About What He Said

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred. – The Charge of the Light Brigade, Lord Tennyson

Inside me I’m screaming, nobody pays any attention. If I had arms, I could kill myself. If I had legs, I could run away. If I had a voice, I could talk and be some kind of company for myself. I could yell for help, but nobody would help me. – Johnny Got His Gun

“The wisest were just the poor and simple people. They knew the war to be a misfortune, whereas those who were better off, and should have been able to see more clearly what the consequences would be, were beside themselves with joy. Katczinsky said that was a result of their upbringing. It made them stupid. And what Kat said, he had thought about.”


“He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front. He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.” – All Quiet on the Western Front.

We were the children of the 1950s and John F. Kennedy’s young stalwarts of the early 1960s. He told the world that Americans would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship” in the defense of freedom. We were the down payment on that costly contract, but the man who signed it was not there when we fulfilled his promise. John F. Kennedy waited for us on a hill in Arlington National Cemetary, and in time we came by the thousands to fill those slopes with our white marble markers and to ask on the murmur of the wind if that was truly the future he had envisioned for us. – prologue from We Were Soldiers Once and Young by Harold G. Moore and Joseph F. Galloway.

Everyone has left the house, the kitchen is cleaned, the leftovers are secured, and I am a little tuned up. So I thought I would talk about the Chris Hayes comments that DougJ mentioned earlier (showing spectacular judgment, I might add, wading into a hot topic at 2 am after a few hours on the bottle. What can I say- I never learn.). At any rate, here are the remarks from Hayes that caused a shitstorm:

I think it’s interesting because I think it is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the words “heroes.” Why do I feel so [uncomfortable] about the word “hero”? I feel comfortable — uncomfortable — about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism: hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.

The feigned outrage of the day went to eleven, so he had to walk back his comments:

On Sunday, in discussing the uses of the word “hero” to describe those members of the armed forces who have given their lives, I don’t think I lived up to the standards of rigor, respect and empathy for those affected by the issues we discuss that I’ve set for myself. I am deeply sorry for that.

As many have rightly pointed out, it’s very easy for me, a TV host, to opine about the people who fight our wars, having never dodged a bullet or guarded a post or walked a mile in their boots. Of course, that is true of the overwhelming majority of our nation’s citizens as a whole. One of the points made during Sunday’s show was just how removed most Americans are from the wars we fight, how small a percentage of our population is asked to shoulder the entire burden and how easy it becomes to never read the names of those who are wounded and fight and die, to not ask questions about the direction of our strategy in Afghanistan, and to assuage our own collective guilt about this disconnect with a pro-forma ritual that we observe briefly before returning to our barbecues.

But in seeking to discuss the civilian-military divide and the social distance between those who fight and those who don’t, I ended up reinforcing it, conforming to a stereotype of a removed pundit whose views are not anchored in the very real and very wrenching experience of this long decade of war. And for that I am truly sorry.

Not one thing he initially said offends me, and his point is worth understanding. The more we mindlessly cheer our war dead, the more likely we are to engage in more wars where we kill more of our kids for no good reason. Calling everyone a hero in a misguided war just makes it easier to make more “heroes.” That was the point Hayes was trying to make.

Hayes wasn’t shitting on our war dead. He was trying to keep us from making more dead 19 year old “heroes.” Being bold enough to voice that opinion is a far more noble tribute to our war dead (aren’t we always told they fought for our freedoms, including freedom of speech?) than all you fat fuckers like me in the heartland, grilling steaks, swilling beer, flying the flag, and high-fiving each other saying “HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY,” convinced you’ve done your duty because you have a yellow ribbon on your Lincoln Land Yacht or Mercury Marquis Medicare Sled.

Chris Hayes, voicing an uncomfortable truth, is more of a patriot than any of you assholes with your mindless patriotism gleefully cheering our kids off to pointless wars to die as… “heroes.”
Ask Kevin Tillman. As the quotes above from Tennyson, Galloway and Moore, and others note, we’ve been making heroes for hundreds of years. It takes nothing to go along with that status quo. It takes balls to stand up and say “Make it stop. No more heroes.”

That is what Chris Hayes was doing. You should have his back. This former soldier does. Let’s stop making dead heroes, and let’s start using the terminology that the military already does- when we lose one of our own, it is a casualty. It’s not just another “hero” to mindlessly salute, it’s a real loss.

And let’s support folks like Chris Hayes who want to stop these losses and have the nerve to use their public forum to try to make that point.

127 replies
  1. 1
    Alison says:

    Word, this, and other terms of agreement.

    It was weird, because I found myself in total agreement with the point he was making, and feeling proud of the show for putting such a point out there, when most people would shy away from it…for precisely the reaction he got. When I started hearing about the shitstorm, and especially reading the comments on the statement posted at his show;s blog…I was honestly just like…did we all watch the same show? The fuck is wrong with these people…

  2. 2
    owlbear1 says:

    Isn’t it amazing how many people seem to be able to wash their faces without ever looking themselves in the eye?

  3. 3
    MoeLarryAndJesus says:

    Thanks, John. This sort of thing is why I am very loyal to Balloon Juice.

  4. 4
    Meg says:

    Thank you for the voice of sanity.
    I think the whole segment of Hayes’s Sunday show on this subject is worth watching. It was a lengthy and thoughtful discussion from the panel. At no time did I sense any disrespect from him toward the fallen troops. People really shouldn’t make hasty judgement based on some short excerpt or from some blogger’s butt-hurt.

  5. 5
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    John, right on.

    Hayes has nothing to apologize for. Regardless of the heroism of the fallen, they are fallen…and many of them recently fell in an utterly illegal war of aggression. On the tactical level, yeah, these are heroes. Strategically? The war they fought in was ANYTHING but heroic.

    We’ve got this fixation on WWII, where we were in a true existential struggle with utter fucking evil. Well, sorry folks, but Vietnam and Iraq don’t qualify for that status. There’s way too much duplicity and treachery on our side to make them “good”, if anything as terrible and destructive as war is anything more than a highly regrettable necessary evil.

    We must never, ever, forget that this is a shitty business that should be avoided at almost any cost. Because frankly, all of the profit of Darth Cheney and his cronies are not worth the life of a single American soldier, or, for that matter, one bystanding Iraqi civilian.

  6. 6
    Suffern ACE says:

    Not having watched the show, what on Earth prompted him to say that on Memorial day? If he wasn’t willing to own it to its conclusion against pushback (and with the hedging about “descrating and disrespecting” he doesn’t appear to feel that strongly about it anyway), why bring it up? Was he goading some guest?

  7. 7
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    I’m reluctant to use the word “hero” for everyone in the miltary. My father-in-law, who was in the Navy at Leyte Gulf, certainly didn’t consider himself one. Neither did my uncle, who flew a C-47 over Normandy. Neither did my dad, who didn’t make it out of the states like his older brother did.

    Mostly, the grunts and swabs slog it out day to day. Sometimes they get a chance to do something heroic. Sometimes they never do. Sometimes they don’t take the extra step and it weighs on them for the rest of their lives. I wonder if that happened to my uncle, who never told a soul about his experiences.

    Calling them all heroes has the potential to turn the members of the armed forces into cynics and diminishes the meaning of the word.

  8. 8
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    Whenever I hear the 101st chairborn (and their preferred congress critters) going on about The Troops, Glory, The American Way and all that jazz I just cringe and cringe and cringe. They put me in mind of Elizabeth Bathory, said to have bathed in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth. Our Bathory’s bathe in the bloode of 19 year old kids to preserve their masculinity and shore up their self-esteem.

    Some soldiers are heros, not all of them died to become heros. Other heros (i’m thinking of my aunts: nurses, doctors, educators) face far less deadly opposition, but fight and fight and fight for those around them with very little recognition and (in many cases) respect.

  9. 9
    Spiffy McBang says:

    I don’t have any problem with what Hayes said, mainly because if you call all soldiers heroes, or all soldiers who are deployed to a war zone, you take something away from the ones who do the honest-to-god, ridiculously heroic shit.

    But- and maybe this is just how I think of it, and it doesn’t match most of the country- it seems like if we consider soldiers heroes in general for volunteering to risk their lives, even if they never wind up in a position where they’re likely to do so, that should make us want to take better care of them. Part of taking better care of soldiers is not sending them into pointless, ego-driven conflicts.

    Or, to look at it another way, if we didn’t consider soldiers heroes- if we just saw them as people doing their jobs- would that actually make us less likely to wage war? I don’t think so. The less we hold up soldiers as valuable, the more expendable they become, and thus the more likely it is politicians or generals can push us into a war.

    It’s theorizing, I admit. But it makes more sense to me than the idea that by throwing around the term “hero” liberally, we’re making war easier to sell to the public.

  10. 10
    JGabriel says:

    Chris Hayes via John @ Top:

    One of the points made during Sunday’s show was just how removed most Americans are from the wars we fight, how small a percentage of our population is asked to shoulder the entire burden and how easy it becomes to never read the names of those who are wounded and fight and die, to not ask questions about the direction of our strategy …

    I wonder if that distance, that remove, is what enabled our leaders to keep us so long in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest foreign US military engagements in our history.


  11. 11
    Silver says:

    People aren’t inherently heroes because of their jobs. Not every doctor is a hero. Not every professor is a hero. Not every environmentalist is a hero. Not every soldier is a hero.

    Some doctors are just in it for the money. Some professors are are just in it for the pussy. Some environmentalists are in it for headlines. And some soldiers are just in it for money for college, or to get out of a small town.

    It’s fitting that Memorial Day is an alcohol fueled kickoff to summer in the US. There’s something that the Commonwealth countries have figured out a bit better than we do. Compare and contrast the scene at a cenotaph on November 11…

  12. 12

    The absolute truth about endless war. No one is innocent, least of all the troops who enable the merchants of death.
    Memorial Day Patriotism: Cannon Fodder for the Merchants of Death

  13. 13
    Martin says:

    I’m uncomfortable with the word ‘heroes’ as well here. If they’re heroes simply for enlisting, then it’s going to be easy to keep sending them – after all, you’ve already labeled them before they’ve done anything.

    If instead you label our troops as sons and daughters, moms and dads, it get a hell of a lot harder to say “Hey mom, go drive a diesel tanker down a road lined with explosive devices and folks carrying rpgs.” Lot easer to ask a hero to do that.

    That takes nothing away from what these people have done – which is truly remarkable, but I think we’re better off not objectifying them as a group.

  14. 14
    David Koch says:

    That is what Chris Hayes was doing. You should have his back.


    Why should we have his back, when he just stabbed all his defenders in the back?

    By apologizing and cutting and running from his statement, Hayes just sold out everyone who was defending him the past 36 hrs. Hung them all out to dry.

    Let’s be honest. He could of stood on principle, but he cared more about his fat tee vee paycheck.

    Typical professional lefty, more interested money than ideals.

    Spineless. Weak.

  15. 15
    Kane says:

    As a society, we are incredibly generous in our rhetoric when it comes to the troops, veterans, teachers, motherhood, and police and firefighters. We say that we want to honor the troops, take care of our veterans, do right by teachers, reward our police and firefighters, and that motherhood is the most important job in the world, but our actions and our policies simply don’t measure up. To compensate for our shortcomings, we devote ourselves to the promise that what we don’t give them in tangible support, we will make up for in glorious empty rhetoric.

  16. 16
    David Koch says:


  17. 17
    Bnut says:

    @M. Bouffant: This is some horseshit.
    From the article

    More than one in ten American soldiers lose a limb. More than six in ten suffer from PTSD or traumatic brain injury. If they survive their tour of duty, and subsequent stop-loss redeployments, they are more likely to end up struggling for assistance from their government, or marketing themselves as mercenaries to Erik Prince and his companies

    These are all made up stats that have no basis in reality.

  18. 18
    MojoQuestor says:

    Fucking bravo.

  19. 19
    wolfdog says:

    In Luang Prabang there is a spot
    Where the corpses of your brothers rot,
    And every corpse is a patriot,
    And every corpse is a hero.
    Mourn your dead land of the free!
    If you want to be a hero follow me.
    Mourn your dead land of the free!
    If you want to be a hero follow me.


  20. 20

    I guess I don’t like it much when a word with a specific intent or meaning is used so broadly that it devalues what that word meant. Some people have, for example, died hiding in a shell hole scared to death when another shell landed in it. They certainly gave all they had, but does that equate with a soldier who earned one of the military’s medals for defined heroism by some action that almost no one would or did take? The military certainly draws distinctions – the Purple Heart is not a Silver Star and that is not a Medal of Honor. Trying to use one word to cover too many cases takes the meaning out of the word.

    It reaches the point of ludicrous when something like the fact of wearing a police uniform turns someone into a hero. The plain fact is that it is statistically more dangerous to be a construction worker – per the insurance industry. Would a carpenter feel honored by being called a hero? English is a wonderful language with tremendous capability for expression – maybe we ought to use it as though it is.

  21. 21
  22. 22

    They either put someone in the chair who believes the insane things they want him to say, or they force a person in the chair who starts saying things that aren’t insane to shut up.

    That’s just how institutions work. Too bad this one helps launch wars.

  23. 23
    Bnut says:

    Putting aside M.Boffaunt’s stupid link, John has it spot on.

    As a combat vet, nothing Hayes said made me angry. I will quote a comment from OTB that encapsulates my views on all of this.

    Semantic arguments like this are kind of irrelevant to real life. Let’s say they’re heroes. How does that help them get medical treatment once they’re home again? Does it ensure that mental health issues they may have are treated adequately? Does it mean we care that they’re employed again, that their families do not suffer financial hardship while they’re serving overseas?

    We’re great at blowing up helium balloons and throwing confetti at the airport when soldiers come home – but they tend to be those soldiers who didn’t lose limbs or are otherwise displaying injuries. We’re too squeamish to handle that kind of reality. And of course the visuals of honoring the returnees makes us look good too – which I personally think is the reason why we do it.

    So we eskew the heavy lifting of actually following through on society’s commitment to our heroes and settle for simply cheering and applauding, as if that cost us anything to do. We’re loading up the military with what we imagine to be our collective good points – patriotism, selflessness, strength, resolve – and then attack furiuosly anyone who doesn’t see to be genuflecting in front of that alter we’ve raised to ourselves.

    We don’t give a damn about our heroes unless we use them as a mirror to reflect our own self-image. They pay a high price in blood for that kind of vanity.

  24. 24
    patrick II says:

    During the height of both the Iraq and Vietnam war, we were told we would “dishonor” the troops who had already lost their lives by leaving the war without “winning” the war — that those already fallen soldiers would have died in vain. The truth is we more often dishonor them by using their deaths as an excuse for the death of more young soldiers.

  25. 25
    Nemo_N says:

    But heroes are, like, so cool.

  26. 26
    srv says:

    The word just doesn’t mean much today. You overuse anything of value too much, it becomes less meaningful.

    Am far more concerned with the creation of the “Warrior” class. We’re going to be dealing with the effects of that for generations.

  27. 27
    MTiffany says:

    Have we started taking bets on just how long it will take MSNBC to cancel Up and shitcan Hayes? Put me down for June 1 for $50.

  28. 28
    TuiMel says:

    @Suffern ACE:
    Have you EVER watched Chris Hayes?

    He is most definitely not a “goader.” I find him to be very civil. His comments came after a guest referred to all fallen soldiers as “heroes” and referred to their “valor.” I believe another panelist may have made a comment about the use of these terms in a blanket manor. Chris was responding to that.

    I think Chris Hayes is intelligent and earnest. I am worse than he when it comes to the term “heroes.” I think it is over-used and thereby cheapened, and, as others have mentioned, provides the media and the public a way to dodge serious discussion of what the hell we are doing and asking of our service men and women. It provides others who war monger for whatever reason with a stick to beat back dissenting voices. I’m with Chris.

  29. 29

    My uncle was hurt and sent home during Patton’s dash across France. The family thought he’d been hurt early on in his deployment. After his death some of the remnants had some things to say about the role of combat engineers from D-day onward which was my uncle. The family’s erroneous assumptions about his role happened because the only thing he’d ever said about any of it was how he got hurt – someone’s stupidity. He just died a couple years ago, he was a tremendously nice man and an able professional (thanks GI Bill). Bryce would have been mortified to be called a hero despite the horrors and terrific dangers he endured. He had a long marriage and raised three pretty outstanding children – that’s saying a lot.

    I wouldn’t dishonor his memory by calling him a hero, but I sure the hell admire the man he was.

  30. 30
    JGabriel says:

    While we’re quoting Lord Tennyson, it might be worth mentioning the The First World War Poetry Archive. Here’s a classic sample:

    Dulce Et Decorum Est
    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
    Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
    Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.
    Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

    Wilfred Owen was killed in action in 1918, exactly one week before peace was declared and the Armistice signed, at the age of 25.


  31. 31
    Mutaman says:

    If he didn’t have anything to apologize for, why did he apologize?

  32. 32
    TuiMel says:


  33. 33
    Kane says:

    In a related story, those on the Right are now demanding that Tina Turner condemn and repudiate her 1980s hit song “We Don’t Need Another Hero.”

  34. 34
    Jager says:

    Americans talk about honoring the troops, the heros. Parades, honors and thank you for your service don’t make up for the great American tradition of forgetting about them when the war is over. A tradition that started at the end of the revolution. Fucking over the troops is as American as apple pie and older than baseball

    (I’m glad I looked at this before I went to bed, I forgot my flag was still up.)

  35. 35
    David Koch says:

    I blame DWS for this controversy.

  36. 36
    JGabriel says:

    FYI, for those unfamiliar with the Latin saying above here’s a translation :

    Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori = It is sweet and glorious to die for one’s country.


  37. 37
    Chris says:


    Am far more concerned with the creation of the “Warrior” class. We’re going to be dealing with the effects of that for generations.

    The Huge Professional Standing Army, if that’s what you mean, only dates back to World War Two – before that, our wars were fought by armies of citizen-soldiers most of whom were demobilized at the end of the war. Of course there was a permanent military force, but not the bloated one we have now. And I agree that it’s a matter of major concern.

  38. 38

    @David Koch:

    Let’s be honest. He could of stood on principle, but he cared more about his fat tee vee paycheck

    I kept thinking about this until it finally pissed me off. You might think that what Hayes did not want to have happen was for his words to bring additional pain to those who have lost their own to our wars. That he did not want to be used as a bludgeon by the stupid on people he rightfully saw as having suffered. You could have tried that, but then the “professional left” part would’ve had nothing to hang its hat on.

    I swear, you people and your fucking hobby-horses… Month by month and year by year it gets easier for me to be offended to be considered as being on the same side.

  39. 39
    Thor Heyerdahl says:


    There’s something that the Commonwealth countries have figured out a bit better than we do. Compare and contrast the scene at a cenotaph on November 11…

    Laying a wreath or being a part of a colour guard on a frozen November day on the Canadian prairie certainly added to the sombre note of the event. November 11 was almost always bone chilling with a northern arctic wind and often snow adding to the greyness of the day.

    Aussies and Kiwis recognize their war dead at the middle of their autumn (April 25) on Anzac day.

    The inscription on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial in Canberra is fitting:

    Those heroes that shed their blood
    And lost their lives.
    You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
    Therefore rest in peace.
    There is no difference between the Johnnies
    And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
    Here in this country of ours.
    You, the mothers,
    Who sent their sons from far away countries
    Wipe away your tears,
    Your sons are now lying in our bosom
    And are in peace
    After having lost their lives on this land they have
    Become our sons as well.”

  40. 40
    PIGL says:

    @Mutaman: he apologised because yours is a society of mindless vampiric savages who require the ritualisefd hari-kari of any one of prominence who speaks anything close to the truth. No man born is strong enough or dare i say, heroic enough, to withstand them. You had rather look to your fucking population of evil morons rather than to the mere mortal men of principle who, having inadvertently roused their reflexive warth, go down ingloriously.

    Like you’d thirty seconds were the unending banshee howl and withering blowtorch of the mob directed at you.

    We had the same problem here in Canada 30 years ago, when some CBC producer dared to point out that the fire bombing of Dresden was not the most glorious act in the whole world ever.

  41. 41
    Mutaman says:

    @Chuck Butcher: Want to repeat this in English?

  42. 42
    moron says:

    The feigned outrage of the day went to eleven

    including from the Obot demagogues on your own front page who thought Hayes wasn’t sufficiently in-tune with Barack’s amen chorus.

  43. 43

    Short and to the point? You are fucking morons. I’m embarrassed to be in any way associated with you.

  44. 44
    David Koch says:


    Hayes has now apologized and denounced his own statement, saying his critics (including black metrosexual Abe Lincoln’s amen chorus) were right and those supporting his initial comments (the intelligentsia) were wrong.

  45. 45
    JordanRules says:

    @Chuck Butcher: If that is what offends you I doubt seriously that you’re on the same side. No purity test, but you sound pissed at the left, really pissed and if this is getting closer to the fatal straw for you in your association with the left I’m wondering what political world you live in. The right pisses me off, really pisses me off because they’re trying to ruin the damn country. Big tents get crowded and annoying but I still prefer it that way, even for people like you who get on my damn nerves. I still want you to get decent healthcare, Moron!

  46. 46
    Kane says:

    The same people who are voicing outrage over the comments of Chris Hayes are in large measure the very same people who last month were voicing outrage over the comments made by Hilary Rosen.

    This outrage isn’t about protecting the honor of those who have served in the military any more than the reaction to Rosen’s comments was about defending stay at home moms.

    No, these are nothing more than examples of faux outrage from those on the Right who saw an opportunity to attack and vilify someone on the Left.

  47. 47
    NotMax says:

    True then, true now.

  48. 48
    Egg Berry says:

    The real problem for Chris Hayes is he said what he said on MSNBC on a Sunday morning gabfest and not on “Democracy Now,” where none of the fauxtraged right would have been paying attention.

  49. 49

    You are another fucking moron. I’m sick of the left being blamed for the ills of the ball-less “middle.” I’m well beyond being sick of the DFH, Firebagger, Professional Left horse shit labels for anyone left of RMN.

    If you think those two are fucking left…

  50. 50
    Mutaman says:

    @Chuck Butcher:

    Chuck, I love you, but sooner or later you are going to have to face the fact that you need to be on some kind of medication. And also, that you’re not too bright.

  51. 51
    balconesfault says:

    One of the very few brakes on our Iraq involvement was the lack of willingness among America’s young to strap on hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of military technology to wander the streets of a nation which never attacked us.

    This forced our military to push up the size of the bonuses and salaries they paid our enlisted men in order to attract and retain Cheney’s combat fodder. That at least was a good thing.

    To the extent that war fetishism creates a larger, cheaper supply of young men to feed neocon fantasies, it is a bad thing. I respect the dead we Memorialized yesterday. I wish a lot more of them had been like my dad, who returned home from WWII to raise a family, be a scout leader for decades, and die peacefully in his 80’s.

  52. 52
    balconesfault says:

    @PIGL: No man born is strong enough or dare i say, heroic enough, to withstand them.

    Love him or hate him, Bill Maher is …

  53. 53
    Pat In Massachusetts says:

    Well, I NEVER heard “Happy Memorial Day” as much as I did yesterday. Happy Memorial Day? I grew up observing Memorial Day by visiting the graves of the dead. How is this happy? Why am I supposed to wish a person a Happy Memorial Day when the military gave this person a wonderful career? They are not dead. They have all their limbs. What exactly did they sacrifice for me? Am I thanking teachers for teaching my kids? Am I thanking the city workers for keeping my city clean? No, I am not. Career military do not deserve any more honor than the meat cutter at my local market because it was a career that they CHOOSE.

    The only ones who deserve honor on Memorial Day are the dead. Period. Especially all those who died in vain because our country is no better off for their bloodshed. In fact, our leaders always seem to be finding ways for so many more to die in vain.

    I can see where Hayes is coming from. When you are a pacifist and feel war is never a solution, hero worship is a difficult concept, and as Hayes demonstrated cannot be forced.

    Sorry, America, but when fellow Americans are wishing each other a “Happy Memorial Day”, I do believe all rational thinking has left the building.

  54. 54
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    @Pat In Massachusetts: One of the things that has bothered me for years is the idiots who confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day.

  55. 55
    Baud says:

    Well, I for one found it offensive to see Hayes mocking the sacrifices our troops have made by wearing a fake “purple heart” bandaid during the show.

    Oh, wait…

  56. 56
    tjmn says:

    We went to Charleston, SC, this weekend. One of places we went to was H. L. Hunley, a confederate submarine. One of the docents is eighty-five year old WWII veteran. He very confidently said, “We need to bring our troops home from this useless wars.” Couldn’t agree more.

  57. 57
    Raven says:

    I’m much mare pissed off at Obama’s pandering at the Wall.

    “You came home and sometimes were denigrated when you should have been celebrated,” Obama said beneath a scorching sun at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. “It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened. That’s why here today, we resolve that it will not happen again.”

    A disgrace? The fucking war was a disgrace.

  58. 58
    wormtown says:

    Yes. Thank you, John. Also for the Joe Biden video. I lost my brother in Vietnam. Yesterday, debated whether or not to go to the local Memorial Day observance. Decided I should. But, once again,it just got me really agitated. Patriotism jingoism; but no sense of the real loss and the stupidity of the whole thing. And then being treated like some kind of traitor for asking questions about the idiots who keep getting us into these things. Honor guards of the junior ROTC groups, almost all minorities, of course

    Off to make a donation to my favorite blog before I go to work. In memory of my brother.

  59. 59
    Annamal says:


    Snap, I was about to go hunting for Dulce et Decorum est before I read your post.

    So I will see you some Owen and raise you some Seigfried Sassoon

    I FOUND him in the guard-room at the Base.
    From the blind darkness I had heard his crying
    And blundered in. With puzzled, patient face
    A sergeant watched him; it was no good trying
    To stop it; for he howled and beat his chest. 5
    And, all because his brother had gone west,
    Raved at the bleeding war; his rampant grief
    Moaned, shouted, sobbed, and choked, while he was kneeling
    Half-naked on the floor. In my belief
    Such men have lost all patriotic feeling. 10


  60. 60
    Applejinx says:

    I honestly wonder how many Americans think the Korean War went for ten years because that was how long M*A*S*H was on the air… when in fact it was roughly a third as long as Iraq and Afghanistan.

    There can be no heroes in a land of absolute fools, and a lot of effort and money has gone into making Americans absolute fools.

  61. 61
    sherparick says:

    On Saturday I attended the Illumination event at Fredericksburg National Cemetery, and the word “Happy” is not the emotion I felt. I must admit watching events and hearing “Happy Memorial Day,” struck me like a mis note at a concert. This is the day of the dead, and of remembering the grief of the living. “Happy,” well, it can be a by-product of a nice summer day off, but it certainly is not the word I would attach to Memorial Day.

    Of course this is being used by the political right to reinforce one of their oldest tropes that the Left is a bunch of troop hating hippies who root for America’s enemies. It is kind of sad to see the Village playing along.

  62. 62
    Keith G says:

    I figured Hayes would have to apologize as he is a young man with a new show and therefore a very easy target. If necessary, I sure hope his mentor, Maddow, goes to bat for him at 30 Rockefeller Plaza if things get hairy.

  63. 63
    Loviatar says:

    For once John and I are in complete agreement.

    Chris Hayes has nothing to apologize for, it took real courage to use his pulpit in the press to make an important point on the way America fetishizes our soldiers. Chris has my support in that he spoke nothing but the truth, and it wasn’t even a hard truth. The majority of those of us who’ve served didn’t join the military to be heroes, in fact we tried to avoid the few who did join to be heroes as they tended get others killed in performing their heroic tasks.

    Additionally, notice how it’ll primarily be the never served and the wannabes who will be the loudest in protesting Chris’s statement.

  64. 64
    Keith G says:

    @Raven: Is it possible that “disgrace” refers to the treatment of vets and not the war? That’s how I read it.

    Or are you using sarcasm to make a point?


    Additionally, notice how it’ll primarily be the never served and the wannabes who will be the loudest in protesting Chris’s statement.

    ‘Hero’ is the new soccer youth league trophy. Everyone qualifies.

  65. 65
    HRA says:

    All of us react to what we learned or experienced by whatever war touched us personally. What is said by a host of talk show or what speeches are given on the day to remember our fallen from the wars does not change us. I know I always think of my childhood when each evening became a dreaded scary time with the sound of the siren, closing the drapes and wondering if my Dad was safe.
    The day my older sister took me to a parade to honor a hometown major was the first time I saw what war could do to someone who had survived and now could no longer have his own legs to walk on. Even at that age I was somewhat unsure and confused why everyone was cheering and clapping. I know I could not do it. I was trying my best not to cry.

    That was the day when I began to hate war. Hating war does not mean I hate those who have to go to war.

  66. 66

    I was a soldier once. I am not a hero. Some of the guys I served with fell near my side and some were not heroic deaths nor did they ever do anything heroic. But, hey, what do I know? I just happened to be there when they bought it.

  67. 67
    mellowjohn says:


    If you are able,
    save a place for them
    inside of you. And
    save one backward glance
    when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go.
    Be not ashamed to say that you loved them,
    though you may not have always.
    Take what they have left,
    and what they have taught you
    with their dying
    and keep it your own.
    And in a time
    when men decide and feel safe
    to call war insane,
    take one moment to embrace
    those gentle heroes
    you left behind.

    Major Michael Davis O’Donnell, helicopter pilot
    1 January 1970, Dak To, Vietnam
    KIA, March 24, 1970

  68. 68
    Raven says:

    @Keith G: Yes, that’s what he meant. I will always find the “mistreatment” stories to be way over blown. I was mistreated by right wing assholes who thought we were pussies for not crushing the little jungle buggers.

  69. 69
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    I have long been bothered Us society’s ritual deification of the military. Soldiers are not automatically heroes. They are no better or worse than any other group of individual selected out of segments of society from which they come. It can be a dirty, dangerous, unpleasant, but necessary job. Coal mining fits that description as well.

  70. 70
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @Silver: Indeed. Remembrance Day is not an occasion to get plastered.

  71. 71
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @David Koch: You’re not allowing for the possibility that his statement became a condition for his continued employment.

  72. 72
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @Chuck Butcher: Interesting comment. Puts me in mind of that great passage in 1984 in the cafeteria when NewSpeak is being explained to Winston Smith. The overuse of “hero” by people with a pecuniary interest in the trade of war is used to reduce that expressiveness.

  73. 73
    Keith G says:

    @Raven: My take (and I notoriously am not one to give Obama many “passes”) is that he was referring to abuse/mistreatment via neglect and not direct action. At a policy and bureaucratic level, we just did not give a shit.

    During the post Vietnam era, we became more and more aware about the needs of all vets in general and what were possibly some specialized needs of Vietnam vets in particular, but little was done as I saw it at the time. We knew that there were important things that needed to be addressed and we did nothing. That is disgraceful.

  74. 74
    WaterGirl says:

    Up with Chris Hayes has the best political show on TV. Hands down. If you’re not watching it, you’re really missing something. MSNBC would be nuts to cancel the show because of this.

    I don’t think his apology was for saying the word hero is overused or for saying that we glorify our troops as a way to glorify our wars. It was not for the content of what he said.

    On Sunday, in discussing the uses of the word “hero” to describe those members of the armed forces who have given their lives, I don’t think I lived up to the standards of rigor, respect and empathy for those affected by the issues we discuss that I’ve set for myself. I am deeply sorry for that.

    I think his apology is a recognition that he didn’t recognize in real time how those words could sound to someone who had served, and I suspect he is upset with himself for a couple of inartful comments during this discussion.

    But in seeking to discuss the civilian-military divide and the social distance between those who fight and those who don’t, I ended up reinforcing it, conforming to a stereotype of a removed pundit whose views are not anchored in the very real and very wrenching experience of this long decade of war. And for that I am truly sorry.

    He’s sorry that while trying to (perhaps) initiate a thoughtful conversation about this issue in our country, his comments had the opposite effect. I just don’t see how this apology can be seen as Chris Hayes caving.

  75. 75
    Someguy says:

    The war dead aren’t heros. They are just people who were duped into carrying out the wishes of big corporations, to go abroad and slaughter (mostly brown) people for profit.

    Thank God we have an anti-war president who put a stop to all that nonsense. BTW, you heard that the WH is threatening to send troops into Syria, right? I guess that country has been determined to pose a mortal threat to the U.S. – like Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Somalia, Iraq, Panama, Greneda, Lebanon, VietNam, Dominican Republican, Lebanon, Haiti… hey, stop me if this gets repetitive.

  76. 76
    Raven says:

    @Keith G: So his remarks can mean whatever anyone wants them to mean.

  77. 77
    Keith G says:

    @Raven: And t’was ever thus.

  78. 78
    debbie says:

    Having just read a couple of books on WWI, i think it’s more important that we stop calling those who die “heroes” and start calling the politicians and generals who start these wars and insist they can be easily won ‘cowards.”

    Actually, aren’t the people who overuse and misuse the word “hero” the same people who sneer at those who want to give kids trophies or ribbons just for showing up?

  79. 79
    Rob in CT says:

    Well, I’m a latecomer to this. I think Hayes was right, and didn’t need to apologize.

    Actually, if anything, this was ripe for one of those non-apology apologies. If anyone was offended… [then explain why they shouldn’t have been]

    Look, we live in a militaristic culture. Not a culture of actual warriors, goodness no! The average American slob fight? Hah! No. But that slob will glorify the military, oh yes he will. And don’t you dare get in his way.

  80. 80
    WereBear says:

    There is a way I can comfortably think of all the troops as heroes for sacrificing a lot to save the country.

    Without the Iraq War, would the stark hypocrisies, crony corruption, and moral bankruptcy of the modern Republican party have come to light?

    Without the Iraq War, would the Left have been able to mobilize and find an outlet through the noise and static of our corporate media?

    Without the Iraq War, would the denizens of our Heartland have woken up to the role they all play, as literal or economic, cannon fodder?

    I think not. If the likes of Dick Cheney could have been able to control their bloodthirsty greed, the Conservative Movement could have perked along for decades, further undermining the voting process, embedding their pod-people ever more firmly into government, freeing corporations from still more pesky regulations and the rule of law.

    But, as evil will, they could not keep a lid on who they are. Which, since the Teatard Revolution, is in all its ugly glory.

    Imagine them pulling their crap… and no one able to stop them.

  81. 81
    LAC says:

    Three things sad about this comment:

    The timing of it…people visiting grave sites of loved ones didn’t need it right now.

    That it was not thoughtful enough that he had to over explain it and walk it back. If he had combined his first comment with a little of his second comment, it would have sounded better. As it is, he sounded feckless and a bit flippant.

    And that, as usual, the faux progressives have to start the sideline rendering of garments and gnashing their teeth about how anti war they are, and how Obama did something and blah, blah, blah… hippy punching hurts!!

    BTW, We got a real battle, here, in the voting booth – join!

  82. 82
    WereBear says:

    @LAC: BTW, We got a real battle, here, in the voting booth – join!

    Exactly. The death of loved ones is not a platform to display how WE are so principled and perfect. That is why I completely discount people who claim they won’t support the Democrats because they go to war, too. When we get a stark war/no war choice, that’s one thing.

    But we haven’t yet, and never will if the incremental steps aren’t taken in the meantime.

  83. 83
    Donut says:

    @David Koch:

    You could back off the righteous indignation just a tad. If you blame anyone for the walk back, it should probably be Hayes’ bosses at MSNBC. Just sayin.

  84. 84
    jp7505a says:

    It seem to me that if everyone is a ‘hero’ than the word has become meaningless. Since 9/11 even the metermaids handing out parking tickets in New York have become heroes. What then should we call the men and women who go above and beyond the call of duty. These are the folks that we give the Bronz star, silver star, medal of honor to. What do we call them if everyone is a ‘hero’.

    The language is inadequate to pay tribute to the men and women and their familes in the military. Maybe Lincoln said it best at Gettsyburg – ‘But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract’

  85. 85
    Smiling Mortician says:

    @Spiffy McBang:

    The less we hold up soldiers as valuable, the more expendable they become, and thus the more likely it is politicians or generals can push us into a war.

    This runs counter to experience. When you hear the word “hero” coming from the lips of multiple politicians, you should guard your wallet and hide your children.

  86. 86
    redshirt says:

    This “heroes” nonsense is part of the overall Orwellian attempt by the Right since Vietnam to turn us wholesale into a despotic Empire. The conventional view is that Vietnam was lost because of 1. Accurate media coverage on the ground, which then caused 2. A revulsion towards the war by many back home, which led to protests and the rest (not saying this is accurate, just perception by the Right).

    So, 1. Take over the media, and ensure you get the coverage you want, and 2. Make protesting war or any actions by the military seems like High Treason.

    It’s worked pretty well – who would protest a “Hero”?

  87. 87
    Keith G says:


    Since 9/11 even the metermaids handing out parking tickets in New York have become heroes.

    If one were to be an Orwell-based conspiracy person, one might note that ‘Hero’ has become a brand enhancer used by that intersection of corporate/security state/authoritarian elites who are trying to nail down their control of our politics.

    Got a problem with police tactic? Why don’t you respect our first responder heroes?

    Want to curtail (name that weapons program)? Do you want our military heroes to be put in unnecessary risk?

    This seems to be the case that Hayes was getting at. His off the cuff “working it out as he went”, left him vulnerable to the disingenuous .

  88. 88
    West of the Cascades says:

    So is Len Pasquarelli going to get his shins gnawed off by the right wing screech squad for writing an article about former Buffalo Bill Bob Kalsu — who died in Vietnam — entitled “Former Bills lineman Kalsu died as soldier not hero.”??

  89. 89
    Keith G says:

    @redshirt: Great minds….

  90. 90
    redshirt says:

    @Keith G: Heh. This has seemed obvious to me a for a loooong time. I’ve always been outspoken on this topic, certainly not because I disrespect the work soldiers do, but rather how wicked the manipulation is by the Powers that Be.

  91. 91
    Rob in CT says:

    Right-wing political correctness. It is simply not politically correct to question the “hero” meme. It’s very effective – far more so than any left-wing PC I can think of.

  92. 92
    Beauzeaux says:

    A hero is someone who, at risk to themselves, saves or attempts to save another. Most military medals are awarded on that basis.

    Saving yourself is not heroic. Saving another at no risk to yourself, is not heroic.

    So merely being a soldier isn’t heroic. Getting killed isn’t heroic. Heroic isn’t what you are, it’s what you do that earns you the title.

  93. 93
    MBunge says:

    Hayes got in trouble and then backed down because his initial point was ill considered bullshit. Go back and read his statement again. It was “I don’t like using the word heroes in connection with soliders because I think that makes it easier to have more war”. That’s almost childishly ridiculous. What’s next? “I don’t like using the word dark because I think it makes it easier for the sun to go down”?

    The fetishization of the military is a real issue and if Hayes had expressed a semi-intelligent thought about it, as many have done in this thread, he would have had a leg to stand on. But he was just bloviating. End of story.


  94. 94
    Chris P says:

    Thank you John! I saw a few posts by people on FB yesterday jumping all over Hayes, people so offended and they obviously didn’t comprehend what he actually said. It’s tiring that so many people, at least that I’m surrounded by, get angry when I express a thought or opinion that goes against the established consensus in this country. I’ve always been of the mind that if you’re going to label something then there should be evidence to back that up. Thoughtful commentary like this is why I keep coming back to the Juice.

  95. 95
    Craig says:

    @Spiffy McBang:

    From Sun Tzu

    No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.

  96. 96
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    Hmm. 2 a.m. and drinking seems to suit you. Maybe you should do this more often.

  97. 97
    hilzoy says:

    I think Chris Hayes was trying to make an important point initially, but he made it wrong, and his later apology was exactly the sort of thing you say when you do something like that.

    If he had said that he was uncomfortable with the reflexive or (John’s word) mindless use of the word hero, he would have been exactly right, and it would have been a lot harder for people to criticize him. But I think he did two things that he shouldn’t have done. First, he said he was uncomfortable with the word ‘hero itself. Then he added the bit about its sometimes being appropriate, but that sounded like some sort of standard disclaimer. Personally, I don’t think there’s any reason to be uncomfortable with the word. It’s its misuse that’s the problem.

    The second was that he really did seem to confuse two different things: admiring (some of) the people who fight wars and thinking the war in which they fight is justified. These are two very, very different things, and it’s important to keep them distinct. (Of course — and here’s my standard disclaimer — there are cases in which the war is so unjustified that the people who fight on one side stop being admirable. Nazis (naturally) leap to mind. But a lot of wars are in that middle area in which I, at least, find it completely comprehensible that soldiers, especially in a volunteer military in which they have signed up to fight wars on someone else’s say-so, might think: I should just go and do my duty.)

    If we start thinking that disapproving of the war in Iraq means that we don’t get to acknowledge the genuine decency and (at times) heroism that many people who fought there displayed, or that hating that war (as I did) means hating the people who fought there (which I did not and will never do), we’re making a terrible mistake — all the worse because the people who fought there have already paid a lot more for the mistakes of our civilian leadership than I ever will.

    Now: Chris Hayes was talking on TV. I have no idea how anyone ever expects that people who talk on TV a lot will get every rhetorical point right; I certainly don’t expect it. I will have Chris Hayes’ back in the sense that if, say, the guys at Powerline start a campaign to get him fired, I will do my feeble best to say: they are idiots. Also, in the sense that I will say what I just said: no one should expect that anyone will get every rhetorical point right, and we should stop flying off the handle whenever anyone doesn’t.

    But I really don’t think he got this one right. And I think his walkback was the right thing to do. Certainly I remember doing similar things back at ObWi: you say something that, on reflection, you wish you’d said differently; it starts an argument where even you don’t like being on what appears to be your side; you take it back rather than doubling down, so that you can get back to discussing something that you feel more confident in; you then regret having confused an important point by screwing up the presentation so that you seemed to be saying something different.

  98. 98
    Clime Acts says:

    Thank you for this post, John Cole.

    I frequently disagree with you, as you know.

    But this post is righteous; every word of it.

    And why, why, why oh dear god, do progressives ALWAYS succumb to pressure and walk back true statements? I mean, do men in black show up with torture devices and lay down the law?

    His walk back is the only thing about Chris Hayes’ statement he should be apologizing for. Jayzus.

  99. 99
    hilzoy says:

    PS: This is also just wrong: “I think it is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the words “heroes.””

    No. It’s easy. Just say: they died, and they died before their time, and that’s a tragedy. And in the case of Iraq, it’s a tragedy we could have avoided by not invading in the first place.

    Heroism doesn’t have to come into it at all if you don’t want it to.

    You can also say: It is our job, as citizens, to make sure that we elect people who are as wise as possible, precisely because no one should die this way without a very good reason. Our elected leaders fell down on the job, and so did we.

  100. 100
    Clime Acts says:

    My dad, long dead now, was a WWII air force B17 radio operator, shot down over Germany, 18 months in a German prisoner of war camp before liberation.

    Had you called him a “hero” to his face he would have snorted and walked away.

    People are so tacky these days.

  101. 101
    Jay says:

    Judging by Mr. Hayes’s whole body of work – including his outstanding Nation essay on President Obama’s Pragmatism – I’d say he is a very sharp guy. In THIS case, though, I am with Hayes only because the alternative means siding with screamers who refuse to face his view on the merits. Say what you will about Hayes, but on this “hero” question, at least he was, from the jump, willing to engage with a wide range of voices.

    Having written all this, I’m cool with looking at Hayes’s point without trying to rip out his throat. I believe his argument is weak for two reasons: 1)It overlooks the huge amount of power Americans have passed off to their presidents in recent years, and 2)it assumes America is ALWAYS an aggressor nation, when I would say it is VERY OFTEN so (the small drop from “always” to “very often” shouldn’t offer alot of comfort to concerned citizens, but it’s something). So no, the use of a single word by civilians – “hero” – doesn’t make it easier for America to go to war. What makes it easier, mainly, is a politician’s raw hunger for global domination. The hungrier he or she is, the likelier he or she is to sell that hunger to the citizenry. So we have anecdotes like the one about Bush II sitting around with his administration’s biggest hawks and a map of the mideast, and the hawks pointing, saying, “This is what we ought to change.” Finally, in recent years, a president would not have had the power to torture for so long if the citizenry had pressed its congress to ban it. By our inaction, we let a President have that power, and we’re seeing this challenge come up again with the drone program.

    All this isn’t about calling some 19 yr. old kid a “hero,” it’s about developing a citizenry willing to tell a 50 or 60 – something politician in a suit to stop swinging his dick.

  102. 102
    Clime Acts says:

    @David Koch:

    Why should we have his back, when he just stabbed all his defenders in the back?

    I actually agree with this to a small degree.

    However, the fact that you are a complete sycophant to a weak and spineless president who refused to prosecute the architects of the Iraq debacle by which so many have died, renders your opinion irrelevant.

    Fucketh thou off.

  103. 103
    Clime Acts says:



  104. 104
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Hayes was right the first time; the approach he’s taken on his show makes it far too easy to strip shit out of context for headline-of-the-day bullshit.

    As others have said, the Hero Mass-Production Business is a very recent one, a product of the last few decades, and while it’s grounded in an attempt to get past the ambivalence of Vietnam, it’s now used as a whitewash.

    If any question why we died,
    Tell them, because our fathers lied.

  105. 105
    Clime Acts says:


    Mike, you are a tool of corporate warmongers.

    Good for you.

  106. 106
    Clime Acts says:


    But I really don’t think he got this one right. And I think his walkback was the right thing to do.

    You’re missing your destiny as a PR flack for GE. Get those resumes out!

  107. 107
    FlipYrWhig says:

    I dunno. It seems like if you strip away all the ancillary stuff, Hayes is saying something like “it’s cool to say that soldiers are brave, but I don’t know if we need to say that they’re ‘heroes.'” I don’t see a ton of difference between those, and if there isn’t, the point vanishes.

  108. 108
    Dr. Squid says:

    Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon in front of them
    Volley’d and thunder’d;

    Sorry, I can’t read that without seeing G from Fresh Prince of Bel Air reciting it.

  109. 109
    Linnaeus says:

    I don’t often agree with Conor Friedersdorf, but I think he’s written the best defense of Chris Hayes so far. On those “outraged” by Hayes’ comments, he has this to say:

    Their larger transgression is contributing to a political culture where most participants shy away from certain subjects because they cannot be forthrightly addressed without ginned up bursts of pointless outrage, much of it feigned. You can have a political culture where controversial subjects are discussed with maturity, or you can have one where nothing arguably offensive is ever said without paroxysms of upset. But you can’t have both. Right or wrong, if the mere suggestion that only some American troops are “heroes” — while the rest are “merely” noble and courageous people making a profound sacrifice — has you demanding apologies, it’s time to recalibrate what outrages you.

  110. 110
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Spiffy McBang:

    Or, to look at it another way, if we didn’t consider soldiers heroes- if we just saw them as people doing their jobs- would that actually make us less likely to wage war? I don’t think so. The less we hold up soldiers as valuable, the more expendable they become, and thus the more likely it is politicians or generals can push us into a war.

    This is a very emotional subject for me.

    I was charged (as a commissioned officer) to look out for the welfare of those soldiers serving under me because they were the most important resource I had for me to perform my duty properly.

    No soldier was ever “expendable” to me. I needed every last one to do what I was responsible for doing. To toss them away for something as trivial as Dick Cheney’s bank account…is obscene. It infuriates me.

    As for heroes, well, not every soldier is a hero, but they all have the potential to be one. Some “heroes” are just guys doing their job. They don’t think of themselves as heroic. They’re getting done what needs to be done under circumstances that most human beings cannot begin to fathom.

  111. 111
    Rob in CT says:

    Friedersdorf is right: THIS IS THE DREADED “PC” except it’s Right Wing PC and that’s different because shut up that’s why.

    Also, hilzoy as a PR flack for GE is pretty amusing. Amusing in “Clime Acts is a moron” sort of way.

  112. 112
    LAC says:

    @Clime Acts: Oh, goody. “Sound and fury” makes his appearance again.

  113. 113
    Ruckus says:

    Well said Mr. Cole.

    Very well said. Thank You.

  114. 114
    IrishGirl says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason: Exactly the point…the diminished meaning of the word that occurs and as John points out, the turning of real people into symbols. It’s easy to sacrifice more symbols, to avoid looking to closely at them, to hold in the grief for them….but real people? That’s precisely what Hayes meant (and John too).

    The essential problem here is that the majority of Americans simply don’t think that deeply and they aren’t used to taking the time to really ponder subtle arguments.

  115. 115
    Ruckus says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:
    You can’t be a modern businessman with that kind of attitude. Every person is important to the goal, and not just a replaceable cog, what the hell kind of endeavor will get ahead like that?

    Sorry I had to snark on you a bit here, I wish more people had your attitude about others. When I was in the navy this was not the attitude of the vast majority of officers, and most of the lifers. One captain, he had it, one.
    Not everyone has the same skills or abilities or outlook or experience or desire towards a goal. That doesn’t mean that they can’t improve a situation in some way. Everyone has value, we need to stop treating whole swaths of people like they don’t.

  116. 116
    28 Percent says:

    Isn’t this – the grounds on which Hayes was pressured to walk back his statement, that he himself didn’t serve – ultimately going to Rachel Maddow’s point in Drift? When we replaced the Citizen Soldiers model with the Professional Army model, one of the casualties of that was that we only allow veterans to say exactly what John quoted and what Chris Hayes said. But the number of veterans is so small, their voices can be and are drowned out by the sheer numbers of the civilian “we pay them to get shot at so STFU” crowd.

  117. 117
    Someguy says:

    @Clime Acts:


    Yeah, and completely unaddressed. Obama’s different from all the other Warmongers because He’s Our Warmonger.

  118. 118
    barkleyg says:

    From 2010 California elections:

    Name Recognition is Good

    Name Repetition aint so good.

    Some words are OVERused, and Heroes might be one of those words.

    Like the N word from WWII, to use it repeatedly is to ABUSE the word. Not “everything” can be a N.

    I think we have OVERused the word Hero. Every person has their own meaning for this OVERUSED word. Name Repetition
    has the same effect with words, taking away from the “original” meaning.

  119. 119
    John Weiss says:

    I’ve got C.H.’s back. There’s been no “war” since Korea that’s made any damned sense.

  120. 120
    barkleyg says:

    From 2010 California elections:

    Name Recognition is Good

    Name Repetition aint so good.

    Some words are OVERUSED, and Heroes might be one of those words.

    Like the N word from WWII, to use it repeatedly is to ABUSE the word. Not “everything” can be a N.

    I think we have OVERused the word Hero. Every person has their own meaning for this OVERUSED word. Name Repetition has the same effect with words, taking away from the “original” meaning.

  121. 121
    demz taters says:

    Count me as another veteran (and the parent of one) who totally agrees with what Hayes said.

  122. 122
    Thymezone says:

    Great post John. In fact, probably your best post ever.

    Congrats, and thanks.

  123. 123
    serge says:

    Mr Cole, you hit that one out of the ballpark.

  124. 124
    WaterGirl says:

    @Linnaeus: Thanks for that link. Not a big fan of Conor typically, but that was really well done.

  125. 125
    J R says:


    I am totally with you in defending Chris Hayes’s statement. Obviously, just getting killed doesn’t make you a hero. Saving your fellow troops in the face of machine-guns and bombs, that’s a hero! Throwing yourself on a grenade to save your squad, that’s a hero.

    Being in the wrong place when a mine blows up your vehicle, not so much.

    I was in the service 1970-73 – not overseas, but could have been. I served with guys who were over there, and mostly, they just did their jobs, and if that required extraordinary efforts, well, some of them could do that.

    But now, in Iraq, in a war against a country that never attacked America, to call every casualty a hero, that’s just crazy! We attacked Iraq after months of propaganda, lies from Colen Powell and every other leader in government, over things that just weren’t true.

    The people of Iraq, defending their country against George Bush and his band of war criminals and torturers, those guys are heros. Even though they’re on the other side, those guys are heros fighting against a country with overwhelming power, against a bunch of lying criminal torturers ruling a country too stupid to say, “Wait a minute, these people of Iraq haven’t done anything to hurt America”!

    John, you’re right on here, and so was Chris Hayes, before he was forced to back off and fill in what he said in the first place. Thanks for defending the truth!

    JR in W Va.

  126. 126
    xyzxyzxyz says:

    I know I’m late to this thread, but it took a while to digest JC’s post. Long story short: I remember being a kid (8 years old) at a Memorial Day parade in my home town (a place that would root for the Seahawks should the have been in existence). Down the street come the WWI, WWII, and Korean war vets to massive applause. Then come the Vietnam vets in their rag tag clothes, most missing limbs, and they’re met with limited applause. Some folks shouted “losers” as they walked by. I’ve shared that story with a lot of folks of similar age, and they have similar stories. What we all agree on is that it the “score” is meaningless. All that matters is that you sent Americans into a theater of war, and you (that’s the societal “you”) now have an obligation to make sure those that return are taken care of. Calling someone a hero is easy. The harder step is to decide what it is you’re going to do about it. Frankly, all I do now is coach a bit of soccer, and take kids who have a mom or dad deployed under my wing until their parents return. I think is it pitiful in comparison to what vets have given to me, but I decided to do what I could when I was 8. Not when I was running for office. Not when it made me look good. When I was 8. It is my small payment back to those who have given me more.

  127. 127
    dopeyo says:

    who am i, sitting safely at home in america, to say which soldier is heroic and which is not?

    that being said, if hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, mindless blather about the heroism of the troops is the tribute paid by our cowardly refusal to stop pointless and evil wars.

    and if war is the real enemy, those who promote it are the most treasonous.

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