The cover of the August 29, 2011 issue of TIME magazine features five members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), with the caption “The New Greatest Generation.” The point of author Joe Klein’s article is that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created a new kind of veteran who is “bringing skills that seem to be on the wane in American society, qualities we really need now: crisp decision making, rigor, optimism, entrepreneurial creativity, a larger sense of purpose and real patriotism.” Klein profiles a small number of veterans (including a Harvard valedictorian, a Rhodes scholar, and a Dartmouth grad) who have done well since returning to civilian life and credits their military service as the reason, then goes on to make a sweeping generalization that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have created a whole new generation of hard-working, disciplined young citizens who have something “more” to offer than their civilian counterparts.
It is articles like this that perpetuate the meme that anyone who ever wore a military uniform is a “hero.” TIME magazine is part of the biggest media conglomerate in the world, and corporate media is the lubricant that keeps the well-oiled military machine humming along so smoothly. By glorifying this “new generation” of veterans, they are adding to the layers of positive messaging about war and militarism, which the American public seems eager to absorb. We don’t want to ask ourselves the hard questions because we might not like the answers. The media conflates the military members with the wars themselves and produces layers upon layers of nothing but superficial “feel good” messages which eventually form a fairly unimpugnable depiction of our military, wars and militarism, and anyone who questions the wars risks being decried as unpatriotic. Congressmen fund wars they don’t agree with because they can’t afford the political cost of not “supporting the troops.”
Klein briefly mentions the high rates of suicide, domestic violence, joblessness and homelessness amongst Iraq and Afghanistan vets, but then dismisses it all by saying that that’s all we ever hear about—he wants to tell us the untold story of a handful of vets who came out of their military experience and moved forward in a positive way. But the real untold story is the truth of war, and we will never read about that in the likes of magazines like TIME.
The mission of IAVA is “to improve the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families,” and they are very good at that. They have a multi-million dollar budget, have ready access to the top Congressional leaders and have even met with the President on more than one occasion. The Executive Director of IAVA, Paul Rieckoff, has appeared hundreds of times on all the major media outlets. Why is it that IAVA is given so much media exposure, so much access, and so much money? The answer is that they do not question the legality or morality of war. They are not critical of the complicity of the corporate media in fostering and supporting militarism. They want only to support our troops, and who doesn’t want that?
The mission of Veterans For Peace is to end war as an instrument of national policy by educating the public about its true costs and consequences. Veterans For Peace has been around since 1985 telling the ugly truth of war. Our members understand the devastating effects of war on both sides of the conflict. We seek justice for the victims of war—not just ensuring care and benefits for our soldiers, but also reparations for innocent civilian victims. We know that wars of aggression are the most egregious crime there is, and we point an accusing finger at our government, the military-industrial complex, and the corporate media who collude to keep the United States in a perpetual state of war. We try to use the power of our first-hand experiences and stories to prevent wars from happening and to end them once begun. We don’t sugarcoat the experiences of war and the militarism. We believe that if the American people saw the real truth of war, they would end it. Think we’ll be on the cover of TIME magazine anytime soon? Don’t hold your breath.