Democratic Underground  

September 28, 2002
By SaintGermane

There are few things in life that so incense me as to be labeled "un-American".

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 unpatriotic.

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?

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