Military blogs say the media have it wrong
By Jan Meyer
The Silent Majority is still too silent. It seems we haven’t learned to speak up in the years since President Nixon first used that phrase in 1969. Since then, the phrase is used to refer to any group that is not sensational enough to be covered by the media.
Currently, that is the huge number of people who would like to give our military the chance to finish the job that they started four years ago.
Late last fall, the media started pushing the idea that the election outcome was a mandate against the war; that claim has increased in intensity ever since. There was no evidence at the time to back up those claims; no candidates had pledged of a timeline for withdrawal of troops. So no vote for a candidate was a vote to end the war by pulling out before the job is done.
Clifford May, in a column in the April 14 Star Tribune, talked about having consulted a polling expert about the "mandate;" the response was that "there were too many races featuring too many issues to conclude that the voters were sending any single message."
May told his experience with going public: He was verbally attacked but not on the issues. He concluded, "They just want to tell you what you (should) think — and shut down those who dare to differ."
This hasn’t happened just in the popular news media. If people want a victory in Iraq — people who are concerned that pulling out is tantamount to inviting disaster — they keep their mouths shut. Too many have felt the wrath of the angry individuals who want peace at any price.
There is potential for the Silent Majority to speak out, however. The Internet has provided a voice, and brave souls are using it. Some of the best use is by the troops themselves. Mike Spector wrote in the Wall Street Journal (July 26, 2006) about military blogs:
"J. P. Borda started a Web log during his 2004 National Guard deployment in Afghanistan to keep in touch with his family. But when he got home, he decided it was the mainstream media that was out of touch with the war. … Mr. Borda read other soldiers’ blogs and found he wasn’t alone." His conclusion of the milblog focus: "a common enemy: journalists," adding that for many of these blogs "the sole purpose is to counteract the media."
Others are pleading via e-mails to friends and family. Recently, I received one of those. The subject line caught my attention: "Somebody needs to do something!" It was from U.S. Army Sgt. Todd Gillitzer, a Hibbing, Minn., native who is on his second deployment in Iraq. In part, this is what he said:
"I am pretty outraged today and have been for the last couple weeks about what has been going on in Washington, DC. ... For the American Armed Forces being caught in the middle of the Democrats’ anti-Bush movement is absolutely ridiculous. … Let the man (President Bush) do his job, and let us the American military do ours. Put your political agendas aside. … They win if we leave. … if we leave here we show that they have taken the Americans’ will to fight for what we believe in."
Sgt. Gillitzer continued: "Usually I will just turn my head and not say anything about these kind of things, but I’m not going to do it anymore. … So please talk to (your representatives). … Put all the damn political bickering aside and let’s finish what we started over here. Forward this to whoever will listen please."
In a later personal note, Sgt. Gillitzer agreed to me quoting his e-mail, adding "I am glad to see that my e-mail reached out, I was hoping that it would. … Since I wrote that e-mail, all of us over here have had our tours extended. I can’t say I am surprised. … but, hey, I believe in what I am doing over here so I am trying my best to keep my head up, and try to keep my soldiers’ heads up also."
Sgt. Gillitzer summed up his thoughts: "… I have seen so much progress in the last 3-4 months that there is no way that we can even think of backing out now."
That’s the real message, the one you can hear on the Internet. Perhaps there is hope: millions have access to the Web, and maybe the Silent Majority will take Sgt. Gillitzer’s message to heart: "Somebody needs to do something!"
Jan Meyer of Lanesboro is a retired consultant in conflict management.