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We love our soldiers, but not the Iraq War

September 17, 2006 12:50 am

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.

Today's anti-war contingent blames not America's troops for being warmongers, but rather its president. The movement is growing as more realize the gravity of the mistake that has been made. They know the president's gaffe will only become more difficult to correct, and cost more American lives, the longer it persists.

As of Sept. 13, 2,672 members of the U.S. military had been killed in Iraq since March 2003, and 19,910 had been wounded.

The American conscience is slowly awakening to the fact that America went to war in Iraq for no better reason than its commander in chief had some ants in his pants about taking out Saddam Hussein. Is it a coincidence that the Iraqi leader was the nemesis of the current President Bush's father during his presidency?

The search is on for an explanation, because the ones George W. Bush has been offering don't hold water. A document recently disclosed by the Senate Intelligence Committee reports that there is no evidence indicating Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his al-Qaida associates. Such a relationship has long been one of the president's justifications for going to war. That troubling synopsis goes hand-in-hand, the report points out, with the infamous weapons of mass destruction that were never found.

The administration's time-worn rebuttal is that everyone in Congress saw the same information, drew the same conclusions, and voted overwhelmingly to take action. Hello? What else would we expect after being spoon-fed the president's version of the facts? Bush saw in the intelligence what he wanted to see. The president was so popular then, for whatever reason, that it was viewed as political suicide to go against him, just as it is political suicide to embrace him today.

Perhaps in anticipation of the Senate committee's report, the president has launched a new "politics of fear" offensive. He says this battle is the "calling of our generation." He tells us he's doing what's needed to protect Americans from new terrorist acts, and that's all that matters.

He is hoping that Americans, at the fifth anniversary of the attacks and on the eve of midterm elections, will flashback to his bygone days of popularity and accept his rhetoric as gospel.

Chicken Little lives!

Most of those urging an end to the war understand that withdrawal won't and shouldn't happen overnight. But unlike the short-term thinking that got us into Iraq, we need to set a goal and establish a plan of action to meet it. But looking ahead is not President Bush's forte. The ongoing day-to-day struggles of his administration have prevented him from thinking beyond tomorrow.

So the president chooses to shoot the messenger, the media, for misrepresenting what's happening in Iraq and thereby turning the nation against the war and his policies.

I would simply ask that he come clean with the American people. Bush's dribs and drabs of acknowledgement that the war hasn't gone as well as he'd hoped do little to lift his credibility out of the toilet. His efforts to justify targeting Iraq in the war on terror reek of desperation.

Challenging the patriotism of those who question the war has become a losing battle. Those who are anti-war are not anti-soldier, but they are anti-stupidity.

"You sit there and judge him [the soldier, Marine], saying the world is a worse place because of men like him," are the forwarded words of the unidentified writer.

Did anybody say that? I've never thought that. I'll readily admit that those guys have more in-the-line-of-fire courage than I've ever needed to look for in me.

They are doing the job they were sent there to do. For the Americans back home, casualty counts are a daily reminder that we should demand to know exactly what we are fighting for.

Richard Amrhine is a writer and editor with The Free Lance-Star.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.