Monday, March 20, 2006

The Nightmare My Family Will Never Know

I’ll make this perfectly clear: I’m not a draft dodger, I was never called to military service, and I view serving in the US military as an honorable and heroic duty. If I had been drafted during the Vietnam War, I would have become a draft-dodger, but I wasn’t drafted. I see no contradiction in these declarations since refusal to follow immoral orders is acceptable since the Nuremburg trials, and the Vietnam War was immoral.

When I see ribbons on cars that say “support our troops,” I wonder who doesn’t, or who wouldn’t, support our troops. The ribbons should declare “I support our troops,” because the command asking for support assumes that someone doesn’t, or wouldn’t. The further assumption is that if you don’t support the Bush administration policies with regards to the occupation of Iraq, then you don’t support our troops in that country. In fact, I support our troops, I send a little money to various charity groups now and then which in turn send the troops supplies or send their families left behind some food or clothing. Yet I am dead set against US presence in Iraq, and favor a pullout along the lines of Congressman John Murtha, as soon as possible.

My late father-in-law was stuffing bodies into bags at age 17 as a Marine in Korea. My stepfather spent 6 months in the infantry in the Battle of the Bulge when he was 18. Both mens’ experience in war shaped the rest of their lives, for better or, more probably, for worse. I respected and admired their military background, and based on the war stories I was told, I was glad I never had to take part in any of it. So far, with the volunteer army set-up, neither will my son.

I watched my tall, husky, handsome 17 year old high-schooler walk out the door this morning. It actually crossed my mind how lucky we are that he is not in the military in Iraq, as are so many thousands of young Americans his age. Then I read a piece from an old friend, Gerald Rellick, who writes opinions on line, in which he made this statement:

Our servicemen are no longer there to fight, but simply to survive.

Rellick quotes an infantryman’s typical day:

“Mostly we drive around Iraq, often we walk and always we wait. Waiting to blow up.... Everywhere you look, there’s a possibility of being blown up. Bombs are hidden in dead dogs and dead donkeys, trash piles, fruit stands and cars. Any place is a good place to hide a bomb... I may still have a young man’s body, but now I have an old man’s heart, and I know when I’m back home it will quiver from loud noises and strain in the night, while I sleep and I dream.”

Rellick’s intelligent commentary goes on to bash several politicians, the Bush people, and most importantly, us—yes, we the people—in our gross negligence failing to make it totally clear that we’ve had enough. Polls, anti-war marches, and complaining aside, there are constitutional remedies for abuse of power in these United States, and it is time by now that they are put into effect. With some patience and some prodding, in a few months the ballot should ring in the cure.

[Gerald S. Rellick, Ph.D., worked in the aerospace industry for 22 years. He now teaches in the California Community College system. He can be reached at]

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