Patriots and Men
By B. Rehak
There's a lot of talk about patriotism lately: who has it,
who doesn't. It's hard to sort out the True Patriots from
the truly patriotic because now they almost all drive Humvees.
Patriotism comes up often as we watch the Bush writers reworking
their "Iraqi Victory" scenario to keep that upbeat "Feel
Good Ending" that capped their great pre-invasion story
For almost three hundred of our kids, this new rewrite will
come too late.
Newspapers used to be called the "first draft of history,"
but a lot of our worldview seems to be reprocessed fresh every
morning, spun to perfection, and then served up, fair and
The Bush Administration has just announced another sweeping
round of reality cuts, and restated their total commitment
to the War on Veritas.
Charles Foster Kane, your decade is calling!
Government by Luddites with Blackberries. Maybe a generation
from now, historians will finally figure out what the hell
was going on here. It'll be tough, because the entire George
W. Bush Presidential Library will probably fit in a small
closet, as almost every public record from his entire life
back to first grade has reportedly been sealed or lost. He's
the first US President aiming to leave no truth behind. You
have to wonder how that macho carrier landing video will play
in 2028. Let's see, did that Bush serve one term or two?
For the first time in our long history, we're ruled by openly
pious men who seem hopelessly drawn to great foreign adventure,
but are a bit short on actual ground combat experience. They
also don't have any, "Can we buy the cereal and still afford
the milk?" experience.
Most of the bleeding and dying in Iraq is being done by
a lot of brave, low-paid kids just trying to keep their buddies
and themselves alive. It always is. Neo-conservative Washington
loves our troops - but makes them pay for their own
life insurance and denies them benefits nowhere near equal
to other First Responders.
Our deployed military people leave nervous families stateside.
To be an enlisted person raising kids in today's all-volunteer
force is to be eligible for food stamps. The average ground
pounder's faith in Duty, Honor, and Country is even more remarkable
considering the stark reality of military life on the cheap
in this age of connected rich guys.
A lot of flags got waved on Capitol Hill as we sent our
kids off to fight, but Congress was quietly working on Veterans
Administration cuts even as our future Vets are stretched
thin in 120 countries. Back home, their families hold tight,
watch their pennies, live for e-mail, and pray they get through
all this. So do we.
The valor of our armed forces and operational federal agency
people spread around the world is obvious. They alone stand
between us and The Big Gulp. They're the best we have and
are unfairly caught up in the growing debate about this war
and its creators.
They're doing what they were told to do. It's because
of their unerring desire to risk it all for us that the temporary
political types who send them in harm's way must never
waste them in folly or deceit. We are all Americans here,
but they are twice so.
When all the politicians, photo-ops, and flag waving are
over, it will still be that same tiny cadre - proud Americans
of a certain exceptional character - who'll be wide awake
while others sleep, keeping the wolf and a world of assorted
crazies from the door.
The credit for the Iraq War truly belongs to the valiant
"Beltway Centurions" - righteous political folks
who like to play war with real soldiers. They go on Fox News
and talk of courage, but never seem to get any closer to the
shooting than Geraldo does. What if the folks who dreamed
this up were simply made to go in the lead chopper in the
first raid in their war? Peace would be at hand.
Face it, war really sucks - but it sells. It always does,
for a while.
There's enough faux-camo clothing to be found strolling
in the average mall to equip an ARVN battalion. Talk radio
gushes with love for our troops.
Meanwhile, out in the shit, about 140,000 overworked US
kids balance precariously amid 24,000,000 pissed off and well-armed
Iraqis, and one gets the feeling that even if Saddam and a
hundred more of his top people were all dead, the insurgency
would go on.
They seem to want us to leave. Like all the legions across
all the centuries who've sought glory in Mesopotamia (the
land between the rivers), we'll eventually go, but first,
like all the others, we will pay.
If there was ever an actual clear plan for the Bush conquest
and relief of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, it must be the most closely
held secret in this most secretive Government ever. Nobody
is cleared to tell us why. They promised Iraqi Victory, but
delivered Saigon on the Tigress.
Patriotism is one of those unique words with a variable
If you're on the line in Iraq, patrolling that amusement
park in hell, or you're the one waiting back here praying
the base Chaplain doesn't come up the walk, then "patriotism"
is knowing this war might still rob you of all your dreams,
whether it was a lie or not.
If you're in the oil business, "patriotism" is
buying access to all the right people and getting even richer.
If you're living large off Iraq on cable TV, then "patriotism"
is hot graphics, hosts who shout, and cute blonde newsreaders
with big hair who can't pronounce Arabic names.
If you're'fighting the Iraqi War from the ideological safety
of the far right, then "patriotism" means never
having to say you're sorry, or wrong.
Good people who love America but questioned this war were
shouted down and swept aside before it started. High profile
activists who spoke up were ridiculed by a platoon of talking
heads. The Bush Iraq policy was dumbed down to bumper sticker
slang. They didn't have to dumb it far.
Based on the results to date, the Bush people may have dealt
the hyperbole industry a fatal blow, as manure futures took
a big hit on the commodities market.
Odd that the most hard charging neo-cons slept quite late
on Saint Crispin's Day and never gave their manhood a second
thought. They are the few, that happy few, that Band of Bumblers
who landed us in this pile of Jihad.
They must someday answer all the grieving military families.
Why Iraq? Where was the damned fire?
This is the first time America ever started a war on its
own, and this latest installment in the trans-generational
Bushwars is turning out to be many unintended things.
Of course Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction!
The Reagan-Bush people reportedly saw to that in the 1980s.
When he was happily gassing Iranian kids, Saddam was just
another handy asset, like the Shah, Noriega, and Marcos.
Later, when Mr. Hussein went rogue, we had to put him down.
Twice! But not yet. The long Bush Family feud with Saddam
Consider that we've fought two wars with this guy
and haven't won yet, and now we have to fix his broken country.
As the neo-cons revise reality with each news cycle, do
try to remember that we went to war only because everybody
in the Bush Administration told us for months that Saddam's
WMD threatened the peace of the whole World.
As failed wars go, Iraq is a sad reminder of our earlier
sojourn along the River Mekong. In those tortured times, some
bright folks sent about 3,000,000 of our bravest kids to save
a pretty little tropical country.
A lot of them never came back. Others came back but never
America almost broke in two over that war. In the end, nearly
60,000 people gave their lives to teach us to never ever
start a war we're not sure how to finish. Mr. Powell was there
and understands that, but he too was ignored by the "true
patriots" in their rush to glory.
Ever notice that this war is going just like the other Bushwars
on Drugs and Osama bin Laden?
Remember him? Tall guy. Very Rich. Likes caves. Killed a
lot of our people.
"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden.
It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we
find him!" - George W. Bush, September 13, 2001
"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and I really
don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."
- George W. Bush, March 13, 2002
Spin your way out of that!
Nobody would deny the US Government's right to keep secrets,
deal harshly with bad guys, or act in the dark of night if
there's no alternative, but what if it turns out our bombs
were far smarter than our chicken hawks?
Alas, Mr. Bush's poll numbers are falling back to the pre-9/11
range. Perhaps the voters are watching him a lot closer now.
You can only cry wolf so many times. If you actually cried
oil - the jig would be up.
It's 64 weeks until the big election, and if you liked the
Hoover Administration, stay tuned.
The Bush people seem caught between Iraq and a hard reality.
They apparently can't win, yet they can't appear to lose and
still hold on to power. Our faithful kids are caught in the
We leave you with the long ago words of a patriotic man.
He spoke up when others hid. In 1954 he was reviled nationally
by the same sort who just marched us to Baghdad. They called
him a commie, a traitor to his country. He knew a lot about
patriots and men and the merchants of fear:
"We will not walk in fear, one of another. We are not descended
from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak,
to associate and to defend causes which were for the moment
unpopular. This is no time . . . to keep silent." - Edward
B. Rehak is a writer in California, and can be reached