I Will Not Shut Up
By Sheila Samples
04/28/04 "ICH" I've got a few words for George Bush and Dick Cheney, who keep telling me with a smirk and a scowl that "everything has changed" since 9-11. They say I need to show compassion and hug my neighbor -- to find somebody out there I can love like I'd like to be loved myself. We're at war, they say, so just shut up and support the troops.
Back off, chickenhawks. I've spent a lifetime supporting my troops -- my beloved field artillery -- hugging them, loving them like I'd like to be loved myself and being overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of hugs and love I got in return. I was there, shaking my head in wonder as boys arriving for basic training clambered off buses -- long-haired, wide-eyed, apprehensive and dishevelled. And I was there, beaming with pride as proud men emerged ten weeks later -- trim, disciplined, confident and eager to serve their country.
Don't look for me to shut up any time soon. I've got battalions of dogs in this fight, and I take the loss of even one of them personally. There is nothing -- nothing -- more red-white-and-blue than American servicemen and women. In spite of what you two seem to think, American military are not trained to die, but to live. Like you, they have lives, families, plans for the future. But, unlike one of you who smirked as he abandoned his post in time of war, and the other who snarled that he had more important things to do than fight for his country, they don't flinch at the prospect of being wounded or even killed if that's what it takes to protect the rest of us.
Dead or alive, every single man or woman who wears the United States military uniform deserves nothing less than honor, support and -- from the top of Echo Mountain -- recognition. These are MY soldiers -- not yours. So don't toss me a yellow ribbon to tie around a tree. Don't hand me a sign to stick in my yard. And don't tell me to shut up.
Trust me, I hang onto your every word and watch your every move in the vain hope that one of you will have the decency to go to military hospitals and stand beside those who have been mentally and physically shattered by your greedy and senseless war. What a great photo op -- showing your own support for the troops -- showing them you appreciate what they suffered while following your orders. Lie to them if you must. Tell them you know what it's like to spend violent sand-swept nights in spider- and mosquito-infested trenches -- to spend violent sun-blistered days ducking bullets and bombs and shrapnel from enemies coming at you from every direction for reasons that are no longer clear to you.
You're good at lying, so tell them that, if for no other reason than they need to hear it. And, while you're at it, stop hiding them from the public like they were something to be ashamed of. Stop telling them to shut up. What more must they give up to prove their loyalty -- to prove to you they can be trusted?
Besides, it's not the living who will expose you. Like Mark Twain said as he reluctantly agreed to withhold publication of his magnificent War Prayer http://lexrex.com/informed/otherdocuments/warprayer.htm until his death -- "Only dead men can tell the truth in this world."
You can't silence them all -- not even those to whom you refer as "remains" in their aluminum "transfer tubes" that are sneaked back in-country in the dead of night with no one to weep for them or to pray over them. Did you think you could hide them -- muffle their moans and shrieks -- as they realize the "noble mission" you sent them to die for is nothing but a blood-spattered corporate profit-and-loss sheet? Did you think they would shut up once they saw the glorious new $30 million mortuary http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Oct2003/n10292003_2003102910.html at Dover Air Force Base that you built after 9-11 with them in mind? What an investment of their parents' tax dollars! You must be proud of the new state-of-the art, 70,000-square-foot facility which, like the Pentagon's Phoenix Project, you whipped up in little more than a year.
No. They won't shut up. They are getting louder every day and they are joined by the untold thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children whose bodies are piling up all around you. Having your own Gaza Strip makes you giddy doesn't it? Could you not hear the wailing calls for prayer that lingered on the night wind yesterday as you attacked Fallujah -- a keening that all but drowned out the explosions of your helicopter gunships, AC-130 warplanes, tanks and machine guns? But no matter. As National Security analyst Ken Robinson told CNN (twice), we're not engaged in an "offensive," even as it was lighting up the entire horizon. "We're simply attacking cockroach nests in the poorest part of town," he said. "They're all insurgents."
This God to whom these insurgents cried out for deliverance -- the God you hold in such snorting contempt -- is He also an insurgent? If not -- does He do body counts?
America is beginning to realize what the rest of the world has long known. You went to war for no good reason. You can't even sort the reasons out yourself, although you insist you are faultless and are absolutely resolved that the carnage will continue until the terrorists who would rob you of your profits in resources and power are destroyed and only corporate toadies remain.
Neither of you have attended a single funeral for the more than 700 troops you claim to support. It is easy from your actions to suspect your only regret is that they had but one life to give for their country. Perhaps you're afraid that grieving families will ask you to explain who is paying the bill for your evil jihad on the Muslim world. Perhaps it's because you fear they already know. Maybe, like me, they're beginning to hear the voices that will not be silenced.
Voices such as that of Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Darlington Butler, the recipient of not one, but two Congressional Medals of Honor for his service during World War I. Butler says http://lexrex.com/enlightened/articles/warisaracket.htm war's bill "renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries." Wow. Butler needs to just lie back down and shut up, especially in an election year...
Although Butler died in 1940, he could well have been describing the hoax you are playing on America today -- "When our boys were sent off to war they were told it was a 'war to make the world safe for democracy' and a 'war to end all wars.' Well, eighteen years after, the world has less of democracy than it had then. Besides," Butler said, "what business is it of ours whether Russia or Germany or England or France or Italy or Austria live under democracies or monarchies? Whether they are Fascists or Communists? Our problem is to preserve our own democracy."
Maybe you should start supporting the troops, past, present and future. Extend full benefits to those exhausted soldier-citizen Reserve and Guard soldiers who remain on active duty beyond the dates they were scheduled to go home. Show them you understand that veterans are "troops" too, and back off your proposal to gut VA services, to include denying 360,000 vets access to health care, charging them $250 annual health premiums, increasing their pharmacy co-payments and increasing their waiting time for first medical appointments. What kind of commander-in-chief would shrug aside the news that as many as 1.25 million veterans nationwide, already under the VA healthcare plan, may no longer be able to participate because of the new fee? Are you crazy or what?
You must be, if you think your troops wouldn't notice your budget calls to discontinue burial benefits for veterans or -- at best -- to delay the cost-of-living adjustment for disability benefits. And, only you could come up with the bright idea of dealing with the long waiting lists at VA clinics by reducing the number of veterans who are allowed treatment.
It is because I strongly support both active and retired U.S. troops that I refuse to shut up. Ain't gonna happen. And -- like Donald Rumsfeld says (nudge, wink) -- you can take that to the bank.
Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer and a former US Army Public Information Officer. She is a proud member of the Order of Saint Barbara -- the Field Artillery's Patron Saint. She will accept praise and atta-boys at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Complaints and death threats should be directed to her cousin, Junior Samples, at BR-549
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