Monday, April 17, 2006

I need a new scene

Yeah, I'm plenty ready to be done with this gig. Not Fort Knox, specifically -- although I've definitely had my fill of "Kentuckiana" -- but more generally, this stint in the Army.

Over the past week or so, six former high-ranking generals have called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation, saying he disregarded counsel from his top military advisers and constructed an unworkable plan for the war in Iraq.

This, of course, has occasioned more than a few conservative pundits to declare that retired generals know practically nothing about war, and if they did, they should have brought it up before they hot-footed it out of the Pentagon with their pensions secure.

I'm just a lowly E-4, but I've sat in on enough courts-martial to know that Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits activity such as second-guessing superiors, and that constitutionally, civilians -- i.e., Rumsfeld -- have ultimate control of the military. So these generals can hardly be blamed for keeping their four-starred mouths shut until now.

Yeah, I suppose that if they felt that what they were involved with was seriously wrong, they could have resigned their rather valuable commissions. But I'd be hesitant to do that after having been promoted by an act of Congress following a scrupulously remarkable 20-year-plus career in the military.

But regardless. I'm content to watch that one ravel itself out. The leadership of the Defense Department neccessarily is characteristic of the administration that appoints it, so whether it's a Rumsfeld or a MacNamara, I don't see that the identity of whoever fills that very important suit matters as much as the suit itself.

Did I have a point? Oh, yeah. I'm just a bit weary of this. I'm fully aware that I signed a contract, and I have no intention of shorting out on that. But I hope you'll forgive me for expressing a little frustration -- at my own decision, as much as anything else -- with where I'm at right now. I've got a bachelor's degree in journalism under my belt, and I enlisted solely to be able to get this specific job. I figured it would be a good way to get some sort of unique journalism experience, and yeah, it has been.

But journalism -- real journalism -- is an essential function of democracy, and it is because of its independence from the rest of the government. Journalism ceases to fulfill its responsibility as soon as it becomes a shill for anyone -- either for private organizations or for the government.

So it's tough to watch these generals finally come forward only after the ends of their respective prestigious careers to voice their independent concerns and not get the distinct impression that I'm nowhere near actual journalism.

And, yes, that's frustrating. It's hard to get excited to head into work when I realize that the very nature of my job is to promote the interests of the Army. That idea might be repugnant to readers who have military service of their own or in their family, but understand that I consider myself a journalist and a writer by trade. I have a very hard time identifying with the idea of being a soldier.

I guess when I joined up I just wasn't in enough need of something to believe in or become. This is a means to another end, and I'll repeat my intention of honorably fulfilling my obligation to the military. But I've got a very interesting conversation with a re-enlistment NCO in my future.