It's Time To Support the Troops

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George
W. Bush, their commander-in-chief, calls them “the troops.” He says
they’re on a “noble ‘n vital” mission in Iraq. When asked about
them, Bush says his “thoughts ‘n prayers” go out to them. When shrapnel
shreds their limbs or they are blown to bits by bombs, he says he
“grieves ‘n mourns” for them. Because of the troops, Bush says “America
and the world are a safer place (sic).”

Their
boss, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, says although “the troops”
might not have been the ones he wished for when he went to war,
they were all he had. Recently, when asked about a draft,
he even said he’d continue to work with what he had. “God bless
‘em – because they volunteered,” he said. “They want
to be doing what it is they’re doing.”

Rumsfeld
has felt a bit of heat since holding one of his usually scripted
town-hall meetings in Kuwait in early December wherein Specialist
Thomas Wilson, a scout with a Tennessee National Guard unit headed
for Iraq, asked why, after
nearly three years of fighting in Iraq,
soldiers were going
to combat in unarmored vehicles.

“We’re
digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass
that’s already been shot up, dropped, busted, picking the best out
of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat,” Wilson
pointed out.

After
a stunned and confused moment, Rumsfeld first blamed the quality
of “troops,” then blamed the manufacturers for not having “production
capacity,” before finally pooh-poohing in true Rumsfeldian fashion
the need for having armor at all – “If you think about it, you
can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be
blown up,” he blustered. “And you can have an up-armored humvee
and it can be blown up.”

At
least three humvee manufacturers were quick to call Rumsfeld on
his blatant lie. Executives at Armor Holdings, Jacksonville, Fla.,
said the company was ready to go, and has been waiting for purchase
orders from the Pentagon. Those from AM General in Indiana and Ohio’s
O’Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt echoed Armor’s remarks. All three manufacturers
were adamant that no orders had been placed.

Defense
officials said it will take time to get the $4 billion in armor
the troops need for protection, and the Pentagon’s Brig. Gen. Jeffrey
Sorenson said in a hurriedly put-together news conference, “This
is not Wal-Mart…it takes time to study, develop, test, and produce
equipment needed against what commanders say is a sophisticated
and ever-adapting enemy.”

But
then, things returned to normal, with right-wing pundits maintaining
that yes, indeedy, orders had been placed and the blame is not with
the Pentagon after all, but with the manufacturers. Bush looked
deeply into Rumsfeld’s heart, liked what he saw, and suggested pointedly
that Rummy was doing such a fine job we should just all move on.
The media breathed a collective sigh of relief as they put the uncontested
political football back in play.

Now
we can all get back to supporting “the troops” by keeping them out
of public view and safely back where they belong – like Bush
says – in our thoughts ‘n prayers. Criticizing the boss for
sending them unarmed and unprepared into a never-ending, no-way-out
bloody fiasco only demoralizes the troops. Worse, it could encourage
other troops like Specialist Wilson to question whether the noble
‘n vital mission their commander-in-chief is forcing them to accept
in Iraq is really nothing more than a deadly, suicidal Texas Redneck
Snipe Hunt.

It’s
easy to conclude that Bush and Rumsfeld are either sadistic liars
or they are totally out of touch with reality. Or both. There is
also something intensely obscene about a deaf, dumb and mute Congress,
whose members stand by, knowing they are being lied to but refusing
to accept their Constitutional responsibility.

I
have a considerable stash of words, but none sufficiently harsh
to describe the contempt I feel for these Democrat and Republican
legislators who silently lowered their heads – who turned their
backs – and allowed Bush and Rumsfeld to send their young constituents
to their deaths, untrained and improperly equipped.

Because
they knew. They all knew that Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza
Rice and the rest of the neocon warmongers were frantically lying
in order to catapult us into catastrophe.

It
was all lies. Congress had to know Saddam Hussein posed no threat
whatever to America; that he had no connection to 9-11, and that
Iraq was broken by 12 years of sanctions, by the disease and death
resulting from our relentless bombing of Iraqi infrastructure and
the withholding of medicines and food.

They
knew if they condoned Bush’s insane vision of labeling as terrorists
all those who stood between him and the world’s resources what would
happen to American “troops.” They knew the cost in both lives and
property if they sent US troops off on a bloody crusade to torture
and kill men, women and children in the name of freedom.

It
is even more grisly when you consider they knew their silence would
not only disrupt, but destroy thousands of families at home and
abroad, and that even those troops lucky enough to return would
never be the same again.

Americans
are not natural predators. Is it supporting the troops to maliciously
turn them into monsters so they will be “up” for the eyeball-to-eyeball
killing they must do for “God and Country?” Did the alcoholics,
drug addicts, homeless – the walking dead – of returning
Vietnam troops teach us nothing? How deep in kimche do we
have to get before we remember? How long before we erupt in a national
primal scream?

The
price we are paying for national greed and lust for power is too
high. American service members are not a ghostly, faceless mass
of “troops.” They are flesh-and-blood individuals; our sons, daughters,
husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. They are
America’s children – her present, her future.

Those
troops I have known – artillerymen, engineers, infantrymen – are
dedicated to their mission. They will do as they are told. They
are proud of their country, will go to great lengths to protect
it and, if necessary, are willing to die for its freedom.

Unfortunately,
more of them every day are called upon to do so. Although the media
steadfastly refuses to acknowledge it, 1,331 US troops have been
slaughtered
in Iraq. Tonight, 16 families will bow their heads and pray for
the safety of their children, not knowing they are already dead.
Perhaps Rumsfeld has been shamed into showing more compassion, and
will personally sign the letters of condolence – formerly referred
to as “death letters.”

More
than 10,000 Americans have been wounded in action, and almost 4,500
have been evacuated because of the severity of non-hostile injuries.
“Wounded” is a code word for loss of limbs, of eyes, of brain damage
caused by shrapnel from roadside bombs and mortars. Such wounds
are
creating an entire generation of amputees
and wheelchair-bound
Americans who are discovering as their lives and their livelihoods
crumble around them that the wheels of desperately needed care and
support grind slowly.

Also,
more than 7,700 have been shipped home consumed with disease. These
are the hidden casualties. To acknowledge them would be tantamount
to admitting that the depleted uranium scattered indiscriminately
throughout Iraq by both Bush 41 and 43 has devastating effects on
human beings, and could evoke embarrassing questions about violations
of the Geneva Conventions. Can’t have that. Wouldn’t be prudent.
However, these men and women could use a little support as they
fight a losing battle with the system for prompt medical care and
continued benefits.

It
is both strange and wonderful that the most support for the troops
has come from families of US soldiers and marines killed in the
hellish assault on Fallujah – and this support is for the innocent
Iraqi victims. According to Agence France Presse, the
families,
with the help of peace groups, physicians’ organizations
and relatives of 9-11 victims, raised $100,000 on the Internet.
Humanitarian groups such as Middle East Children’s Alliance and
Operation USA contributed $500,000 worth of medical supplies.

According
to the article, Rosa Suarez of Escondido, Calif., said, “The Iraq
war took away my son’s life, and it has taken away the lives of
so many innocent Iraqis. It is time to stop the killing and to help
the children of Iraq.”

Sadly,
the US media failed to report this outpouring of love and support.
It would have made a great Christmas story since AFP also reported
that the families were to fly to Amman (Jordan) on December 26 and
hand over the supplies to humanitarian and medical workers there.

USA
Today founder Al Neuharth is getting bitch-slapped by right-wing
neoconservative troop supporters for suggesting last week that,
although Support Our Troops is a wonderful patriotic slogan, “…the
best way to support troops thrust by unwise commanders in chief
into ill-advised adventures like Vietnam and Iraq is
to bring them home.
Sooner rather than later,” Neuharth wrote
in a Dec. 22 editorial. “That should be our New Year’s resolution.”

I
don’t know about you, but I’m with Rosa and Al. It’s time to stop
the killing – time to stop the grievin’ ‘n mournin’. It’s time
to truly support American troops.

Bring
them home.

December
28, 2004

Sheila
Samples [send her mail]
is an Oklahoma freelance writer and a former civilian US Army Public
Information Officer.

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