Will Not Shut Up
By Sheila Samples
got a few words for George Bush and Dick Cheney, who keep
telling me with a smirk and a scowl that "everything has changed"
since 9-11. They say I need to show compassion and hug my
neighbor - to find somebody out there I can love like I'd
like to be loved myself. We're at war, they say, so just shut
up and support the troops.
Back off, chickenhawks. I've spent a lifetime supporting
my troops - my beloved field artillery - hugging them, loving
them like I'd like to be loved myself and being overwhelmed
with the sheer magnitude of hugs and love I got in return.
I was there, shaking my head in wonder as boys arriving for
basic training clambered off buses - long-haired, wide-eyed,
apprehensive and dishevelled. And I was there, beaming with
pride as proud men emerged ten weeks later - trim, disciplined,
confident and eager to serve their country.
Dick and George, don't look for me to shut up any time soon.
I've got battalions of dogs in this fight, and I take the
loss of even one of them personally. There is nothing - nothing
- more red-white-and-blue than American servicemen and women.
In spite of what you two seem to think, American military
are not trained to die, but to live. Like you, they have lives,
families, plans for the future. But, unlike one of you who
smirked as he abandoned his post in time of war, and the other
who snarled that he had more important things to do than fight
for his country, they don't flinch at the prospect of being
wounded or even killed if that's what it takes to protect
the rest of us.
Dead or alive, every single man or woman who wears the United
States military uniform deserves nothing less than honor,
support and - from the top of Echo Mountain - recognition.
These are my soldiers - not yours. So don't toss me
a yellow ribbon to tie around a tree. Don't hand me a sign
to stick in my yard. And don't tell me to shut up.
Trust me, I hang onto your every word and watch your every
move in the vain hope that one of you will have the decency
to go to military hospitals and stand beside those who have
been mentally and physically shattered by your greedy and
senseless war. What a great photo-op - showing your own support
for the troops - showing them you appreciate what they suffered
while following your orders. Lie to them if you must. Tell
them you know what it's like to spend violent sand-swept nights
in spider- and mosquito-infested trenches - to spend violent
sun-blistered days ducking bullets and bombs and shrapnel
from enemies coming at you from every direction for reasons
that are no longer clear to you.
You're good at lying, so tell them that, if for no other
reason than they need to hear it. And, while you're at it,
stop hiding them from the public like they were something
to be ashamed of. Stop telling them to shut up. What more
must they give up to prove their loyalty - to prove to you
they can be trusted?
Besides, it's not the living who will expose you. Like Mark
Twain said as he reluctantly agreed to withhold publication
of his magnificent War
Prayer until his death - "Only dead men can tell the truth
in this world."
You can't silence them all - not even those to whom you
refer as "remains" in their aluminum "transfer tubes" that
are sneaked back in-country in the dead of night with no one
to weep for them or to pray over them. Did you think you could
hide them - muffle their moans and shrieks - as they realize
the "noble mission" you sent them to die for is nothing but
a blood-spattered corporate profit-and-loss sheet? Did you
think they would shut up once they saw the glorious new $30
million mortuary at Dover Air Force Base that you built
after 9-11 with them in mind? What an investment of their
parents' tax dollars! You must be proud of the new state-of-the
art, 70,000-square-foot facility which, like the Pentagon's
Phoenix Project, you whipped up in little more than a year.
No. They won't shut up. They are getting louder every day
and they are joined by the untold thousands of innocent Iraqi
men, women and children whose bodies are piling up all around
you. Having your own Gaza Strip makes you giddy doesn't it?
Could you not hear the wailing calls for prayer that lingered
on the night wind yesterday as you attacked Fallujah - a keening
that all but drowned out the explosions of your helicopter
gunships, AC-130 warplanes, tanks and machine guns? But no
matter. As National Security analyst Ken Robinson told CNN
(twice), we're not engaged in an "offensive," even as it was
lighting up the entire horizon. "We're simply attacking cockroach
nests in the poorest part of town," he said. "They're all
This God to whom these insurgents cried out for deliverance
- the God you hold in such snorting contempt - is He also
an insurgent? If not - does He do body counts?
America is beginning to realize what the rest of the world
has long known. You went to war for no good reason. You can't
even sort the reasons out yourself, although you insist you
are faultless and are absolutely resolved that the carnage
will continue until the terrorists who would rob you of your
profits in resources and power are destroyed and only corporate
Neither of you have attended a single funeral for the more
than 700 troops you claim to support. It is easy from your
actions to suspect your only regret is that they had but one
life to give for their country. Perhaps you're afraid that
grieving families will ask you to explain who is paying the
bill for your evil jihad on the Muslim world. Perhaps it's
because you fear they already know. Maybe, like me, they're
beginning to hear the voices that will not be silenced.
Voices such as that of Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Darlington
Butler, the recipient of not one, but two Medals of Honor
for his service during World War I. Butler says
war's bill "renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones.
Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes.
Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries."
Wow. Butler needs to just lie back down and shut up, especially
in an election year.
Although Butler died in 1940, he could well have been describing
the hoax you are playing on America today: "When our boys
were sent off to war they were told it was a 'war to make
the world safe for democracy' and a 'war to end all wars.'
Well, eighteen years after, the world has less of democracy
than it had then. Besides," Butler said, "what business is
it of ours whether Russia or Germany or England or France
or Italy or Austria live under democracies or monarchies?
Whether they are Fascists or Communists? Our problem is to
preserve our own democracy."
Maybe, George, you should start supporting the troops, past,
present and future. Extend full benefits to those exhausted
soldier-citizen Reserve and Guard soldiers who remain on active
duty beyond the dates they were scheduled to go home. Show
them you understand that veterans are "troops" too, and back
off your proposal to gut VA services, to include denying 360,000
vets access to health care, charging them $250 annual health
premiums, increasing their pharmacy co-payments and increasing
their waiting time for first medical appointments. What kind
of commander-in-chief would shrug aside the news that as many
as 1.25 million veterans nationwide, already under the VA
healthcare plan, may no longer be able to participate because
of the new fee? Are you crazy or what?
You must be, if you think your troops wouldn't notice your
budget calls to discontinue burial benefits for veterans or
- at best - to delay the cost-of-living adjustment for disability
benefits. And, only you could come up with the bright idea
of dealing with the long waiting lists at VA clinics by reducing
the number of veterans who are allowed treatment.
It is because I strongly support both active and retired
U.S. troops that I refuse to shut up. Ain't gonna happen.
And - like Donald Rumsfeld says (nudge, wink) - you can take
that to the bank.
Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer and a former
US Army Public Information Officer. She is a proud member
of the Order of Saint Barbara - the Field Artillery's Patron
Saint. She will accept praise and atta-boys at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Complaints and death threats should be directed to her cousin,
Junior Samples, at BR-549