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Thursday, May 31, 2007

The insanity is more catching and deadly than XDR-TB

This past Memorial Day was a brutal one, but for old soldiers in particular. We remembered and grieved over the deaths of fallen soldiers who died at the command of an incompetent commander.

While we memorialized those who gave their lives performing honest service, we are alarmed at a country that can so easily dismiss their lives with an obscene yellow decal proclaiming "Support or troops" and ceremonies in which querulous old men hold shaking rifles over graves during a tape-recorded playing of "Taps." These feckless tributes do not assuage the atrocity of the needless sacrifice of life.

The harsh fact remains: the best way to support our troops is not to kill them. Especially as sacrifices to a strain of political insanity on the part of one party and political cowardice on the part of the other. Those people who can justify the killing on the basis of a totally contrived war by an enemy of our own creation can justify the killing of us all. While two-thirds of the nation indicate they oppose this war, their opposition is feeble and tepid and without moral or intellectual substance. Big Brother Bush's propaganda machine is still effective, is still holding the citizenry in its thrall, and is spreading the killer mental virus like the XDR-TB patient spreads deadly microbes to those who breathe the same air he does.

One wonders if military law allows the court martialing of the commander-in-chief.

The big difference between the war on Iraq and the Vietnam War is probably the source of the troops. Today's military is all-volunteer. Its members have joined as a matter of choice, and they dutifully accept and obey their orders. The Vietnam War was fought largely by draftees. Draftees tend to question the intelligence and the competence of decisions regarding their lives. When orders are given, the troops obey them, but they will question their efficacy, and the command knows it will eventually be held to account for the intelligence of the orders and the planning for executing them.

In Vietnam, that questioning at times turned to open mutiny with the fragging of officers and NCOs. Those incidents are something no one, even the most avid opponents of this war, wants to talk about. A military in revolt is too frightening to contemplate. But the reasons for the military to question the integrity and competence of their commanders are mounting.

On Monday, "insurgents" shot down a helicopter in Iraq with a rocket propelled grenade. Its occupants all died. When a rapid strike team in a Bradley armoured vehicle came to intervene, it was blown up by a roadside bomb. The command called the attack a "complex" operation. Effing-A, Clyde.

On Wednesday, forces assumed to be the Taliban repeated the same operation in Afghanistan. An airstrike was called in to disperse enemy combatants who came in on the ground to mop up. Effing-A, Clyde.

The majority of deaths of our troops are attributed to roadside bombs, as if they, like anti-biotic resistant microbes, cannot be controlled or resisted and lead to inevitable death. Insanity is sometimes defined as repeating the same actions time and again with the same failing results. This is insane.

Oh, and the body count of Iraqi civilians found littering the streets for this month has surpassed 700. We're making real progress. Effing-A, Clyde.

Daily, we send patrols of our troops out and they are taken out by roadside bombs and ambushes. As of 15 hours ago, the death count for American troops in Iraq was 3,467.

When people obtain public office to exercise power over others, each death represents a demonstration of that power. One wonders how many people ingest the insanity and grovel in obeisance to that power. And one wonders if we will have to push a military into open revolt before we recognize the insanity of it all. Where is the power to lead us to a higher level of intelligence?

There are a couple of retired generals who were in command when the military operated differently. Gen. Wesley Clark, an Army general, as NATO commander led military actions in the Balkans that had quite different outcomes than what has happened in Iraq. Gen. Anthony Zinni, a Marine and former commander of Centcom, strongly opposed the war on Iraq.

It is time to honor the dead soldiers by honoring the ones still alive. That means giving them commanders who aren't obsessed with exercising their power by ordering them to their deaths in futile and wasteful battles that can't be won and have no military purpose.

It's time to listen to Generals Clark and Zinni and their kind and see if we can't find a cure for the deadly insanity that infects the current command. It's time we start asking for help from people who actually know something.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States