For this one post I am stepping away from the theme and the issues of the Episcopal Church in San Joaquin and the Episcopal Church at large and religion in general. I am dismayed to say the least at what president Obama is about to say and do and I will no longer stay quiet.
As a combat veteran of Viet Nam 1968-1969, Alpha Company, 3rd Tanks, 3rd Marine Division, sending troops to anywhere with a purpose and an intent that is good and sufficient is not a problem for me. My father served in WWII and my son sits in the Gulf of Oman as I write this little ditty. I also have no problem with those that protested the war some 40+ years ago and I have made my peace with even those who left the country to avoid the war. I have also learned the lessons that Viet Nam taught us, particularly those of us that served. I have had people die in my arms, so yes, I understand only too well that lesson. My interpretation is do not send anyone anywhere without a specific cause and a specific plan, a life is way to precious to waste for any other reason. I also fully understand that we have the most professional military of any country in the world. We also have the most efficient military of anywhere in the world, and most of the world knows this also.
So, when we sent troops to Afghanistan many years ago to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden for the bold and dastardly attack on the twin towers, I did not lose one moment of sleep and I did not hesitate one moment even though I was deeply concerned about the president that did this. Clearly, the mission was to capture or kill Osama and I was all for that. I understand collateral damage and if someone got in the way of that goal either step aside or be run over is an okay answer.
Then for some reason that I will never understand, we engaged Iraq. What a stupid thing to do, I thought. It takes troops away from the mission in Afghanistan and makes it all that much more difficult and to be honest (as if former President Bush could), I thought getting even with Saddam for trying to kill George HW Bush was a pretty petty reason for sending American troops into harms way. But it seems that everyone got over that and we are on the verge of an orderly removal of that. (The secondary reason of "They [Iraq} have our [US} oil under their ground was also never very convincing). At any rate, troops are coming home and now President Obama turns to Afghanistan and is about to send another 30-40,000 troops into harms way to help the government of Afghanistan get a start? What the heck happened to the original idea? When did we change our goals to something like propping up a government in a country we have no real interest in and no real reason for even being there? Did we not learn the lessons of Vietnam? Did somebody suffer a concussion in which that part of the collective memory was lost?
Let me end this with where I began. My son is in the Gulf of Oman. He and his friends are professionals, they go where they are told to go, and do what they are told to do. That is the beauty of our military; actually, that is the brilliance of our military. It is up to our civilian government to say where and when and how and for how long. I for one, do not want my son and his friends, pilots and his shipmates, to be there for one more second than needs be. If, we are there for "the long haul" and we will continue a mission that is ill-defined and ill-conceived and we are unwilling to do what we started to do in the first place, then it is time to stop the madness.
With all due respect, President Obama's arguments in favor of the differences between Viet Nam and Afghanistan were unconvincing. The people are an insurgent group; the twin towers and the gulf of Tonkin incident are very similar. Sorry, he did not mention resolving the Osama Bin Laden issue. I am unconvinced and I am sorely disappointed.