Monday, February 12, 2007

Jonathan Gurwitz: Homefront ingrates turning on American troops

Web Posted: 02/06/2007 07:10 PM CST at San Antonio Express-News

There is inherent tension in the concept of opposing the war in Iraq but supporting the troops. So it was perhaps inevitable that some people who despise the war would begin to turn on the men and women fighting it.

Many people can maintain the distinction. But as the ugliness of the criticism increases, it becomes more difficult to separate the men from the mission. After all, the men and women fighting in Iraq and elsewhere in the global war on terror tend to be — despite all the hardships placed upon them and their families — the most ardent supporters of completing the mission.

Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein breached the wall between opposing the war and supporting the troops last year. "When you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism," he wrote in a column titled "Warriors and Wusses."

"I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War," Stein added, "but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea."

Last week, Washington Post columnist William Arkin thoroughly demolished the wall.

In response to an NBC News report about military personnel in Iraq feeling increasingly frustrated at domestic criticism of the war, Arkin vented his rage at America's "mercenary" force:

"So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society?"

By way of clarification, Arkin followed with:

"Evidently, far too many in uniform believe that they are the one true nation. They hide behind the Constitution and the flag and then spew an anti-Democrat, anti-liberal, anti-journalism, anti-dissent, and anti-citizen message that reflects a certain contempt for the American people."

Neither Stein nor Arkin was on hand last week for the dedication of the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center. If they had been, they would have heard Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton do an admirable job of supporting the troops despite her well-publicized criticism of the war.

And they would have heard Sen. John McCain, who knows something about the "obscene amenities" of the war zone, deliver a spectacular oration about sacrifice and the duties of citizenship and leadership. Selective quotes don't do it justice. The entire speech is available on the Web site.

More than anything, they would have seen a parade of 300 patients, some walking, some wheeled — men and women who shoulder the burden of the all-volunteer military.

There were many moving moments, moments that caused even the steel jaws of combat veterans to quiver a bit. Let me share just one.

As the color guard entered the assembly, the wounded soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen who could do so rose. One of them was Staff Sgt. Jon Arnold-Garcia of the 101st Airborne Division. Arnold-Garcia lost the lower half of his right leg when insurgents attacked his convoy in Hawija, Iraq. He has not yet been fitted with a prosthesis.

Arnold-Garcia stood at attention without his crutches. As the national anthem played, he saluted the flag, standing on one leg. When he would momentarily lose his balance, Arnold-Garcia touched the elbow of his saluting arm to the soldier next to him, Staff Sgt. Steve Bosson of the 1st Cavalry Division. Bosson lost the lower half of his left leg in an insurgent attack west of Baghdad.

Fighting tools of American imperialism? Hiding behind the Constitution and the flag?

Arnold-Garcia, Bosson and thousands of others have shed their blood so ungrateful jerks have the right to write such garbage.