The American media's treatment of death in the War on Terrorism, and the alarming rhetoric it enables
Writing in Salon, anti-war polemicist Glenn Greenwald observes that hawkish pundits and readers who patronize their work are aghast when American civilians are killed by terrorists, but are perfectly comfortable endorsing bellicose policies that result in the loss of many more innocent lives:
Behold the spectacle of those who cheered for the attack on Iraq (resulting in the deaths of at least 100,000 innocent people), who casually call for massive first-strike nuclear attacks on other nations (certain to vaporize hundreds of thousands or millions of humans), who loyally marched lockstep behind a leader who instituted a worldwide torture and disappearance regime, lamenting how those grimy, backward Muslims over there have a disturbing and incomparable affinity for violence.
It is certainly true that the wars launched in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks have claimed many more innocent lives than the planes steered into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and that Pennsylvania field. Greenwald is also right to point out that the world's Muslims aren't uniquely prone to violence, an observation that needn't prevent us from acknowledging the indefensible behavior of radical Islamists. Those 100,000 innocents dead in Iraq include some civilians killed by American troops, but orders of magnitude more who were killed (in the power vacuum we created) by intra-Muslim sectarian violence or suicide bombings launched by fundamentalist insurgents.
The barbaric nature of terrorists who would kill Americans if given the chance should neither make us callous to the suffering of their peaceful co-religionists nor blind us to the innocents affected by U.S. foreign policy. Pace George Orwell, however, "it takes a constant struggle to see what is in front of one's nose," and the consequences of our military action abroad are hardly right in front of us: the news media daily sanitizes the images that the public sees in a way that causes us to grossly underestimate everything from the suffering of Iraqis and Afghans to the sacrifices of U.S. soldiers.