Elizabeth Rubin writes of our troops in Afghanistan: Pulitzer, Movie deal and Hardball appearance to follow

I have just quickly read through Elizabeth Rubin’s recent article “A Bloody Stalemate in Afghanistan,” published, but of course, by the New York Times Magazine, the American military’s most reliable observer, reliable that is, that everything we do is an atrocity, incompetence, an embarrassment, etc, etc.  What was her reason for going to Afghanistan for this story: “Why with all of our technology, were we killing civilians in air strikes” That quickly became: “Was there a deeper problem in the counterinsurgency campaign? And then that beloved bellwether of the mainstream media: “Why were so many more Americans being killed?”

  • Ms. Rubin: Pulitzer Committee on Line 1 

You got that?  Killing civilians, deeper problems in counterinsurgency, American deaths.  Not sure why she had to go at all if she had her thesis statements already complete. There is no doubt in my military mind that this article will begin a firestorm of sturm and drang and she has done a marvelous job of capturing virtually every possible modern Hollywood visual of the American warrior and our national security apparatus: indiscriminate killing of civilians, barely functioning drugged up GI’s, divergence of scarce resources to Iraq, blood thirsty GI’s after losing their buddies, PTSD traumatized troops, “stop-loss” extensions,  “playing God,” but here’s the one line that will guarantee her a six figure advance for the movie rights: “The richest, most-trained army got beat by dudes in manjammies and A.K.’s.” There it is: an American Army “defeated” on the field of battle.   

  • Ms. Rubin: Oliver Stone on Line 2 

Sadly, Ms. Rubin couldn’t weave in the story FISA wiretaps, prisoner abuse, Blackwater, or “rendition flights” to then enable the complete fear and loathing of our national security process. As a military historian, I can’t help but think back to WWII or Korea, and wonder how the world would have turned out had the press covered our combat in this fashion and then the lack of analysis by the “talking heads”.  Ms. Rubin was operating with a company of US Army soldiers in arguably the most difficult region in the most difficult type of operation on the planet, fighting a counterinsurgency operation in a place where tribes, tradition, and religion predominate and have for thousands of years.  The problem here is not in the actual story; it’s the lack of context that will be used by any other news outlet or political figure that will seek to capitalize on it.

  •  Ms. Rubin: Chris Matthews and Hardball on Line 3

This is one small unit action witnessed by one reporter and yet, this will be extrapolated to the greater incompetence of our military, to our impending defeat, to our blood thirstiness, to every modern military stereotype imaginable.  What would have happened had there been a reporter at Kasserine Pass, or covering the bomber war over Europe in WWII and allowed to report the full nature of our losses? What about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the loss of over 800 men or the Battle at the Chosin Reservoir, or as the Marines called it, the Bloody Chosin?   


I have absolutely no doubt that Ms Rubin will win the Pulitzer prize and be feted by Hollywood, this is a story perfect for them: in the vein of all the latest crop of movies featuring the American government as the evil one, or our military as incompetent or bloodthirsty or both. And I also fully expect various candidates or parties to use this as Reference A in how wrong we were for all manner of transgressions.

  •   Ms Rubin: Campaign Director for (Insert name) is on Line 4. 

It strikes me odd though, that virtually every account like this looks at our military operations through glasses that visualize everything wrong about what we do, but that embedded journalists like Michael Totten, Michael Yon, Bill Roggio can all write very critical pieces but they also see the good things the military can do, especially the American GI.  

Addendum: How could I forget linking this excellent article by writer Sebastion Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington in Vanity Fair Magazine from last month. It’s about the same Valley, the same troops and they even mention the seme battle at the end of the work.  But compare and contrast: Junger’s writing is no less gritty, no less surreal, no less profane but it’s not  a complete treatise on whats wrong with these men, this really shows you an article with balance and not just negativity.