Friday, October 20, 2006

What Does It Mean To Be Patriotic?

I was nearly startled to death while working out yesterday at the Y when I looked up at the television set. There on Fox News was a picture of President Bush and underneath it a headline to the effect, “Bush Compares War in Iraq to Vietnam.” ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos had interviewed the president and asked him to comment on a column by Tom Friedman in the New York Times that compared the Tet Offensive in 1968 to what’s happening in Iraq right now. The president said the comparison “could be right.”

From the New York Times story, Bush Faces a Battery of Ugly Choices on War, “The Iraq situation is not winnable in any real sense of the word ‘winnable,’ ” Richard N. Haass, the former chief of the policy planning operations in the State Department during Mr. Bush’s first term, told reporters on Thursday.

As he has in the past, Bush is hoping an old family friend might be able to help him get out of this mess in Iraq just like that friend helped Bush become president.

The Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel co-chaired by former secretary of state James A. Baker III, a Republican, and former Indiana congressman Lee H. Hamilton, a Democrat could ride in to the rescue like the Lone Ranger. According to the Washington Post in the story ‘Major Change Expected in Strategy for Iraq,’ “Both Baker and Hamilton have made it clear that they do not see the administration's current Iraq policy as working.”

I don’t suppose any real changes will happen at least not until after the mid-term elections. But I got to thinking, and I feel a real turning of the tide despite the protestations of talk radio toadies like Rush Limbaugh and his little lapdog Sean Hannity. It’s not fueled by propaganda or stepped up violence. It’s fueled by a realization that everything our government leadership tells us ain’t necessarily so.

Call me unpatriotic if you will. I happen to think that if we do not ask questions, we are unpatriotic. I’ve been asking questions for some time now. Why, Mr. President, did you think this war was necessary? Why, Mr. President, did you trump up evidence to gain popular support for your efforts? Why, Mr. President, didn’t you send in enough troops to do the job? Mr. President, have we made Iraq a better country? Mr. President, how do you get us out of this mess?

And I thought back to WWII and how even in that war our government under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt made decisions we now question. Thousands of Japanese Americans, most of them U.S. citizens, were rounded up and placed in internment camps. Milton S. Eisenhower (President Eisenhower’s brother), the War Relocation Authority’s first director said, “I feel most deeply that when the war is over... we as Americans are going to regret the avoidable injustices that may have been done.” With the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, President Ronald Reagan’s signature to the act formally acknowledged America’s injustice—46 years later.

My final question for today: will we have the courage to ask as did Milton Eisenhower did the tough questions. Are we going to have avoidable injustices to regret?


Dirty Butter said...

Questioning the actions of our government and our leaders is certainly patriotic in my opinion. Ridiculing and lambasting everything Bush does, just because he's Bush, is not helpful to our country, and I do not believe it is patriotic. I would agree that when the distance of time has passed, we will look back and have many regrets about avoidable actions made during this time. The hysteria of 9/11 is very similar to that of Pearl Harbor or the explosion of the Maine. Not all that happened afterwards was justified, but it happened anyway.

Sheila said...

Thanks Rosemary for your thoughtful comment. I hate the way we Americans can't seem to have much of a dialogue with each other about issues that really matter. So often it seems that we want to put each other into a box labeled Republican or Democrat and refuse to see that first and foremost, we are all humans. We have let ourselves be whipped into a frenzy about this crisis or that crisis with everything portrayed as a crisis.

I love my country and her promise of opportunity and freedom. But just this week on ABC News I heard about some poll that showed a big drop in the numbers of people who still believed that the American Dream was achievable. Now, you know how it is with polls. Depends on who's asking the question and to whom it's directed. Yet, this poll's results resonated with me.

Can our country continue to be the beacon it once was? I'm afraid that we have some serious chinks in our armour that need attention. They will not be repaired if we do not care or if we do not ask the tough questions. We must refuse to let ourselves be distracted by the trivial "bright pieces of shiny tin foil" by those who'd rather not have to answer our questions. We must question motivations and connections. We must ask, "if you tear down, what will you build in its place?" Will it be better or merely different? We must hold our elected and appointed officials to higher standards.

And above all, we must continue to ask questions.

Stepping down off the soapbox to go look for my lost thought,

Tim said...

"Are we going to have avoidable injustices to regret?"

Oh, but we already have, Sheila. We have, and many more . . .

Andrew said...

There is no doubt, in my opinion, that the situation in Iraq is very similar to the shenanaigans during the Vietnam war.

First, like Vietnam, Iraq is a war of attrition. Unlike WWII, which was a war of "real estate," Vietnam was a war of "body counts" similar to Iraq. Now, it is very reasonable that the media has created this situation. Regardless, it's a situation nonetheless.

Additionally, like the Vietnam war, the Iraq war finds our soldiers fighting an enemey they cannont see. An enemy which blends into the citizenry making any attempt of a conscseientious battle impossible.

And finally, support for the Iraq war is minimal, just like during the Vietname war.

The most insane fact is that the United States entered this war without an exit strategy which is Combat 101 in any military organization.

Let's pray that this conflict ends in the most reasonable way possible as our military members deserve the opportunity to return the heros they truly are.


Sheila said...

Thanks Tim and Andrew for your comments.

Yes, Tim, I suppose that the very nature of war means that there will be avoidable injustices. That is why as the mother of two sons I was so unhappy to see our country led into this battle. I felt that the invasion was premature and that we could have kept Saddam under control by other means. No part of me isn't glad though that he is no longer in power. He was a cruel leader like others in the world today. After the invasion, I wished that the weapons of mass destruction would have been found for then I would have felt President Bush would have been justified. However, to now blame the "faulty" intelligence is truly irresponsible. We cannot enter into a war knowing many lives will be lost on such shallow evidence.

Andrew, your points are well taken. The unseen enemy you mention is taking so many young lives. These men and women are heroes in my mind. They are doing what their country asks of them and trying to accomplish a mission that may indeed be impossible. To those who say the casualities are nothing in comparsion to those in WWII, I say we can't look at it that way. Each life is unique and precious. Those who willingly sign on should have a reassurance that their Commander in Chief will send them into harm's way only on the most compelling reasons. And unlike Vietnam, no matter what viewpoint our citizens hold most have high admiration for our troops.

I don't know how this will play out if President Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld continue on their present course. We have a mess and I hope and pray someone up there in Washington has a bright idea about what to do now. Lives are depending on it and I don't just mean our own soldiers'.