My Turn: War supporters gullible, partisan

Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2003

Like Tony Tengs, I'm more than weary of war supporters asserting that any position other than bovine support for Bush's war is somehow unpatriotic or unsupportive of American service people. But perhaps I can add a somewhat different perspective.

Mr. Tengs mentions he never served in the military. I am a veteran of seven years active duty with the Army, and that - and my non-partisanship - very much informs my opinions. While anyone's military service does not confer more legitimacy to their opinions or more patriotism to their self, that experience should give them a much more thoughtful perspective on the Iraq conflict.

Support for this war derives from two sources: Gullibility and partisanship. As to gullibility:

Bush has advanced many reasons in shamelessly trying to start this war. Those reasons are uniformly flimsy and without merit - and convincing only to the gullible, the uninformed and the Republicans.

As to partisanship:

Republicans see their best chance of getting their un-elected "president" elected for real next year in keeping his poll numbers high. Osama gone missing doesn't help. Millions unemployed since Bush took office doesn't help. The stock market and the economy in the toilet don't help. Huge new federal debt created by tax cuts for the rich doesn't help. But a war, now there's an almost certain route to high poll numbers. And (talk about win-win situations) Bush also gets to hand out lots of fat defense and rebuilding contracts to political contributors.

The result:

When Americans support war for partisan gain, or simply because they don't inform themselves or think hard enough about the proffered reasons, America's service people bleed and die. That is very troubling to this veteran.

That so many veterans and Republicans value the blood of Americans now serving so little that they will happily see that blood spilled for their politician's or party's political gain is inexcusable and a true betrayal of those who now serve.

The proportion of veterans who served during the very necessary American involvement in World War II is rapidly decreasing. A rapidly decreasing proportion of veterans served during conflicts like Korea and Vietnam - unnecessary fights in which American territory and freedoms were never at risk: Wars fought solely to prop up pro-U.S. dictators every bit as brutal and vile as Saddam. So a conflict like that in Iraq - fought solely for the benefit of a politician and party where no threat to Americans exists - is troublingly unremarkable these days.

Like all Americans, I wish our service people in Iraq well. I hope they return soon and safely to their loved ones. But they are not in Iraq protecting the U.S. or the safety of freedoms of Americans. They are there only because Bush and the Republicans are willing to trade their blood for poll numbers and electoral advantage. That disgusts me, as I believe it should every American. Especially veterans.

One thing I did take from my active duty military service is a healthy lack of respect for those who would muzzle free speech. That is a lack of respect I think all Americans - veterans and non-veterans alike - should share. So please, Mr. Tengs, ignore those who love to wave their little flags but who think free speech is really only for themselves and their party. You and all who oppose the Iraq conflict are to my mind the ones who truly place a value on the lives and blood of America's service people.

Our troops are (or should be) big enough boys and big enough girls to understand about differing opinions. They are not endangered one bit by Americans debating and speaking freely. But they are endangered by being put in harm's way by Bush for his political use. Keep steadfastly supporting our troops - by steadfastly opposing the Republicans' little popularity poll war.

Don Douglas lives in Juneau and owns a business.

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