Thursday, June 9, 2011

Oh, What A Lovely War!

This was originally written in April 2003. I submitted it to various media in Indianapolis and no one would use it. I suspected my comments on Evan Bayh were one of the reasons it was kept out of the media. So, it's being published here for the first time.

Re-reading it in 2011, I am struck by the fact that so little has changed and by the fact that, very sadly, so much has changed, the most vile change being the horrendous loss of life. I'll be blogging a lot more about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, now, Libya, as well as the Cheney-Bush administration and other topics noted below.

Here's the article I submitted:

Evan Bayh and 64 other United States Senators have never served in the military, yet the Senate has overwhelmingly supported the tragic, reckless foreign policy of a man whose own military “service” was play-acting at being in the Texas Air National Guard.

Bayh, one of the Senate’s most aggressive hawks in the current tragedy, is one of 51 male Senators who have never worn a uniform; yet, in spite of his and the others’ total lack of personal knowledge of war and its horrific consequences, they continue to defend George Bush’s horrible invasion that is bringing daily death and destruction to Americans and Iraqis. If anything qualifies as shock and awe, it is our reaction to the posturing of politicians in Washington who, once again, turn their own citizens into cannon fodder.

I’ve long felt that anyone who wants war should be made to go fight it. Suit up Condoleezza and put her in the front lines beside George, Dick, Colin, Evan, Richard, and the rest -- they’d set the sand on fire from rapidly running to the radio transmitter to sue for peace.

Although I have never been in the military, I have witnessed the devastation of war. Unlike the President, Vice President, Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Minority Leader Tom Daschle, I have been involved in the middle of a military conflict. I spent several months treating children too ill to sit up, child after child, day after day—dead, maimed, or severely malnourished all because of an unnecessary war. I was sad at first; then anger took over, anger that has never left me. The anger sustained me when I marched against the Vietnam War, it sustained me when I wrote letters against other conflicts, including Desert Storm, and it sustains me when I enter a voting booth.

General Franks, the American commander of the so-called “coalition” forces (read: almost entirely American), was interviewed shortly before he directed (but not led, of course) our invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq that is now desperately trying to defend itself. He was asked what he would do after the war. (This was at a time when so many people thought naively that we would whip their asses in less than a week, not realizing that many Iraqis who hated the cruel Saddam Hussein also had a problem with a foreign invader destroying their country so American companies could “rebuild” it.) Franks talked about grandchildren, driving his pick-up truck, and other pleasures. Oh, what a lovely war! I imagine that the green hills of an officers’ club golf course are strikingly similar to the green hills of the nearby military cemetery. It’s been a long time since kings and generals actually led their troops into battle. After several were killed, the others got smarter and stayed out of harm’s way.

It is an upside-down world that we live in when a Senate can impeach a President for having – and lying about – an extramarital affair (the very “crime” that some of them turned out to be guilty of), but the same body fails to consider a similar fate for a President who willfully and casually sends his own citizens to their deaths in a war that is not about a dictator at all but, like so many wars, is about money.

Money is being made so rapidly from this war we couldn’t count it if we tried. Military contractors have enriched the election campaigns of many of our elected officials, as well as that of the President. My letter to Senator Bayh requesting the names of military contractors who had contributed to his campaigns went, as expected, unanswered.  I’m sure similar letters to Bush, Cheney, Lugar and others would also be ignored.

One hoped, in the 1970s, after we were defeated in the Vietnam War, and we had suffered a horrendous loss of life, that we would think many times before going to war again. Vietnam demonstrated the futility of war. In the end, the two Vietnams reunited into a single, Communist dictatorship – exactly their original intention -- and we are left with widows and their fatherless children, along with broken, angry veterans.

“Support our troops” is a rallying cry that is supposed to shame us into shutting up, the idea that protest is somehow dishonoring and harming our soldiers. Nothing could be less true. Those of us protesting – and the number of protestors will swell as the nightly news reports continue to inflict upon us a growing list of American dead, along with more and more images of civilians, particularly children, who have been killed by our side – are the ones who are truly supporting our troops.

How can one possibly “support’ troops by wanting anything other than that they should come home now--alive. That’s how to support the troops. Demand that this evil conflict end immediately.  Let’s not fight on for months, perhaps years, perhaps not even winning -- not that there is ever a “winner” in a war – leaving tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of American families without their loved ones who died so that American companies can rebuild a country – such fat contracts! - that didn’t have to be destroyed in the first place.

We shall pay for this for generations. (I’m not referring to the obscene costs – the government is predicting $750 billion dollars. And, remember, this is the government talking, so expect to pay a lot more.) My children and their descendants, as well as yours, will suffer the consequences of a cabal of politicians in Washington – and, to a lesser extent, in London and Canberra – who have, more likely than not, never seen war, never experienced the anguish of people dying from the air raids, from starvation, from an inability to flee fast and far enough to escape the soldiers and their guns.

How can we effect change after we remove our soldiers from this conflict? We could begin by voting. I resent anyone criticizing anything about the government or those opposed to it, waving a flag, or using words like “United We Stand” unless they are registered voters who vote in every election. Otherwise, shut up. Oh, yes, just shut up. If you hate America that much, if you are that unpatriotic to stay away from the voting booth, you have lost your right to complain. Without exception.

And why this dictator when there were and are so many others? I cannot find any speeches by George Bush (either one), Evan Bayh, or Richard Lugar raising ethical and moral questions about South African apartheid. No one seriously suggested we send paratroopers into Pretoria to free the people who were being murdered by their fellow countrymen, a situation that existed far longer than Saddam’s reign. When Stephen Biko died, did any of these men send flowers? Do they, to this day, even know whom I’m talking about?  

Where were George Bush, Sr. or Jr., when Mobutu Sese Seko was murdering his own people and stealing a billion dollars from his desperately poor countrymen? Where were Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney when Kamuzu Banda was murdering and torturing his fellow citizens? I know where I was during part of that time. I was living in those countries, witness to the excesses of two of scores of dictatorial regimes the United States protected, supported, and defended, often with billions of dollars, many of which went into the bank accounts of those very leaders. Yet, we choose one dictator – albeit, a horrible man – and, instead of getting rid of him alone (as we did when the U.S. government murdered Patrice Lumumba, who had become Prime Minister of the Congo, following free elections, or brought about the downfall of Salvador Allende of Chile, another democratically elected official), we begin bombing his country into oblivion, sacrifice our own people, and murder civilians and kill soldiers who are trying to provide homeland security against a foreign invader.  All this to get rid of one person?

As one who majored in journalism, I am ashamed of the media coverage of this war. The logos, the catchy slogans, the theme music of the TV stations – it is so bad it is becoming difficult to see much difference between a known buffoon like Geraldo Rivera (good riddance!) and someone we once had respect for, e.g., Peter Jennings. Breathless stateside coverage shows us “embedded” media having a ball. Andy Rooney was right: The American media are enjoying this war. They obviously delight in wearing the accoutrement of the soldiers, reporting in full battle gear – just like G.I. Joe! -- co-opted by a clever military command and political leadership that knew the intellectual limits of today’s national TV media would make it easy to involve them in a way never done before.

War, however, is not a video game. The so-called “rules of war” that we claim to support only get our support when they’re to our advantage.  If Indianapolis were to be invaded by a foreign power, would we not urge our military to disguise themselves as civilians to give them an advantage? Didn’t we learn as school kids to cheer the colonists who fought in mufti from behind trees while the stupid British and Hessians marched in single file in their bright-red uniforms?

Even Jesse Ventura, not my idea of a stellar political leader, said with some exasperation to an interviewer on TV about the Iraqi resistance – “they’re defending their country” – a concept the reporter seemed not to grasp, half whining, as are the military commanders, that there’s something not fair about people resisting our advance.

It was bad enough when Bush was an international embarrassment with his goofy, Reagan-like style of governance where the Presidency is being run by several people, none of whom is the President.  But now this ride-‘em-cowboy attitude of a man from Kennebunkport, Texas, has dangerous consequences for us all, particularly for those poor soldiers of ours whom we must support by bringing them home.

“Biological and chemical weapons” and “weapons of mass destruction” are terms I’ve never heard fully explained. Perhaps they refer to the only country in the world that has dropped atomic bombs on another country, where more than 100,000 (mostly civilians) died, or maybe they refer to a country that used Agent Orange herbicide and napalm against another country – and, unwittingly, against its own troops.

Those practices, combined with our sometimes sordid history of mistreatment of our own people – government officials murdering blacks because they had the temerity to want to vote – acts so recently committed that it’s within the memory of many of us – makes our pious statements about “freedom” and “justice” that much more hypocritical.

I have been told that I should stop my protests and support the troops. As noted, that’s a contradiction in terms. Now is the time to protest more so that our troops come home alive.  Now is the time to, finally, refuse to elect and re-elect politicians who love war – from a very safe distance. But, as September 11, 2001, so evilly demonstrated, we are no longer living a safe distance from war.  And our country is deep in a conflict that will bring tragedy to our shores for decades to come. 

John Ashcroft crassly uses terrorist attacks as an excuse to go beyond J. Edgar Hoover in his zeal for controlling our lives. Perhaps he’s angry because he lost the Senate race in Missouri to a dead man. Perhaps he’s angry because a growing number of us find it frighteningly ironic that horrible acts committed by those who do not believe in personal freedom bring out the worst in a man like Ashcroft who also does not seem to believe in personal freedom.

Two friends of mine are currently in Jordan where they are forwarding e-mail messages from Iraq from their counterparts in a group called Voices in the Wilderness.  When I offered to forward these messages – that are telling more and more of the horrors inflicted upon civilians in Iraq from the bombings – I was astounded at the number of people who wanted to be on the e-mail list. Those interested cross all political spectrums and represent the cross-section of the country that is opposed to this terrible mistake wrought upon us by those we must refuse to return to office. Vote against those supporting the war. Show support for our troops by tossing out of office those who care so little for the lives of their fellow Americans.

Only weeks ago, you could hardly enter a department or drug store without seeing “clearance” racks of red-white-and-blue merchandise. The fervor of September 11 “patriotism” was over and it was all marked down 90 percent. Those of us who already loved our country on September 10, 2001, and who still love it fiercely, were disgusted by what I characterize as “fake patriotism” that has again surfaced in the flapping of flags by people who, I’m willing to bet, rarely are registered voters but who think that sticking a flag in their car window is more important than pulling a lever in a voting booth.

Join me in pulling the lever in 2004.

Farewell, Bush.

Good riddance, Cheney.

Bye, Bayh.

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