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I received an irate e-mail for my views on September 11, the war in Iraq and Bush’s America as a whole. I was called unpatriotic for not flag-waving Bush’s war. I was told to “grow up.” Sorry, but I did that the first time I buried a friend killed in Vietnam. He was 19.
But Iraq is not about Vietnam, and not really about September 11th; that was just the excuse that triggered a rush to war in oil-rich country.
Here’s the letter:
First of all, we are Clarksville Online, not Clarksville Voice. And by the way, I am quite grown up. I did that growing up outside a military base in New England, where I managed to acrue no less than 17 friends on the Vietnam wall in DC. And there is nothing more hateful than war. It’s peace that’s hard.
I am familiar with war, too familiar with counting names of dead friends killed in action and weeping alongside their families. I also spent 27 years taking care of my elderly uncle; I was holding him when he died from the longterm effects of war (he was a surviving POW of WWII, paid back with a lifetime of PTSD, skin disorders from malnutrition, and too many mental and physical issues to list here).
When I wasn’t writing about all kinds of other things for a living (like murders, drunk driving victims, drug dealers, missing children and pedophiles, corrupt politicians) I spent another decade working on issues of homelessness and substance abuse with both low income women and with many men who happened to be homeless, addicted or mentally ill Vietnam vets irrevocably damaged by that earlier unwinnable war. I am quite familiar with the after effects of war (which are only belatedly and insufficiently being addressed by the Bush administration).
If we want to prevent another Sept. 11-type attack, let’s start by trying to secure our own borders and ports, stamp down hard on illegal immigration (I have no problems with legal immigration; I come from immigrant stock myself), and get Bin Laden. He’s apparently not in Iraq. If I am ashamed of anything, it is of a governmental structure so riddled with ineptitude that each day brings a new report of incompetence and wast, and evidence of amazing arrogance that has ultimately toyed with the lives of all our troops and their families.
So for now, yes, I am a dissenting American (one of many, with 73% of American having serious issues with sustaining this war according to post-presidential speech polls). I am not the only dissenter; I am not standing alone.
As for the victims, those “innocents being slaughtered,” there is little difference between the burned child running down the road in that famous Vietnam era photograph (left) and the little boy, Youssif (below, right) torched and horribly burned in Iraq and now receiving medical care here.
Two helpless victims of two pointless wars. Unconscionable horror inflicted on innocents, and it is the innocents who are usually, inevitably caught in the crossfire. Our 9-11 victims were also innocents, caught in the cross fire of fanatical governmental and religious hatred. These children did not fly a plane into the towers.
I have every respect for the troops stationed overseas, and their families at home. They suffer on many levels, all bearing the emotional scars of wartime horrors and familial separation.
Two years into this conflict (back in 2005), as I sat in a Fort Campbell church with friends from the base on Holy Saturday, I found myself exchanging the sign of peace with a soldier I didn’t know. He was alone, and he took my hand in peace, and didn’t let go. So I sat down next to him, and continued to hold the part of his hand what was not raw wounded flesh. I held this hand of a soldier I didn’t even know, this soldier whose arms were solid burns lightly bandaged, who had gouging shrapnel scars all over the parts of his that were shaved to the skin, whose leg was held together by a marvel of metal engineering with large pins anchoring this steel frame to his bones.
Our country was founded by dissenters, by people shedding the yoke of government they didn’t want or respect. Remember the Boston Tea Party? Or the American Revolution? And a little thing called the Bill of Rights (that little piece of paper that guaranteed our civil liberties including the right to dissent, the bill that’s been trampled by Bush’s government?).
This is government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” and I have no problem with defending ourselves and our people. But the facts are (and it has been admitted) that “we the people” were misled and outright lied to about Iraq and its relevance to September 11; our troops were sent to Iraq by an administration that did not take the time to realistically think through why they were going there (or at least, what they would tell the American people about why they were going there), what the objectives were, and how they planned to accomplish that objective — and get out. General Petraeus this week was candid about what needed to happen to win the war, and equally candid about the possibility of not being able to win this war. And many Americans, including an increasing number of legislators, hold the belief that this was the wrong war to fight and that no more lives — including yours — should be sacrificed on this particular altar.
Remember that long after Americans were grounded around the world, it was George Bush’s people who let so many members of the Bin Laden family and their money leave the country in chartered jets before they could be questioned (detaining them was not even an issue). If you want to vent anger over Sept. 11, there’s a good place to start. It’s a long way from the ending, but it is a starting point, though it may not help us catch him now.
In the meantime, I am one of many citizens who are outraged not just over the war but the web of events and actions surrounding the war that will ultimately impact every American through the next generation: the war wounds, mental and physical, the unaddressed and poorly acknowledged health impacts of Sept. 11 on New Yorkers and the rescuers from everywhere, the horrific fiscal cost that our even our grandchildren will be paying off, and the daily placement of our cherished civil liberties on the chopping block.
When our soldiers come home and need assistance, I’ll probably be one of the people helping them, sooner or later, through one of the several community programs I volunteer for. If you stay in this war long enough, I, or someone just like me, may be the one helping you as well. That what’s we peace-mongers do.
I feel deeply for all who lost their lives, and their families, on September 11. The Iraq War is not buying them justice or atonement or revenge; it is just creating more victims. Not just in Iraq. Heck, take some that war funding and pay the emerging and escalating health care costs of the survivors and emergency workers.
I would also recommend that people try watching something other than Fox News’ one-dimensional, blatantly biased broadcasting. British, French, Italian, Asian and even Chilean broadcasts can add new dimensions to our views on the war by allowing us to see it from a global perspective, and thus reveal how our country is viewed by the other nations of the world.
Finally, I have no trouble finding patriotic memorabilia — it’s everywhere. Twin Tower pins, magnetic yellow ribbons saying “We Love Our Troops”, American flags, copies of the Bill of Rights, all proudly sitting right along side my Impeach Bush bumper stickers.
TopicsBill of Rights, Military, Protesting, War in Iraq
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