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We love our soldiers, but not the Iraq War
Who says being anti-war automatically means being anti-soldier?

RICHARD AMRHINE
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Date published: 9/17/2006

By Richard Amrhine

I KNEW FROM its sender that a recent e-mail I received would either amuse or irritate me. The absurdity of its subject matter was a near certainty. It did not let me down. This one did both.

The e-mail equated being anti-war with being anti-soldier, berating this theoretical hypocritical American for enjoying his typical, cushy American lifestyle while our troops are in Iraq and Afghanistan, protecting our freedom in the most hostile and base living conditions imaginable.

Well, excuuuuuse me

Perhaps this misplaced "anti-war; anti-soldier" amalgam stems from the Vietnam War protests of the 1960s. Why soldiers returning from Southeast Asia were viewed as unpopular as the war they fought defies explanation. Nothing we can do now will erase the mistreatment Vietnam veterans faced when they returned home. We can say we're sorry, but that's as pointless as telling a black person we're sorry about 350 years of slavery and a legacy of second-class citizenship.

We can try to learn from our mistakes, and some Americans have. Those I've run across who are against the war in Iraq recognize the tremendous sacrifice being made by the troops who are there. That's due in part to the media's efforts to acquaint Americans personally with those who have lost their lives, and the holes in the lives of those left behind.

A significant difference between then and now is that soldiers sent to Vietnam were drafted, while those in Iraq represent a volunteer force. How could we have been so harsh on Vietnam veterans when most of them didn't even go on their own volition? On the other hand, perhaps it helps us appreciate the efforts of our troops in Iraq knowing that they are answering a call of their own free will. Those who signed up during the years of peace that led up to Sept. 11, 2001, hardly expected they'd end up playing roadside-bomb roulette in Iraq.

The point so clearly missed in the message from my e-mail pal is that those who object to the war do so because it kills our young men and women. What could be more pro-soldier than preferring that they don't die?

Those who are pro-war are those who choose to keep our troops in harm's way, suffering the conditions that a combat force faces.


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