Heroes?–Or wagging the dog?

Heroes?–Or wagging the dog?

By Ed Henry

It’s not funny anymore. The movie was an amusing portrayal of spin story development that we could all laugh at, but it was still just a movie. Now, we’ve got something in real life that seems to follow the script, and it’s happening right before our eyes. When I heard that the crew held on Hainan Island had been taken T-shirts, the first thing that went through my mind was whether those shirts said, “Courage, Mom.”

Then, on Easter Sunday, I got up early to take one of the dogs out because he’s on medication that makes him go a lot, and the minute we came back and settled in for morning coffee, there it was. The kitchen TV was playing the grand ceremony from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station where all 24 heroes were lined up, 12 on each side of a speaker’s table filled with generals, admirals and local dignitaries from Oak Harbor, Washington. All against a background of red and white stripes covering the entire wall behind them and complete with an audience in the hundreds. It looked exactly like the ceremonial scene in Wag The Dog except there was no coffin and there were 24 rigid but breathing “Old Shoes.”

Listening to the accolades heaped upon these heroes, you just knew they were in line for the Congressional Medal of Honor or at least as many medals as the heroes from Grenada, where more awards were passed out than World War II. This was an unfilmed “win one for the Gipper” war where the heavily clad and armored invaders were met at the beach by barefoot children with Cokes, and the only casualties came from friendly fire.

It all makes me wonder what the real front line survivors of Normandy, the Battle of The Bulge, Korea or Vietnam must think of their own medals, awards and homecoming by now. Meeting the enemy eye-to-eye seems restricted to whether you can see him from your cockpit or on some sort of video or radar screen.

And just what is it that these latest heroes are being awarded for? Let’s see, they were only flying to China for take-out or new tennis shoes, when hot-shot Chinese jet fighter pilots started harassing their much slower four-engine craft. They were doing absolutely nothing illegal or unexpected, when one of the fighter pilots of “Red Baron” fame came too close. This time crippling our hero’s plane, dying in the process, and causing our boys unbelievable grief as they limped miraculously and with great valor to the Chinese Island of Hainan, 60 miles away from the accident. We knew the story almost as soon as it happened, and the story hasn’t changed since.

Of course, those lying Chinese claim that our pilot turned into their plane in a form of air rage. But we know better. We know that our pilots wouldn’t do such a thing unless they were cut off on a four-lane highway. And we’ve got pictures of Chinese fighters flying much too close to our planes. Pictures showing how they must fight their faster aircraft just to fly at the slower speed of our lumbering spy planes. We can even read the Arabic numerals painted on their planes.

And those arrogant Orientals also claim that our boys were inside their 200-mile air space. How ridiculous. Everybody knows that we only respect the same 12-mile limit we impose on our own coastlines. You can tell by the number of yacht brokers still conducting offshore closings beyond the limit in order to avoid sales taxes. Old sailors like me, who’ve been boarded six or seven times by the Coast Guard while more than 100 miles offshore, are just a bunch of senile old geezers who haven’t been debriefed.

And just what do you suppose “thorough and intense debriefings” are anyway? If you think it’s anything more than getting the story straight before talking to anyone at home, then you’re a more trusting person than I am, Charlie Brown.

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