DO you mind if I don't trust the U.S. military establishment?
Charleston Daily Mail
Dave Peyton
May 1, 2007

DO you mind if I don't trust the U.S. military establishment? I'm from a generation that was famous for not trusting what we used to call "the war machine."

I am appreciative of all the men and women who joined, or were drafted into, the armed forces. For whatever reason they served, personal or patriotic, they are to be honored. They are not the problem.

The problem lies with some in the military who stir the propaganda pot in hopes that Americans will blindly believe what they say. Well, there's never been a time when all Americans believed them and there never will be.

The propaganda machine works in mysterious ways. I know a World War II infantry soldier who told me he was with Gen. George Patton's army as it prepared to invade Germany. The general was expected to review his particular unit, so the military brought in portable showers so all the grunts could shower themselves in preparation for the official visit.

It was their first shower in weeks.

The soldiers looked good for "Old Blood and Guts," and Patton probably thought his infantry looked clean and bright-eyed all the time, even when he wasn't in the neighborhood.

That's called propaganda, and while it probably worked on Patton, it didn't work on the freshly scrubbed soldiers whose cynicism outgrew their uniforms that day.

But the question of the hour is this:

Did the military really think it could transform Jessica Lynch into a Rambo-style hero simply by spinning her capture and subsequent release from an Iraqi hospital? And did the military really believe it could spin Pat Tillman's story and make him a hero killed in combat with the enemy rather than from friendly fire?

If they thought they could get by with lying in a feeble attempt to bolster the war machine, they were wrong. Lynch appeared before Congress earlier this week and told the truth in a well-reasoned statement that made me proud that she was a West Virginian.

And others let the cat out of the bag about Tillman's death and how some in the military tried to cover up the fact he was killed by our own troops, not theirs.

The day we start believing everything someone in the government -- military or non-military -- shoves at us is the day American is doomed to failure.

America was founded in skepticism. It doubted that the British Empire had the colonies' best interests at heart, no matter what they said.

Frankly, we must continue that tradition of skepticism, and the cases of Lynch and Tillman prove it. And we must always remember what Lynch said in her testimony before Congress: The American people are perfectly capable of choosing their own heroes.

They don't need the military or anyone else in the government to tell us who our heroes are.

One of my heroes is Jessica Lynch, but not for the reason the military wanted me to believe in their false report about her.

My latest reason for her being a hero is the fact she sat before Congress and told the truth, something I can't say about the higher-ups in the war machine.

Peyton may be reached by e-mail at

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