Yellow ribbons don’t save lives

I had just finished the umpteenth viewing of my favorite movieever made, “Mystery Men,” starring the grossly-underrated JaneaneGarofolo, when I heard the news. Twenty thousand troops who hadjust finished, or were about to finish their duty in Iraq, have hadtheir stays extended for up to three months.

There’s nothing like the austere voice of Secretary of DefenseDonald Rumsfeld to ruin a perfectly good Garofolo-induced bliss.The good secretary was quoted in The New York Times, “We regrethaving to extend those individuals, but the country is at war andwe need to do what is necessary to succeed.” All this following thebloodiest month of fighting for the United States in Iraq, withover one hundred casualties in April alone, followed by the Spanishwithdrawal of 1,400 troops.

As a U.S. citizen, I hate to see others die in an occupation Isimply cannot support. As a human it troubles me just as much tosee U.S. troops increase the Iraqi body count. I, like the majorityof the world, don’t support the occupation of Iraq, don’t supportthe Bush administration’s lies and agendas. And while I feel forthe men and women stationed in Iraq, I have a really hard timesupporting our soldiers’ involvement in the war.

It’s very fashionable to follow up criticism of the occupationof Iraq with the clarification “but I support our troops.” Evenamong those in the more progressive and radical political circlesI’ve been spying on, it seems taboo to mention U.S. soldiers abroadin a negative context. After all, they’re just pawns of theadministration’s devious agenda, just good old American men andwomen protecting their country in the hostile and ass-backwardcountry of Iraq.

This is reminiscent of Vietnam. Our troops came home from aconfusing and fucked-up mess to hostility and hatred. Many of themdidn’t know how to cope, couldn’t readjust or forget what theyfaced, and suffered greatly for it. We’ve all seen “Born on theFourth of July.” Do we want our troops in Iraq to face the sameghastly fate poor Tom Cruise did? Hell, no.

The difference here is that the troops returning from Vietnamwere mostly draftees, men taken from their everyday lives,commanded to fight in a war they didn’t understand with barelyenough training or information to survive.

The soldiers in Iraq choose to be there. By signing up with theU.S. military, you are giving yourself to its whims, wherever theymay take you. Granted, the majority of these troops are young menand women barely out of their teens, but they made the adultdecision to join the military. And if poor decisions can result inan eighteen-year old facing the death penalty, then they cancertainly send one to war.

Although this could be a gross generalization, all theinterviews, statements and articles I’ve encountered give theimpression that as a whole, the troops in Iraq are proud of whatthey are doing. The very beliefs they are instilled with, as proudU.S. citizens, are the very same beliefs they are fighting for, andthe very same beliefs that fuel the aggressive hatred many in theinternational community feel towards the United States. The troopsin Iraq are fighting what they feel is a justified and right warand I just don’t agree with them.

Please put down the pitchforks and torches. I’m not wishingdeath on our troops. I’m not wishing death on anyone. I want everysingle troop in Iraq home, happy, eating apple pie and playingX-Box. I want the men and women we’ve lost back and I want oureighteen year olds fighting over the NCAA, like they should be, notthe price of gasoline or the Bush family karma. I can’t agree withwhat they’re fighting for, and probably can’t agree with theirbeliefs, but I’ll be happy to see our troops back home, where wecan work those problems out in, not a battlefield of bullets andblood, but a battlefield of ideas, virtuous debate and highbrowcommunication: AM talk radio.