Saturday, November 11, 2006

Lets make a deal

It is not an easy thing to be human these days. Few choices don't involve compromises to our integrity or other's well being. And the multiplication of factors that could be included in most important decisions means we leave a lot of pertinent data out of mind or at the edges of consciousness.

Throughout history, but previously in merely local contexts, when men ran out of nature's gifts, they ran up against each other. The conflicted political powers and the constrained natural conditions of our times make it difficult to be a fair citizen of this planet or even to just get by with a completely clear conscience. We all have to make deals to get things done and tomorrow does not bring itself to the negotiations except through our consciences.

Would you be willing to have a finger chopped off if you knew it would suspend the killing in Iraq long enough for diplomats to work out the grievances, disparities and misrepresented intentions that brought the world to today's precarious situation? Would you give up a hand, an arm? To bring even a tense silence to Iraq in place of the likelihood of yet more thousands killed and the constant threat of retaliation by irate Muslims, would you offer your own life?

Any soldier who enlisted to fight or accepted an assignment to fight in Iraq has more regard for the welfare of his country in his little finger than the whole gang of Bush appointees and grafty hangers-on. Anyone who ever was in a combat situation and in uniform knows that from experience. That is the value of valor.

What do you think such a hypothetical trade-off means to the thousands of GI's who have come back from Iraq with shattered and truncated bodies? Leave aside the need for wages, help with tuition and job skills that prompted many to sign up and presume the soldier had some better and less fleeting reason than the missing WMD, Al-Qaida's alleged Baghdad brigade or even democracy at gunpoint. And they do find reasons. One Captain who served there mailed us a ballot. I put it up on the wall. We Americans will pass up an election if it is raining but people in Baghdad went to fill in this ballot when it was raining bullets. It touched that Captain, and it touched me but in the end that hope of democracy was premature or superficial like the rocky crust on a lava flow. But whatever their reason to go there, no one under arms in that country wants more war or expects to serve without risk of grave harm: This is the deal.

When I hear "support our troops" from conservative media personalities, its usage and context makes it clear that the words mean something like "Don't you dare say this is not a legitimate war! Get in line and don't doubt the president and his chain of command." That's funny, I would have taken the phrase to mean "support" as in equip, arm, armor and don't expose to danger unnecessarily "our troops" as in the men and women taking hits in Iraq rather than the corps of gung-ho desk soldiers in Washington who never shot anything except maybe a fellow bird hunter. My understanding of "support our troops" also includes full VA benefits when they come back, especially those who come back because the deal didn't work out so well for them. That is a cost of war Republicans have been skimping on and it takes someone like Senator Byrd to keep them honest. Our soldiers are in Iraq today but when they come home, many of them will have just begun to fight and we owe them support tomorrow as much as now. "Support our troops" is just the other side of the coin by which the soldier bought into the deal: the country must have high regard for the welfare of the soldier.

No comments: