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October 14, 2004

Pregnable Zell

My favorite Democrat, Zell Miller, has a great oped piece in the Washington Times today, "Iwo Jima, if covered by media today." It casts the battle for Iwo Jima in World War II as if it were being reported on by today's media. It's not often I read an oped and flat bust out laughing. Okay, I admit I'm strange, and have a sense of humor that sometimes doesn't translate, but, for what it's worth, this is great (emphasis mine):

Cutie: "Pfc. Doe, what's that mountain in the background? Is that the one they say is impregnable?"
Pfc. Doe: "I don't know what that word means, ma'am, but that's Mt. Suribachi, and we're going to put a flag right up on top of it just as soon as we can. I gotta go."
Iwo Jima Memorial
Iwo Jima Memorial
(Marines hoisting U.S. flag atop Mt. Suribachi)

Aside from the pun in the choice of "impregnable" (a more pregnant symbol is hard to imagine than Mount Suribachi looming in the background, considering what it has come to mean to us, and the U.S.) which already had me smiling, that line Zell puts into a Marine's mouth (remember, Zell is a Marine) is simply priceless: "I don't know what that word [impregnable] means, ma'am." It's worthly of Shakespeare. It works on at least three levels, maybe four. That the reporter is named "Cutie Cudley" and this is a Marine who's been and is facing death injects a hint of double entendre of the more common sort too. But the flatpanned delivery of what is so easily read as "a Marine doesn't know the meaning of impregnable objective, ma'am" epitomizes the "can do" attitude of our guys and gals fighting for us and freedom right now. Then there's the situational irony that what the reporter refers to as impregnable will prove to be pregnable, and its impregnation with the U.S. flag will become a potent national symbol memorialized across the river from the very center of U.S. government, and adjacent to the orderly rows of thousand upon thousand of white markers for the sacrifice of Americans in the service of freedom.

As usual, the reporter doesn't see that potential, or potency, in the situation, she sees obstacles and the barrenness of the immediate scenery:

Cutie to camera: "No one has yet really confirmed why this particular battle in this particular place is even being waged. Already, on the first day, at least 500 Marines have been killed and a thousand wounded. For this? (Camera pans to a map with a speck of an island in the Pacific. Then a close up of nothing but black volcanic ash). For this? For this?" (Cutie's sweet voice becomes more strident as it fades out.)

What's sad, though, is, as I read on and on past this point, I stopped laughing. Zell boosts the level of sarcasm to nearly unbearable, but he borrows heavily (and fairly) from things we have heard or read about the Iraq war in recent months. It's very hard to face the tragedy and triumph of the victory of Iwo Jima when it's cast in the actinic glare of modern media, a glare so harsh that all the beauty of sacrifice and success is lost in the details of corpses and bloody, cratered foxholes. The nobleness of the cause is overwhelmed by the dirt, blood and tears of the immediate. The latter is what interests the media, not the former.

Do they not believe in the cause? Or is the cause just old news? Sad to say, I put them mostly into the former category. They really disbelieve that America is a force for good.

Zell ends with a historical note, probably necessary to most readers under the age of 30 due the the marvelous efficacy of our public education system:

Historical note: In one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, when it was said "uncommon courage was a common virtue," 6,000 Marines were killed and 18,000 wounded. Some 21,000 Japanese were killed. The island itself is still barren and only a handful of people live on it. But after it was secured by the Marines, B-29s made over 2,200 emergency landings on it, saving the lives of more than 24,000 crewmen. AP photographer Joe Rosenthal won a Pulitzer Prize for the flag-raising photo. Of the six men in the photo, three were buried in that black volcanic ash, one came out on a stretcher. Only two walked off the island.

Do read it.

Hat tip to Charles at Little Green Footballs for the link to this one. Priceless.

Posted by dan at October 14, 2004 05:18 PM