Writings and observations

Lots of political discussion over the last weekend about the predicament of Republican presidential candidates asked whether, considering what we now know about the absence of weapons of mass destruction and other issues, the United States should have invaded Iraq in 2003. I thought it was a terrible idea at the time, but I was in the minority then. The candidates are on the spot now because, while the nation overall has long since concluded the invasion was a bad idea, they’re in the position of disowning an important decision of the last Republican president, and one they (all or nearly all) long supported. Then too there are some who take this view, expressed in a front-page Oregonian article by a former Army sniper: “I have trouble with the question itself just because it lends itself to disregarding the sacrifices that have been made.”

He is wrong. The equation of support for a war – any war – with respect for the soldiers who are or at risk of being killed or wounded has two serious problems the sniper ought to consider. Americans ought to respect the work and sacrifices made by its people in uniform whether in peace or war, and in any war. If the sniper wants to tie that to support for engagement in any and all military conflicts, that means he’s arguing we should be obliged to support, and for all time, any war we may enter – however self-destructive to the nation, however ill-conceived or even grossly immoral, it might be. Blind support for a war that does more damage than good to our country – is that the form of patriotism he suggests?

There is another problem. Many critics of the American conflict in Vietnam, in the 60s and 70s, felt obliged to denigrate the troops as well as the decision to engage there. The sniper’s logic – linking a decision to support the troops and the decision to get into a war – legitimises that Vietnam logic too, and it was wrong then, and wrong now.

Criticising a policy is not in conflict with supporting and respecting the people this nation has asked to do a job. A point to ponder this Memorial Day. –rs

And (taken from a Facebook post of veteran Frank Lundberg, guessing he won’t object): “Some ways to honor all of us might be to cease these endless futile wars and truly support the VA by reforming the bureaucracy and providing all necessary funding for medical treatment.” Second that.

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