Monday, January 16, 2012

Brewer, Visions of War

Susan Brewer, author of Why America Fights: Patriotism and War Propaganda from the Philippines to Iraq, which is essential reading on the history of 20th century American war, has an op-ed on the SHAFR blog placing Obama's December speech about the war in Iraq in the context of reactions to Iraq from American veterans who served there.  She begins:
On December 15th President Barack Obama welcomed home U.S. troops from a war he once had called “dumb.” His speech avoided the reasons why the Iraq War was fought and focused instead on honoring the American servicemen and women who fought it.  Inspiring words–“extraordinary achievement,” “honor,” “sacrifice,” “finest fighting force,” “unbroken line of heroes,” “progress of human freedom and dignity,” and “success”–far outshone the brief reference to the accomplishment of “leaving behind a “sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq with a representative government elected by its people.”[i] At a time when public support for the Iraq War is low and regard for the military high, the president’s remarks made political sense. The speech, however, contributed to what veterans call the “disconnect” between the way civilians see war and they experience it.
Brewer argues that  "when a president praises the warriors but not the war, he evades questions about foreign policy objectives, strategic and economic interests, and accountability raised by those veterans who want to make sense of what they have done."  Read the full essay here.

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