Saturday, January 22, 2005

POW Sign is Funny?

Some conservative bloggers have been chuckling over a photo of John Kerry with some US troops in which a female soldier appears to be making a gesture that can be interpreted as a hand sign which is intended to be used by American P.O.W.s to indicate surreptitiously that their public statements are being made under coercion. That's funny, right?

This ranks as one of the pettiest, most unpatriotic uses of the blogosphere I can imagine. No, this probably isn't highly classified material in any real sense, if it's taught to all US soldiers, sailors and flight personnel, but it's not something that the whole world knows, either. At least it wasn't, until now. Publicizing these signs endangers the lives and well-being of any US military personnel, former military, or citizen taken prisoner or hostage.

This is, of course, aside from the complete lack of ethics with regard to using and interpreting the image of the soldier in question: the posts I've seen so far clearly haven't gotten confirmation, and since Kerry isn't president (I was going to say he lost, but we still don't know that for sure as long as there are questions about Ohio and electronic systems), there should be no problem getting it. They are qualifying it -- hedging with weasely phrases like "seems like," "interpreted by some" -- but that doesn't change the fact that there is no good reason, aside from snarky laziness, for someone not to have followed up.

The "gesture" might be inadvertent, in which case these bloggers owe their readers and this soldier an apology; the gesture might not have been intended for wider dissemination than the immediate group, and the soldier is not a "public figure" whose privacy is automatically negated by any action they make; the gesture might be deliberate, in which case the soldier in question should probably receive some instruction from her superiors on public decorum and discretion.

Some people -- and yes, I'm generalizing about a certain caste of conservatives from the evidence before me -- will stop a nothing to score points. No ethics, no morals, no foresight, no sense of responsibility or decorum. I'm disgusted. It's entirely possible that there are conservatives out there who will also object to this, or even some who have perpetrated it who might see the error of their ways: if so, I will revise my generalizations, at least to exclude them. Until then, I remain simply outraged.

Update: Mr. Jones suggests that he's equally outraged by all staged uses of soldiers. But the only examples he uses are Democrats. What about the Abraham Lincoln/Mission Accomplished stunt? What about the Thanksgiving Plastic Turkey stunt? He will probably argue that the Commander in Chief has special status, and he's right, but Clinton was, too. He might argue that Bush is "popular" among the troops, and he's right, but that doesn't mean "universally loved or respected" which means that the potential for coercion is still substantial (greater, in fact, as those who disagree would be likely to keep it hidden. Kind of like Mr. Jones' arguments about conservatives in the academy.). I'd like to see some evenhandedness, some consistency. Otherwise I, who prefer to be refered to as "an ahistoricality" instead of having my gender speculated about, can't really take him all that seriously.

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