September 28, 2002
There are few things in life that so incense me as to be
For the record, I am an American serviceman of 18 years experience,
a soldier who makes his living at the "tip of the bayonet"
- an infantryman, subject to the rigors and hardships and
self-denial that such a commitment engenders, living, day
by day, as I have for my entire adult life, the brutal realities
of a latter-day centurion.
I have paid my price, in sweat and blood and effort and dead
and wounded comrades. I have twice faced the realities of
combat, and twice emerged, not victorious, but rather, lucky.
There are many, living and dead, who have faithfully served
this country, who have earned, at least, the right to speak
their minds without fear of being labeled "traitor". Yet they
have, it seems, in the eyes of the current administration,
no such luxury, no such right. There are many who have sacrificed
their blood - the blood of patriots - to nourish the Tree
of Liberty. Their are many, many more who have sacrificed
their very lives to salvage for the future the continued right
to dissent against the very government whose polices demanded
the sacrifice of their lives and treasure and toil...
My sacrifices, when weighed against the blood of such profound
patriots, are insubstantial, ephemeral, unworthy.
And yet...they are no less real, for being finite. And so,
in the spirit of my killed and wounded brothers, my fellow
patriots whose blood has fed the Tree of Liberty, I find myself
enraged at the current rhetoric, which seeks to diminish all
those who might question the policies of a transient and,
by all accounts, not-popularly-elected administration.
This rhetoric has struck home on a very personal level, as
I find myself, in the course of my (now rather mundane) duties,
engaged in often-spirited debate about the course of American
foreign policy, especially as regards our seemingly rabid
desire to attack Iraq. This debate frequently centers around
the reasons why, or why not, we, as a country, should engage
in the sort of unilateral pit-bull approach to removing a
domestically (read: American) installed, and domestically
(read: American) equipped (with weapons of mass destruction,
blah, blah, blah) third-rate dictator, espoused by the current
Oiligarchy [sic]. In general, the Right prefers to simplify
the matter as "Saddam bad, U.S. Good". This fits its current
need to retain control over significant sources of oil.
I find it especially puzzling when, for the entirety of the
previous administration, the refrain emanating from the Rabid
Right (repeated ad nauseum), was "The Powell Doctrine", and
"The Weinburger Doctrine" - two Doctrines which, in their
determined isolationism nonetheless defined some very reasonable
limits (except as when applied to deny any legitimacy to any
use of military force by the previous administration, under
any circumstances) to the use and expectations of U.S. military
power as a diplomatic lever - namely, it must be in the interests
of national security, must have a clear and definable objective,
and a clearly defined endstate and exit strategy.
A cynic might note that the proposed war on Iraq possesses
none of these fundamental tenets of the Right's (until recently)
requirements for the use of American military power.
But, I am not a cynic. I am a pragmatist, and a soldier.
And so, the relative merits of attacking, or not attacking,
Iraq, are not the issue.
I acknowledge the Clausewitzian admonition that war is politics
by other means. I accept this as a fact of life, as the lot
of a soldier, as the reality of a complex, global society
where even those who purport to be our friends may secretly
wish us ill (and, after all - the majority of the 9/11 hijackers
were not Afghani, they were Saudi, but what the hey...). I
acknowledge the complexities of a diplomatic reality far removed
from my purview as a lowly soldier. I acknowledge my chosen
lot in life is to fight and (hopefully!) win my nation's wars.
I, of course, even acknowledge the right of the current administration
to sway, by all legal means, the debate and the goals and
the foreign policies of this country.
But oh, what so tries my soul, what brings the blood-red
rage, the killing fever that so makes me wish to consume my
enemies with blade and fire and bludgeon, is the all-too-easy
pejorative label of "un-American" when I simply illuminate
the fallacies and inconsistencies and uncertainties of the
current administration's policies. I do not assert some infallible
artifact of my own character, some trait that, by its very
existence, assumes to me the gift of certitude. I am a simple
man. I accept that my opinion is simply an opinion - and therefore
subject to error.
Yet, it is for the very holding of that opinion, however
right or wrong, that I am condemned. It is for that very opinion
which, by its thoughtfulness and acknowledgment of uncertainties,
fails to hew the party line, I am castigated. And, woefully,
I am most often castigated by the very people who so take
Liberty for granted, never counting the cost on their personal
balance sheets, but always assuming the cost away, to be underwritten
by some "unworthy" soul in a camouflage uniform.
To you, the un-uniformed masses, I say: "What gives you the
f**king right to call me un-American?"
What I cannot accept, what enrages - yes, enrages
- me is the suggestion that, simply because I choose to engage
in the very debate for which I have sworn my life and for
which I have witnessed comrades spill their blood - because
I choose merely to debate, I am unpatriotic. The salt
in the wound, of course, is that the vast majority of those
so accusing - again, reminiscent of the current administration
- have never, themselves, even considered placing themselves
in harm's way in defense of the very Liberty which they so
assiduously purport to defend with my blood.
What enrages me is that I am, among the millions of Americans
who live today in this great country, among the very, very
small minority that has ever served in uniform, much less
dedicated a lifetime to the preservation of American freedoms;
and that I am, by those who have never served, who have never
risked, accused of being un-American.
I am a patriot. I am an American. I wish to howl with anger
at the accusation, to consume my detractors with righteous
indignation, to watch the very flesh flay from their bones
that they dare - that they dare - accuse me of being
My vow, my oath of office is not to any administration, but
to the Constitution of the United States of America, and not
to any individual.
I am furious, and my fury is without limit, and fast approaching
a fury without reason that, when I merely choose to engage
in debate, the very sort of dialogue canonized in the First
Amendment (does anyone in the Rabid Right recognize any amendment
but the Second?), that is, in fact a requirement, nay, a duty
of democracy, I am subject to limitless ridicule as "un-American".
And therein lies the wellspring of my fury - not, as one
may expect, in the policies of any particular administration,
but, rather, that this administration, peopled by those who
have never worn a uniform, by sons of privilege, chooses to
call those who question its policies un-American.
Un-American? Who among you who chooses to so castigate me
has chosen to take even a moment to secure the very privilege
you now use against me? Who among you has the right?