April 28, 2004

By Doug Newman

Posted at Strike the Root,, Breaking All the Rules, Ender's Review of the Web,
 The Price of Liberty, Trumpet America and Liberty Post.

Last week’s death in Afghanistan of professional-football-player-turned-Army-Ranger Pat Tillman was a horrible tragedy. The real noteworthiness of his death lay not so much in his occupation prior to enlisting, but rather in his willingness to do what so many in America today are not willing to do: lift a finger.

Tillman’s demise brought to mind two recent e-mails I have received. The first featured pictures of presidential candidate John Kerry’s several mansions. Kerry, who relentlessly proclaims solidarity with America’s downtrodden proletarian masses, comes from old New England money. However, he refuses to sell his mansions and other assets, donate the proceeds to the poor and disenfranchised, move into a studio apartment in South Boston or Springfield and ride the bus to work in the morning. His critics rightfully point out this hypocrisy.

The second e-mail showed an American soldier with an American flag patch on his shoulder. Beneath it is a patch reading “Doing the work of”. Beneath this second patch are patches of the French, German and Russian flags.

To his credit, the sender of this second e-mail was a retired Air Force master sergeant. However, so many people who proffer all kinds of opinions in favor of the Iraq war have never lifted a finger to do one day of military service. Many of the people pulling the policy strings – Cheney, Ashcroft, Perle, Wolfowitz, Bremer, etc. – as well as many of the people doing the loudest cheerleading in both the War on Terror and the war on Iraq – Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, Bennett, etc. – have exactly zero military experience. If nothing else, John Kerry went to Vietnam as a Navy officer rather than take the Yalie’s way out by joining the National Guard.

Rather than doing what Pat Tillman did – walk away from a promising and lucrative professional football career to serve in the military – millions of Americans feel it sufficient to “support the troops” by sitting in their recliners and cheering them on as if they were their favorite football team. They whine endlessly about the non-cooperation of the French, Germans and Russians. They are either indifferent about or supportive of a return of the military draft next year. They think bumper stickers saying “Iraq first! Then France!” are rip-roaringly funny. They would have no problem with vaporizing Spain because los stupidos over there voted for candidates who promised to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq. They equate failure to deify Bush Almighty with treason.

But when you suggest that they live the way they speak, they ask why you question their personal life. They insist that the personal lives of Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, etc. matter. Why shouldn’t the personal lives of Republicans matter? No party has a monopoly on hypocrisy.

America’s foreign policy is a failure. Our insistence on intervening in every last country has sparked resentment and outright hatred of America throughout the world. Contrary to the neocon line, America is not universally loved. It is this widespread hatred of America’s heavy-handed foreign policy – and not some “misunderstanding” of our “freedom and democracy” – that led to the horrors of September 11. We need to pull our troops home and stop this nonsense.

Pat Tillman was one of thousands of Americans dying in vain in pursuit of – let’s be blunt – empire. Sadly, the huge majority of our men and women in uniform think they are doing the right thing. They have been brainwashed into thinking this by the school system and the media.

I enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1982, thinking I was defending America. However, as the years went by, I became a troublemaker. My military records were excellent. I was recommended for officer several times. However, the more I read the Constitution I had sworn “to support and defend against all enemies foreign and domestic”, the more I questioned just what the military was up to. Indeed, the very government that was cutting my paycheck had become one of these enemies.

People ask me about the Navy. I tell them that I love the Navy, but I do not love how it is being used for.  It is an instrument of national offense rather than national defense. (With this in mind, let us once again call the Department of Defense by its original name: the Department of War. It would be far more accurate.)

America’s military budget is equal to the sum of the world’s next nine largest military budgets combined. Logically, nobody ought to be screwing with us. Yet, everyone is screwing with us. Why? Because we insist on screwing with them. You cannot throw your weight around to the extent that America does and have everybody love you.

Did you ever stop to think that just maybe things are not exactly as the neocon spin machine tells us?

Did you ever stop to think that just maybe a sinister clique really does pull the strings? Why are we "bogged down" in a "quagmire" that has a military budget that is one-two hundredth of ours? (For those of you from the deep side of the river, I am talking about Iraq.) It makes no sense.

If you feel as strongly as you say you do in favor of America’s military doings around the world, do what Pat Tillman did: join! Leave your middle class existence here in America and join the military! And if America’s military won’t have you, no doubt some other country’s military will take you.

As an American, you are entitled to your opinion. However, this does not mean that your opinion is worth anything. Quit speaking in the first person about how “we" ought to bomb the crap out of this country and “we" ought to pulverize that country. Instead, put down your remote and tell the boss you won’t be in tomorrow.

Then grab an M-16 and head to Fallujah or Kandahar.

Or just shut up.


If you would like to post this, please email me and include this URL.

Freely Speaking: Essays by Doug Newman