It's Time to Support the Troops
January 4, 2004
By Sheila Samples
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 three years of fighting in Iraq,
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 the 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 Specalist 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 Snipe Hunt.
It's easy to conclude that Bush and Rumsfeld are either sadistic
liers 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 catapault 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 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
The price we are paying for national greed and lust for power
is too high. American servicemembers are not a ghostly, faceless
mass of "troops." They are flesh-and-blood individuals; our sons,
daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, neices, 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, more than
1,300 US troops have been slaughtered in Iraq. Tonight, some 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
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
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 his 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
and a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.