroads of Freedom.

Winning in Iraq II by The Elephant's Child

President Bush with Troops in Iraq

The left determined early on that George W. Bush could not be allowed to win the War in Iraq.  The Iraq War (the “illegal” one) must be a failure, and they have bent their efforts to achieve those ends.  As the situation in Iraq worsened,  they were sure that the President would have to pull out, but instead he opted for a new commanding general, 30,000 more troops and a new strategy.  To the Democrats chagrin, Al Qaeda is falling apart in Iraq, a spectacular victory in the terrorist’s war on us.

In 2007 alone, over 2,400 members of Al Qaeda in Iraq were killed and almost 9,000 have been captured.  Amit R. Paley of the Washington Post interviewed a senior leader of AQI, Riyadh al-Ogaidi.  Ogaidi said that AQI membership has shrunk from around 12,000 in June of 2007 to about 3,500 today, and the total number of foreign fighters is not more than 200.

This, of course, is not to be taken as a sign of the success of the surge.  Nancy Pelosi has announced that the surge is a failure, because the purpose of the surge is not to win, but  to buy time for the new Iraqi government to accomplish the tasks assigned to it by Nancy Pelosi, whose own record of accomplishment is a little thin.  Harry Reid has announced that the surge is a failure.  Ted Kennedy has announced that the surge is a failure.  Joe Biden has announced that the surge is a failure.  Barack Obama has announced that the surge is a failure.  Denying reality isn’t usually a politically astute plan.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared again on CNN’s “Late Edition” program Sunday that the troop surge in Iraq is a failure.

Ms. Pelosi’s timing was unfortunate for what shreds remain of her credibility. Her statement coincided with the release by U.S. forces in Iraq Saturday of the diary of Abu Tariq, an al Qaida leader around the northern city of Balad. The diary was captured in a raid in November. [read more]

Most Democrats would deny it, but the war against Islamic extremism has probably seen an important success in Iraq.  The vicious Muslim-on Muslim violence in Iraq has elicited some deep reflection about jihad among the faithful in the Middle East.  The fledgling democracy in Iraq is still tentative, but George W. Bush is, as Ruel Marc Gerecht stated, “the most momentous American leader since an angry Thomas Jefferson sent men-of-war in pursuit of the Barbary pirates.  His successor will not be able to walk away from what he has wrought.”

The president deserves a great deal of credit for recognizing that the region’s murderous extremists had to be confronted on the battlefield.  Sanctions were not enough.  And the view that was so prevalent in Washington that Muslims are only suited to dictatorship,  is no longer acceptable.  That alone is an achievement.

Al Qaeda is now training and using kids aged 8-14 for terror attacks, and their use of Down’s Syndrome women as suicide bombers reaches new levels of depravity.  Our enemies are still dangerous, as are our political enemies who are anxious to throw all our success away in the interests of appeasing their anti-war angry far left.

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