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View Poll Results: Do You Want War?
Yes - Unconditionally 0 0%
Yes - March 17th 0 0%
Yes - After March 30th 0 0%
No 19 100.00%
Voters: 19. You may not vote on this poll

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Old April 7th, 2003, 02:22 PM   #46
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Military Families Speak Out
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Old April 7th, 2003, 06:39 PM   #47
Lou
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A veteran of the Vietnam War responds to the question of what it means to support the troops:

Patriotism is far more than blindly following politicians in
power at the moment
By SPECIAL TO CITIZEN-TIMES
April 4, 2003 11:17 p.m.

By Paul Mitchell



As a retired U.S. Army officer who spent two years in Vietnam and eight in the
Pentagon, my natural reaction would be to want to support our president's
decision to go to war. But I cannot. Try as I might, I just don't believe my
government's rhetoric. Part of my doubt stems from my Vietnam experience. I
went the first time in 1965 as a 22-year-old lieutenant, as fresh-faced, trusting
and naively patriotic as our young men and women we see today in Iraq. Only
years later did I begin to comprehend just how ill-served we were in that
misguided war by a government that was not worthy of the trust of its
citizens. Lyndon Johnson and Robert MacNamara knew going in that our troop
buildup was a bad idea, but their pride, their hubris, wouldn't let them pull the
plug. And we are still paying for that tragic mistake in broken lives and great
loss of national treasure.

I believe we are making an even worse mistake today. In waging an
aggressive, preemptive war against Iraq in defiance of the U.N. Charter and
the opinion of most of the world and many here at home, our country has
forgotten its solemn pledge made at the end of the Vietnam War never again
to go to war without strong support at home and abroad. President Bush now
says that the Security Council failed to act and thus became irrelevant. I beg to
differ. The Security Council did act. It said, "Wait!" It refused to be steamrolled
by our government, which over a six-month period failed miserably to make its
case for war. The president's decision to ignore the will of the world community
will haunt us for many years to come. Our imperious behavior gravely damages
our standing and moral leadership, as it breeds mistrust and resentment
around the world.

Had we been able to demonstrate a link between Saddam and al-Qaida, I
would not feel this way. But as hard as our government tried, it failed to do so.
In the absence of such a link I conclude, sadly, that what got us into this war
was mainly 1) that President Bush entered office determined to finish what his
father started, and 2) he was persuaded by his hawkish advisors into sending
250,000 troops to the Gulf, and once they were there felt he had to use them.
There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein is an evil man. But there are many
leaders around the world who are despotic and cruel to their people. Is it our
special role to fight them all in turn? The Soviet Union, Reagan's "Evil Empire"
and our archrival for 45 years after World War II, was infinitely more
dangerous than Saddam could ever be. But we, with our allies, managed to
contain that totalitarian dictatorship without war until it finally collapsed.

Regardless of how or why we got here in this state of war, it is timely to ask a
few questions: What does it mean to "support our troops?" What is
patriotism? What is the place of protest now?

I suggest that supporting our troops doesn't have a lot to do with waving the
flag and attending country music concerts, or even tying yellow ribbons to
trees. Our troops are going to come home changed, as we Vietnam era
veterans were changed. Many will be traumatized; some will bear permanent
wounds and other scars, both visible and deeply hidden. We need to support
them by embracing them when they return, and insisting that our government
give them the medical, psychological and material support that they will need.
This didn't go too well after Vietnam, where the government long denied the
terrible effects of Agent Orange on those exposed to that toxin. It has been
reported that as many Vietnam veterans have committed suicide since the war
as were killed in the war. And still today many of our homeless are among the
army of its hidden casualties. The government is also loath to admit to more
than 100,000 veterans of the first Gulf War the linkage between their "Gulf
War Syndrome" and exposure to our own depleted uranium rounds. We don't
know what to expect when the Iraq War veterans return home, but a current
plan by the House Budget Committee to slash health care for sick and disabled
veterans does not bode well. Supporting our troops may mean many citizens
working to get them the help they will need in the aftermath of this war, and
then struggling courageously to bring an end to war altogether.

What is patriotism? To me it has to do first with love of this land as it once
existed and can again, with unpolluted lakes and rivers, clean air, vibrant
forests, healthy wetlands, uncontaminated topsoil, and space for all the
creatures -- human and otherwise -- that live thereupon. In loving this land we
should want to care for it, and preserve it for our grandchildren, if we really
care about them as we say we do. As we all know, our environmental record
as a nation is not good. Our runaway high-consumption economy, fueled by
corporate interests that are not accountable to us and that wield grossly
excessive power in Washington, is one major cause.

Our excessive busyness, and loss of connection to place and with the natural
world are others. The work we undertake to correct these problems and to live
more lightly on this land are examples of true patriotism. An unneeded war
further poisons the earth and distracts us from this crucial work.

Another aspect of patriotism is love of the institutions of our government as
they were designed to function, and the historic documents and laws under
which we are governed. It has nothing to do with unquestioning deference to
the individual politicians in power at the moment. Is it right for us to protest
against this war while it is ongoing? Absolutely. Those citizens who believe
that our country is wrong in this war have not only the right, but the duty
under our democracy to oppose the war by all nonviolent means. Once it has
been brought to an end, we will continue to have the duty to oppose the
militaristic and jingoistic tendencies that are so prevalent in our society.

Still apt are these words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from a 25 Jan. 25, 1967,
speech in Los Angeles entitled "The Casualties of the War in Vietnam:"

"The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for
carving out peaceful tomorrows. One day we must come to see that peace is
not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at
that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means." Paul
Mitchell retired from the U.S. Army in 1984 as a lieutenant-colonel and specialist
on the Soviet Union. His last military assignment was Chief, Washington-Moscow
Presidential Hotline, in the Pentagon. He is now a professional life coach in
Asheville and may be contacted at pdmitchell@charter.net.
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