Alexander Cockburn, in a recent article on Counterpunch.org, drew an analogy between Gibbon’s comment in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that integration of foreign people’s into the Roman army hastened its disintegration, and the comments of Gen. Casey, who approvingly observed—after the incident at Ft. Hood—that the diversity of the U.S. army was a mark of its strength; and that notwithstanding the events of late, it was a trait which the Army had no intention of discouraging. Not surprisingly, Cockburn’s analogy was condemned by letter-sending respondents as insult to the Muslim community, the principle of diversity and an affront to the notion of progress in general.
Cockburn’s somewhat surprising rejoinder was that these aforementioned defenses were indicative of a liberal sensibility that has become so wizened and conciliatory that it mustn’t offend the Right by opening itself to the attack of being unsupportive of the troops—that by some dubious exercise of logic, one ought to be able to admit—in the same breath—that one is “pro-troop” and “anti-war” (As a mark of how far the Right has penetrated the liberal thought, one needs only note the late-night comedy hosts who, between satiric jabs, pull a serious face and intone—quite solemnly—about the latest fundraiser for soldiers and their families).
No, it cannot be: one is asked to reconcile the fact that a soldier, in the service of the Empire, a honed instrument of death and destruction, is to be absolved of any wrongdoing—indeed, to be so quickly carved into the public mind in a heroic figure—so that their deaths should be attended by all the hokey affectations of a patriotic sentiment—and that to call into question their inherent goodness (proven beyond a doubt by their commitment to self-sacrifice for their country) is all one needs to be banned from the arena of debate. If Maj. Hasan’s destructive spree proves anything, it’s that loyalty to a flag whose fabric has been so besmirched and discredited is an increasingly tough proposition these days—especially when the Right has come to dominate and define the limits of public discourse so that honest reflection has become a synonym for weakness and that inadherence to the principle of American Exceptionalism is downright treasonous.