It appears to depend on who answers the question… if you’re a member of the British media, he has clearly and unambiguously turned against the war in Iraq and thinks we need to get out now… if you’re a member of the American media, he is “troubled” and has “doubts” and his opinion is less than clear. If you read American press, 17% of returning American soldiers have PTSD (~20,000), if you read the British press, “almost a third, 40,000” return with a mental illness.
I’ve posted a series of links below the fold to what stories I could find about how Blake Miller is dealing with the aftermath of his service in Iraq. Using Google News, I was surprised to be presented with a remarkably sparse set of results, considering his former media prominence… a few local stories, a couple of stories in major urban newspapers (but not the big daddy papers), two stories in British papers, and that was pretty much it (plus one apparent appearance on a television talk show). You’d think the story of the man behind the most iconic visual image of the war in Iraq would command more attention.
Read the links, and tell me what you think – the articles all seem to be based on a single interview, or at least a series of interviews producing a remarkably similar set of quotes (some of which are more detailed than others); makes me think that Miller held a press conference or group interview. The divergence of the takes, to me, is startling.
What also is startling, and saddening, is how much harm he and other Iraq war veterans have suffered – even though he’s physically intact (mostly: he has no hearing in one ear, his right, which I can personally attest to is quite a pain in the ass), he’s severely scared, mentally – but is he on any “casualty” list of killed or wounded veterans? No. He’s only 21, but he sounds like he’s aged a hundred years since graduating high school, and he’s clearly not the same man who left Pike County, Kentucky, three years ago.
‘Marlboro Man’ Turns Against War He Symbolised, by Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, February 2, 2006
The former Marine says he now questions the US tactics and believes troops should have been withdrawn some time ago. He said: “When I was in the service my opinion was whatever the Commander-in-Chief’s opinion was. But after I got out, I started to think about it. The biggest question I have now is how you can make a war on an entire country when a certain group from that country is practising terrorism against you. It’s as if a gang from New York went to Iraq and blew some stuff up and Iraq started a war against us because of that.”
I’M BURNED OUT: Marlboro Man, American GI hero of Iraq, has post traumatic stress, Ryan Parry Us Correspondent In New York, The Mirror, 31 January 2006
The man who once thought George Bush could do no wrong as “Commander in Chief” also believes the war is a disaster.
“I’m glad I fought for my country but I wouldn’t do it again. It blows my mind that we’re still over there.”
Stricken by doubts about the war, he said: “After Fallujah it was time for us to pull out of Iraq. How can you make war on an entire country when only a certain group is against you?”
American media (you’d think there would be an article in the NYT or the Washington Post or the Los Angeles Times or USA Today):
THE WAR WITHIN, Matthew B. Stannard, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer, Sunday, January 29, 2006
[A long, detailed profile, lots of quotes and supporting material, but not one unambigous statement about his feelings regarding the war, or our presence there today.]
Miller himself seems torn — proud of the troops fighting for freedom, but wondering whether there was a peaceful way, to find terrorists in Iraq without invading.
There was no time for such questions in Fallujah. But now, at night, when he can’t sleep, Miller thinks of the men he saw through his rifle scope, and wonders: Were they terrorists fighting against America? Or men fighting to protect their homes?
Former Marine is “Marlboro Man” no more, By Jim Warren, Knight Ridder Newspapers, Lexington Herald-Leader (kentucky.com), January 22nd, 2006
He has gone through other changes, including doubts about the war.
“When I was in the service, my opinion was whatever the commander in chief’s opinion was,” he said. “But after I got out, I really started thinking about it. … The biggest question I have is how you can make war on an entire country, when a certain group from that country is practicing terrorism against you. It’s as if a gang from New York went to Iraq and blew up some stuff, and Iraq started a war against us because of that.
“I agree with taking care of terrorism. But after terrorism was dealt with, the way it was after Fallujah, maybe that was the time for us to pull out. That’s just my opinion. It blows my mind that we’ve continued to drag this out.”
‘Marlboro Marine’: Home Front Woes, CBS NEWS, Early Show, NEW YORK, Jan. 3, 2006
[All about the PTSD, which I think was the main point of Blake Miller going public, trying to enlighten folks about the effects of it and the lack of resources, etc. and difficulties American veterans are having. Nothing about the war at all. -Thomas]
Startling difference? … or perhaps not that startling, if you share my cynical opinion about American media, or the conviction that media elsewhere are determined to spin the war in a negative fashion (as a conservative might believe). Deliberate? Unconscious? A total conincidence of focus?