- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008


The city council in Berkeley, Calif., made national news by telling Marine Corps recruiters they are unwelcome in that bastion of the academic left.

It is a shame Berkeley is not on some island in the South Pacific, because then they could be given their independence and left to defend themselves.

As it is, members of our armed forces who put their lives on the line to defend America are also defending people like too many in Berkeley for whom the very word America, and the American flag, bring only sneers.

Unfortunately, Berkeley is not unique. A professor at Harvard University who put an American flag on his car after September 11, 2001, provoked looks of astonishment from his colleagues. They wondered what was wrong with him.

All across the country, there are professors who push for keeping military recruiters off campus and for banning ROTC. Apparently if they don’t like the military, then other people — such as students — should not be allowed to make up their own minds whether they want to join.

Liberals in general, and academics in particular, like to boast of their open-mindedness and acceptance of nonconformity. But they mean not conforming to the norms of society at large. They have little or no tolerance for those who do not conform to the norms of academic political correctness. Nowhere in America is free speech so restricted as on academic campuses with speech codes.

In Berkeley, as elsewhere, leftists have learned to cloak their anti-military intolerance with the magic words, “We support the troops.” The liberal media use the same line when they undermine the military.

In this, as in other things, the flagship of the media is the New York Times. Unsubstantiated charges against American troops in Iraq are Page One news, but incredible acts of heroism in battle are seldom reported there, if at all.

Though things go wrong in every war, things that went wrong in Iraq — large or small — have been Page One news in the New York Times. When things started going right after the military surge, the Iraq war suddenly was no longer front page news.

During the Vietnam War, the media criticized the American military for emphasizing enemy casualties or the “body count.” Today the media have been fixated on American body count. The accomplishments of the troops who lost their lives in battle has been of no interest to those who claim to “support the troops.”

That thousands of Iraqis who fled the country during the height of the violence and turmoil are now returning is no big deal to the media.

Those in the military who made this possible by putting their own lives on the line are not heroes to the media. Indeed, one of the consistent patterns in the liberal media has been to depict the troops not as heroes but as victims.

The financial problems of some reservists called away from their civilian jobs were front page news in the New York Times. So were sorrowful goodbyes from family and friends.

All these things made the troops victims. So does body count.

Last month, the New York Times found another way to portray the troops as victims. They ran a very long article, beginning on the front page of the Jan. 13 issue, about killings in the United States by combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“In many of those cases,” it said, “combat trauma and the stress of deployment” were among the factors which “appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.”

As with so many other things said by liberals, the big question that was not asked was: Compared to what?

As the New York Post reported a couple of days later, the murder rate among returning military combat veterans is one-fifth that of civilians in the same age brackets.

So much for “supporting the troops” by depicting them as victims.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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