Home CommentaryOpinions The Unpopular War

The Unpopular War

by Archives February 12, 2008

Is the war simply not hip anymore? I ask this question in all seriousness. I want to know. Is the idea that thousands of women and men, Canadian and American, still overseas engaged in active combat just not very interesting? Did we win or something?
One can watch a nightly news broadcast on any network these days without hearing a sound-bite about Iraq or Afghanistan, which is a disgrace. It’s like the viewers, and by extension the reporters, just decided one day that any war news was boring. “Let’s go cover Heath Ledger instead.”
Hell, even Al-Jazeera doesn’t have a headlining story on Iraq on its website.
The United States elections (still 10 months away) take up so much time that no-one even seems to wonder why it’s so important. It’s the war. Neither democratic hopefuls Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton have yet to offer anything concrete on how exactly they intend to “bring the troops home.”Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney on the other hand, can’t wait to send more soldiers over to Iraq, and probably Iran, Syria and Pakistan too.
It’s not like the war is over. Last year was the bloodiest year yet for American troops in Afghanistan. Add to that the nearly 2,000 civilians killed in combat and 10 times that figure over in Iraq. Throw in 900 American troops and 30 Canadian troops and you’ve got anything but “mission accomplished.”That’s just 2007. We’ve been at it in Iraq for five years and seven in Afghanistan. My little cousin just turned three. We’ve got an entire generation coming of age that doesn’t know what the world looks like without Iraqi insurgents and Taliban militia. That offends me.

The fickle protest community, with its earnest sociology students and neo-vegan hippies, has already moved on. Now they’re all about carbon dioxide and Darfur. Next it’ll probably be testing on rabbits and civilians in Burma.
Look, I know it’s difficult and boring and we’ve all been hearing about this war forever now. The images are never easy, the stories are always depressing. We students have it rough already. Who needs to hear about a seven year-old girl getting shot to death (happened Monday in Diyala.) We’ve got enough things to worry about like exams, jobs, loan debts, relationships, Facebook requests . . .
I also understand that the news business these days is in the middle of a kind of revolution it hasn’t seen since the invention of television. This Internet generation is abandoning print and television and turning to strange and unprofitable things like the blogosphere and podcasts. Websites with funny names like Fark, Digg, del.icio.us and Technorati compete with the BBC and The New York Times. Classified ads are losing out to the new school of Craigslist and Kijiji. Times are rough and covering wars is expensive.
But these are all pitiful excuses in the face of what’s truly important. Let’s not lose sight of that fact. No matter how many young actors overdose and pop stars get locked up in mental hospitals, or even if the islanders from “Lost” get rescued by the Mexican Navy, we ought to keep a simple thought in the back of our media-saturated brains:
People are dying. For us. For this country.
Whether you support their mission or not, or whether you care or not is irrelevant. The fact remains they deserve your consideration. More so than a dumb smog monster anyway.

Editor’s Response

Karen Fournier,
Assistant Opinions Ed.

Afghanistan and Iraq are covered daily in the papers and in newscasts. I’ll concede that the war isn’t always the top story of the day, but that’s not because the subject has become uninteresting.
The reality is that news coverage is not a perfect model of discussion for the day’s most ethically relevant topic. News is a reflection of what people want to know about.
News is a product. It caters to an audience that tunes in when there’s a scandal in Hollywood. We should be thanking the gods of journalistic integrity for what serious news coverage we have.
Yes, leading a newscast with an entertainment story is shameful, but so is pretending that’s not what people want. Maybe we should stop blaming the people who give us what we’re asking for and take a long hard look at ourselves. Why are we, as a country, shying away from this war?
Certainly, it’s not because we don’t support our troops. It’s not because we don’t care about the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s because most of us don’t feel directly involved. And contrary to what some believe, more media coverage is not the cure for a poor sense of social responsibility. We can publish war stories on the front cover of the paper everyday and some people still won’t pick it up.
Yes, the environment and Darfur have been getting a lot of press, but it’s not like they are undeserving subjects.
One can’t argue that the war in Afghanistan is more important than the situation in Darfur.
One couldn’t legitimately argue that the life of a Canadian soldier is more important than the life of an activist in Burma.
And we shouldn’t forget about smog to concentrate on war.
Different people have different passions and different causes, and this is reflected in what kind of medium we turn to when we need information. Podcasts and blogs are a good thing, more information is always better than less, even if sometimes the war has to compete with entertainment for people’s attention.
At least we have the freedom to discuss both.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment