Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Veterans peeved by call for impeachment

Want to read something sad?

Anti-war message at baseball game riles veterans

Organizers of Sunday's night out at the ballgame for wounded soldiers say they just wanted to give the veterans a treat, and a thank you. The war protesters say they didn't know about those plans when — big pink banner in tow — they came up with their own plan for the game. What happened next offended the veterans, triggered some angry shouting and got the protesters escorted out of Hammons Field.

The peace group Code Pink of the Ozarks unfurled a 12-by-3-foot pink "Impeach" banner at the ball park on the same night that Silver Star Families of America invited dozens of wounded veterans and their supporters to see the Cardinals play. ...

Debbie Alderson of Frisco, Texas, the Silver Star group's Texas coordinator who has a son and son-in-law in Iraq, said she was one of the first in the Silver Star crowd to see the pink banner. It was displayed under the scoreboard in the second inning and later in the sixth.

"Everybody was appalled that somebody would take advantage of a situation like that," she said. The protesters, she said, "should be ashamed of themselves." She said displaying the "Impeach" sign at an event designed for the wounded to relax was "beyond inappropriate, beyond offensive."

Could Code Pink have picked a more appropriate venue for their statement? Probably. It does seem like unfortunate timing that they unfurled such a banner at the specific game intended to honor soldiers, which probably resulted in more bad publicity than good.

On the other hand - and I don't think saying this does injustice to the sacrifices made by U.S. troops - veterans can apparently miss the point as well as any civilian.

As long I've been writing about politics, both in print and on this blog, I've been scolded by members of the military (including a guy from the Pentagon) who thought I'd do society a favor by shutting the hell up. Bush and his cronies express similar sentiments on a regular basis, saying that those who oppose the war in Iraq are undermining the soldiers - as if spending 15 months a pop in a hostile faraway desert with no clear mission isn't itself demoralizing. (Many servicemembers I know agree with me on that point.)

I have never served in uniform, so I don't know the exact oath soldiers take. But I'm pretty sure, even now, that enlistees swear to defend American freedoms as outlined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Among those? The freedom of speech, which includes the right to assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

My grandfather walked the streets of freshly nuked Nagasaki with the Navy Seabees during World War II. My uncle was on the (extremely) front lines of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Afterward, neither of them were ever afraid to speak out when necessary, and my uncle in particular (whose son served tours in Iraq) is no fan of the Bush administration.

They understood the principle that the quoted veterans, like too many citizens these days, have forgotten: criticism of reckless civilian leadership is not the same as criticizing the soldiers who must carry out the commands.

If Code Pink had indeed denounced the veterans, they would deserve all the jeers they got and then some. But if Vietnam taught us anything, it's that spitting on troops was a drastically misguided channeling of anti-war derision. The blame belonged then, as now, squarely on the politicians. Code Pink understood that; "Impeach" is a call for new civilian leadership, one that will preserve both the lives of soldiers and the respect of veterans.

With that said, the veterans have every right to be offended. Offended that such an incompetent president continues to wage war for questionable reasons, wasting resources and ending lives despite the majority of Americans wanting a halt right now. Offended that the Bush administration equates dissent with enabling terrorism, and questions with treason. Offended that Bush continues to invoke their contributions and struggles when justifying his illegal, preemptive and failed war in Iraq. Offended that our forces in Iraq are lacking vital supplies while Halliburton squanders billions in taxpayer money that the government isn't even investigating. Offended that VA hospitals are in such squalid shape. Offended that benefits have been cut over the past several years as the deficit balloons (due to the war we shouldn't even be fighting in the first place).

How is it that the veterans themselves were not the ones with the banner?


Cajun Tiger said...

Maybe because a majority of veterans don't agree!

Once again, how is this war illegal?

As far as free speech rights violated depends on public or private property as I laid out in the above post's comment section.

Ian McGibboney said...

1) Where do you get the statistic that most veterans disagree? I've never seen a stat for that one way or the other. And even if that's the case (which I doubt seriously), it's an insult to say that veterans are strong enough for war but not strong enough to handle a dissenting opinion. Anyway, the banner was held up by two veterans.

2) The war is illegal because it was undertaken with what Bush, Powell and co. knew were flawed premises and it was an act of aggression against a sovereign state with practically no ties to 9/11. And even if that's somehow legal, it has decimated the effort in Afghanistan and the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Cajun Tiger said...

1. I've never once seen a poll where a majority of military members are against the war and even higher percentages that don't want to surrender.

2. Congress approved it. The UN approved it. Saddam had broken 17 UN resolutions and were firing at our jets, both of which make the war legit even without any other of the reasons we went.