April 05, 2004
Observations on Kos

As just about everybody who reads blogs knows, Markos Zuniga, of Daily Kos, made an extremely intemperate remark on his blog last week. Reacting to the death of four American contractors, who were killed, hung from a bridge in Fallujah, and burned, he wrote:

That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. They aren't in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.

(I won't work to find his original post, since he monkeyed with the direct link to redirect to a clarification that compounds the whole thing. It appears that he has finally "disappeared" the original post entirely.)

Much has been written about his post, and some of the fallout, but I want to add my own thoughts on the matter.

• This whole issue could have been avoided if Zuniga had not posted anything. In the words of Jacques Chirac, he "missed a great opportunity to shut up." The fact that he went out of his way to denigrate the four indicates his contempt for them, and no amount of apologizing or link juggling will ever erase that.

• The four contractors were not "mercenaries"; they were protecting a food convoy. If "mercenary" means "getting paid to work", then that describes just about everyone with a job. They were doing a job that might have been handled by US troops; we don't have enough troops over there to do everything as it is, so some of the work has been offered to private firms. Most of the people defending Kos think that we have too many troops in Iraq; most think that any troops are too many.

• Similarly, many people are upset that these men are receiving a lot of press while American soldiers who die receive perfunctory notices at best. These men, while all veterans, are *civilians*, which makes their deaths more notable. The fact that four were ambushed and killed, and their bodies dragged through the streets of Fallujah, makes it even more notable. Imagine the outcry if four reporters, or four Red Cross/Red Crescent workers, or four UN workers were treated the same way. All of these groups have suffered violent deaths at the hands of Islamofascists, but none were desecrated as these four were. The only "sin" these men committed is that they were Americans playing a role in rebuilding Iraq.

• There are claims that the four men were heros. I disagree. They were doing a job. However, they most assuredly did not deserve to die, nor did they deserve to have their bodies dragged through town, hung from a bridge, and burned by a mob. "Hero" is a term that is tossed about far too lightly these days, but pointing out that they were not heros does not mean that they were anything less than good men. Zuniga's derisive attitude towards them is the contemptible thing, not their presence or their job.

• Many who are in Kos's corner bring up Rachel Corrie, and insist that those who have condemned Kos are employing a double standard. There are a few important differences. Corrie was not intentionally killed, her body was not desecrated in three different ways, and her previous actions (the march in which she participated shortly before her death) were blatently partisan. These men were protecting a food convoy, hardly a partisan goal. Unlike Corrie, they were not acting in defiance of any government, and were not trying to make a political statement by their presence. Corrie's group was well-known for their press releases condemning Israel; she was lionized as a martyr far more than the four victims of the Fallujah mob will ever be used.

• Many are upset at Michael Friedman for firing off letters to political campaigns that were advertising on Daily Kos, alerting them to the post and soliciting their reactions. Four campaigns and one PAC have pulled their ads as a result. This has been characterized as a far-right conspiracy. It's not; it is politics at play. Targetting advertisers is a time-honored technique, used by protesters of all stripes. Letting advertisers know that one of the sites to which they are paying money has made a seriously offensive statement is hardly strong-arming them; the advertisers who severed the ties did so on a totally voluntary basis. In fact, there was no threat of a boycott at all; it was simply noted that the site was saying something offensive, and left at that, although it is implied that someone might chose to make a deal of it if the ads continued. I wonder if those upset at the e-mail campaign showed the same concern when gay-rights groups targeted the advertisers on the "Dr. Laura" TV show a few years ago. Somehow, I doubt it.

posted on April 05, 2004 01:04 PM


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