[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]To all American soldiers“Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear ― kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor ― with the cry of grave national emergency. Always, there has been some terrible evil at home, or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it.”
These words, spoken in 1957, are not those of some Ivy-league liberal, but rather of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. However, when you stop to think about it, who better is there to make such a statement? MacArthur, much maligned by his civilian chieftains, served his country for over 50 years. An elite soldier with that amount of time in service would know better than any the machinations of politicians. Only a person like MacArthur can know with certainty what many of us normal citizens believe to be true ― that our government disingenuously manipulates our sentiment for their own designs when they are dishonorable.
This brings me to the shabby treatment of the American soldier. As a former reconnaissance scout, I’m familiar with the burdens of serving your country, as well as the desire to believe that what you do is for the good of America. Almost 1,000 soldiers have now been killed in Iraq, and to think that they have died for something dishonorable is too much to bear for most. That’s understandable. Who wants to believe that their son died because of oil and war profiteers? And I don’t criticize the perspective that these soldiers’ lives haven’t been wasted. A soldier following orders in Iraq, solid in the belief that he or she is helping to bring a better life to the people of Iraq, is an honorable person.
What is dishonorable is the practice of sending these soldiers into battle before the facts are clear and all peaceful means of conflict resolution have been exhausted. Prior to the war, Iraq was crawling with weapons inspectors. So long as those inspectors were in the country, conducting surprise inspections, the chances were slim that Saddam Hussein would have attempted to transfer or use WMDs. Actually, the chances were even less than slim, since it turned out that there almost certainly weren’t any WMDs.
Dishonorable? How about exploiting veterans? One politically slick tactic employed by the Bush administration was to blend the issue of “supporting the troops” with that of supporting their policy ― essentially exploiting the indignities suffered by Vietnam veterans for political gain. In the lead-up to the war in Iraq, GOP henchman repeatedly attacked critics of Bush’s suspect attempts to link al-Qaeda and Iraq, by saying that they didn’t support the troops. These morally reprehensible political games not only served to quell dissent, but also to stroke the egos of military personnel.
The final dishonor in this sordid tale of abuse is how the Bush administration intends to repay soldiers who have sacrificed for their country ― by cutting their Veterans Administration benefits. As part of the 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, the VA budget was cut by some $700 million, and according to the VA itself, will deny 230,000 veterans benefits that they previously understood to be their repayment for service.
I realize that when you’re in the military, you have to follow orders. You may not like what you have to do, but you have to do what you don’t like. That said, you are a citizen with a vote. Make it count.
by Alan Penney