Going to the Dogs
In response to the Toles’ cartoon published by the Washington Post, depicting a grievously wounded, quadruple amputee soldier being designated by a “Dr. Rumsfeld” as “battle-hardened” and fit for return to duty, I wrote a poem, venting my anger at the cartoonist and the Post entitled “WaPo Weasels.” In my usual way, I employed strong language and terms, not uncommon among military types, to convey the intense feelings that this contemptible cartoon had evoked in me.
Not unexpectedly, Thomas Lifson, editor of The American Thinker, my home on the Internet, declined to post my poem for its depiction of implied violence directed at the cartoonist; that is, delivering upon him an old fashioned, lesson-teaching, butt whippin’ which would leave him chastised and unconscious in that literary sewer in which this particular example of his art most definitely belongs. Thomas rightfully pointed out that while my poem is indeed filled with righteous passion, he could not endorse my images of violence while simultaneously posting numerous articles decrying the violence being advocated by Islamists around the world towards Danish and other European press institutions for their cartoon depictions of Mohammed. I agreed with this wisdom and said I would go to the milblogs where I expected a better reception.
Sure enough, Blackfive and several others picked it up and the ensuing comments were generally in the tone of, “Hooahh, Russ, you gave ‘em a can a whoopass, boy! Keep it up!” I received many emails expressing these sentiments.
I had to remind some of the more excitable that these were merely literary blows being rained upon this insensitive cartoonist and in no way was I endorsing actual retribution, much as I am sure Toles would not advocate the actual return of a quadruple amputee to combat duty. His purpose had been to incite outrage at what he sees as an inept war effort; mine had been to incite a countering outrage against his clueless, insensitive cartoon.
However, there were also replies from those of a liberal bent who responded with their own outrage at my typical, militarily simplistic, primitive savagery, my condoning of violence against an artist, my desire to suppress free speech, artistic expression, etc. The diametric differences in the responses from military readers and liberal readers made me, once again, all too aware of the curious relationship that exists between those who protect and defend and those who are defended.
The seminal description of this relationship, at least for those of us on the warriors’ side, is in an essay I first read on the Blackfive site, “On Sheep, Sheepdogs and Wolves,” by LTC, Ret. Dave Grossman, USA, in which the author described the inherent differences and the problematic relationships between those docile, woolly members of the flock and the domestic canines who protect them from those other, feral canines, who would, left unchallenged, gratuitously slaughter the entire flock.
What Grossman makes clear is that, while it is the ability of the normally placid sheepdogs to match the violence of the wolves that enables them to successfully defend the flock, that selfsame flock will never cease to be dismayed by this capacity for mayhem and bloodshed that secures their well being. Knowing the dogs’ aptitude for lethal ferocity, many members of the flock are forever fretting about these fighting canines in their midst. LTC Grossman’s essay so moved me that I wrote a poem, “The Sheepdogs,” which was widely disseminated on milblogs and is my own personal favorite. Much to my delight, the good colonel, himself, liked it, high praise indeed.
Toles’ cartoon, the responding letter from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the responses to my own clumsy poetic contribution serve to demonstrate how keenly insightful the colonel truly is. To those liberal members of the flock, the letter from the Joint Chiefs was an ominous, intimidating growl from the biggest of the sheepdogs, delivered not to the wolves but to members of their flock, threatening them, not any would-be attackers. And to the few liberals who read my poem, I was the typically rabid canine defender who had turned and viciously attacked a member of the flock, snarling and biting, attempting to destroy that which I was sworn by oath to protect: free speech.
What the liberals fail to understand is that the Chiefs, the milbloggers and old soldiers like me all detect a fetid, lupine odor emanating from the shabby wool coat of the Washington Post. If there isn’t a wolf under that smelly rag, there damned sure is a critter sympathetic to ‘em and this time he seemed to be reveling in the wounding of our pups. To milbloggers and their readers, the Chiefs’ letter is recognized, just as it correctly is by the liberals, as a warning growl from the biggest dogs. But it is the difference in perceptions that evidences the validity of Grossman’s sheepdog thesis: while the liberals are baa, baaing in fear of losing their rights, the milbloggers welcome those growls, recognizing that the big dogs are showing their distinct displeasure with a tasteless representation of their wounded, a despicable depiction that has no other purpose than political gain for the liberal side. A further difference between sheepdogs and the flock they guard is the dogs know that even though they may occasionally growl at a suspect member of the flock, warning them back into communal safety, the dogs will never falter in their mission to defend the flock. The liberals in the flock are always fearful that the dogs will turn on them.
And finally, I want to thank all the milblog readers who cheered my more prosaic and far less authoritative, (but vastly more satisfying to one with sheepdog instincts) impetuous attempts to nip at the haunches of those wolf-smelling muttonheads at the Washington Post. I’m still licking my chops and savoring the strange taste of whatever that critter is hiding under that rag; you know, it tastes a lot like chicken to this old dog.
To paraphrase another wise, retired Army lieutenant colonel, columnist Ralph Peters,
“You don’t dogfight big dogs; you poison them.”
Perhaps that’s what Toles, the Washington Post and their ilk are trying to do.Russ Vaughn