For those who don’t get it, the world is now connected by the Internet. It doesn’t matter where you live, what you do, or how backward your country might seem. We’re all connected in ways that no one envisioned just a few years ago. Who would have thought that I could sit in my room and communicate instantly with people all over the world without having to use a telephone.
This was demonstrated again when a pastor with a congregation of a couple of dozen made a wild statement that he was going to burn the Muslim holy book. Within hours he had ignited protests throughout the Muslim world. The commanding general in Afghanistan said that this would adversely affect the men and women stationed there and would make their jobs that much more difficult, if not deadly.
The pastor, a man of God, was unmoved by all this.
Muslims responded with protests, burning the American flag. People did die during the protests and it seemed that the pastor, a man of God, was unmoved by all that as well.
I will make two comments. As a soldier who had been stationed in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, I knew the power of the Internet and satellite TV. What was being said in the United States, including the lack of support coming from our own Congress was well known to the Iraqis... they did, after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, have access to satellite TV and the Internet. Those comments, made in a political arena and based only on a political agenda, affected the soldiers in the field. The Muslims were watching satellite TV and reading the Internet and reacted to it... often negatively.
Upon my return, I asked some of those protesting the war if they were at all concerned about the danger the soldiers in the field faced. I asked if they realized that their words were encouraging the terrorists to wage war. I asked if they thought about the consequences.
Not one had.
Worse still, now that they knew, they weren’t going to let that affect their political agenda... We support the troops, but not to the point where we must weigh what we say against the consequences for those on the front lines. They weren’t interested in supporting the troops to that extent.
And second, why would those who abhorred the burning of their holy book respond by burning the American flag? Shouldn’t we now be out in the streets protesting their destruction of our national symbol...
Oh, wait. That comes under the heading of free speech, a right that many have gone to war to protect...
I won’t point out the irony here. I’ll let you figure it out.
I will say this. In our world today, you must carefully weigh your words against the possible negative outcome. When it comes to protecting the troops in the field, I’m for limiting what is said... while the troops are engaged. Before that engagement, after the danger for them is over, say whatever you please...
But remember, what you say is no longer said in a vacuum. The world is watching on satellite TV and the Internet.