My Turn: Another veteran's perspective on war

Posted: Sunday, May 04, 2003

Over the course of the Iraqi conflict I thought I had kept pretty good tabs on the papers' op-ed sections, weekly periodicals, news channels and the constant chatter of radio talk shows. I may have missed some fringe publications out there but up until Mr. Don Douglas' April 27 My Turn column I thought I was as informed as one could reasonably be. Somewhere I dropped the ball.

He was very specific. Not sharing his opinion makes one suspect of being gullible, uninformed and looking into the abyss of partisan Republicanism. Shallow enough to be led by the nose into war by a commander-in-chief longing for a second term we fell "shamelessly" for the old shell game.

Don actually thinks he wrote something original here, from his perspective of active military service in Alaska. I see a lot of print dedicated to a common theme; Mr. Bush is a rogue, war supporters have minds of mush and it's the fault of partisan Republicans. He is particularly peeved at like-minded protesters being labeled unpatriotic by some of us. Really, who is doing the labeling here?

I have a different take on it.

Hindsight is a wonderful gift. Osama's dream of breaking the American spirit, and economy, has turned into his own personal nightmare. Instead of hastening our speedy retreat from the Middle East he unwittingly unleashed the dogs of war. After declaring war upon America, and getting a taste of it, the zealots retreated into the shadows like cockroaches. Iraq is no longer a safe haven for their ilk and unspeakable horrors visited upon Iraqis by Saddam's secret police have ended. Petty dictators are now extending the olive branch to our diplomats instead of shooting at them.

But it is not over, and I do not want another attack on American soil to make that point. The enemy is very real, patient and determined. We are facing a generation indoctrinated through a public school setting to kill Americans and I care very little for their perceived grievances against me. The only way to end this war is to make the cost too high for them to bear. As for me, this conflict started 20 years ago when innocent Americans abroad started coming back in body bags.

One reason why we are not seeing a repeat of service members being spat on at the airports, as in the Vietnam era, could be those whispered confessions over espresso at age 50, sharing family photos of bell bottoms and flowers, blocking traffic. Aside from the occasional vomiting demonstration and gridlock, today's demonstrations aren't what they used to be. Then again, any would-be spitter could well meet the business end of a rifle butt. Today's soldier is a volunteer and I'll wager the vast majority of them do not view service as a social program. (Veteran benefits are an inducement, not the end-all.) Take a better look at the technology we send them out with. My generation just got the hang of programming the VCR when DVD came out. These are educated, trained and squared away individuals.

Furthermore, there are worse things one can take away from people than their freedom. Take away hope. If we allow economics and partisan politics to overshadow our war efforts we risk minimizing Sept. 11 and scores of past and future innocents targeted by our enemies. Think globally, our enemies do.

Ken Dunker is a veteran, husband and father "with kids who are targeted by my enemy."

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