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 two years of fighting, 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, 1,329 US troops have been slaughtered in Iraq. Tonight, 15 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.
Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a columnist for www.democracymeansyou.com and www.articlesandanswers.com, and a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2004 Sheila Samples
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