A few thoughts on 2,407

Is the number of coalition forces who have died in the war in Iraq. Getting statistics on Iraqis is virtually impossible, for various reasons, so let’s assume a lot of them are dead too.

Mr. Bush declared an end to major combat operations in May, 2003. So why are we still there? Why is anyone still there? Because we have entrenched ourselves–it’s impossible to pull out now. We were in a similar situation in Vietnam, caught in an endless circle. To withdraw is to abandon Iraq to the dogs–while I don’t share the sentiment of the administration that Iraq is hopelessly unable to govern itself and would surely collapse without the guiding hand of democracy, even I can see that Iraq is struggling. That to leave now would be to invite invasion by other nations, and to condemn ordinary civilians there to further terror. That we need more troops, and that we need to allow the Iraqi government to establish control over their own nation. As a major power, we like having a foothold in the Middle East, and I suspect that was our original intention with Iraq, but we are learning that it comes with a cost, because we forgot to ask all the people of Iraq what they wanted to do. I assure you that some Iraqis are grateful for and enjoy the American presence, just as others loathe us.

Curiously, many misguided leftists seemed to think that electing Kerry would have brought an immediate end to the war. I hate to disappoint you, but that’s not the case. Kerry would have had no choice but to continue Bush’s war–in fact, he probably would have increased troop deployment, because he actually understands how to run a war. While Kerry might have wanted to get us out of Iraq, it wouldn’t have been entirely up to him. It would have been sad to see the left viciously turning on Kerry because he was forced to clean up someone else’s mess.

But I’m not here to talk about why we are in Iraq (a multifold and complex subject for another day). I’m not here to talk about what would have happened if someone else had won the election. I’m here to talk to you for a moment about being in the military.

Most of my father’s family was in the military, and later worked for the government. I have a number of friends in the armed forces, from the Navy to the Air Force, and we talk frequently about what it’s like to be in the military today. I’ll tell you something–for junior enlisted, it’s not always fun.

Many people sign up for the military for the benefits–promises to pay for college, help you buy a house, provide medical care and food and housing. What shocks many enlistees is that these benefits don’t always come true. The Veteran’s Authority, responsible for providing health care to current and former military members, is notorious for fighting benefits at every step of the way. There are wounded veterans who are not being cared for as the government promised there would be. There are men and women who came back injured from Iraq and are not being tended to. There are victims of Gulf War Syndrome from the First Gulf War who remain undiagnosed and untreated, and that’s the way the VA likes it. If they aren’t treating you, you aren’t injured, and you if you aren’t injured, it’s one less thing for the media to bitch about.

I’m don’t believe that this is fair. Heck, I don’t believe that this is American. Whether or not I (or they) believe/d in the cause they fight/fought for, these men and women risked their lives in their daily work. They deserve the benefits they were promised, and they deserve them now and without argument from the VA. They deserve proper body armor, and armored vehicles. They deserve weapons that work, and access to showers. They deserve to be cared for in exchange for their hard work.

Think about it. Maybe you think the military should be disbanded altogether. Maybe you think every member of our armed forces has a personal responsibility to stand up to their superiors and demand withdrawal. Maybe you think the army is A-OK and they should keep up the good work. And maybe, like me, you just think that people who work hard should get things that their employers promised them. And if you agree, maybe you, too, will write your Congressperson and say something about it. That’s all.