Erik Wemple on Chris Hayes
Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple says that MSNBC host Chris Hayes didn't do enough to justify his misgivings about calling all U.S. war dead heroes.
"I feel ... uncomfortable, about the word “hero” because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war," Hayes said during his Memorial Day broadcast.
Hayes fell short in failing to draw a line between this culture of valor and its relationship to warmongering. Without digging too deeply into the history books, I am recalling that the justification for the Afghanistan war was that Afghanistan had served as a safe haven for al-Qaeda; for the Iraq war, it was all about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction — mushroom clouds, evil trailers, missiles. Perhaps the cult of the military hero was “rhetorically proximate” to those justifications. Perhaps it was in the next room or the next paragraph. But at least in the case of the Iraq war, lies or huge mistakes — not heroes — were in the vicinity of the official justifications.
Hayes' thesis deserves to be explored in greater detail. I wish that, instead of penning an apology, he had written a blog post fleshing out his thoughts on the relationship between the rhetoric of heroism and the justification of war.
It's not a difficult case to make. The Bush administration did everything it could to elide the heroism of Americans on 9/11 with justifications for wars overseas. Dick Cheney and other top administration officials disingenuously tried to link Iraq to 9/11 in the public mind.
In a brilliant bit of sleight of hand, the fallen heroes of 9/11 were deemed casualties in the opening salvo of the newly-minted "Global War on Terror," a frame that expanded to include troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush administration created a hybrid war that allowed them to retroactively count fallen civilians and first responders as war heros.
The Republican Party held its 2004 convention in New York City and wrapped itself in the mantle of 9/11 heroism to deflect criticsim of the invasion of Iraq. I'm sure Hayes remembers the spectacle as vividly as I do.