It seems everyone agrees on one thing: we have a problem. Agreement starts and ends there. What should we do, or not do, or never do. Are we taking action too early? Or is it already too late? Do we have any business being over there at all . . . Does the possible threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of those who are less-than responsible or predictable justify putting Americans in harms way?
Some would have us believe that even if we take military action to effect a “regime change” in Iraq, it’s not war. After all, the United States hasn’t really been to “war” since the Second World War. We’ve been in one Korean “Police Action”, the Vietnam “Conflict”, an aborted “Invasion” of Cuba, a “Rescue Mission” in Iran, an “Invasion” of Granada; and, “Operations” in Panama, Kuwait, Somalia and Afghanistan - but no wars. It seems the Wars-to-End-All-Wars didn’t really stop the wars . . . it just stopped us from calling them wars.
And now Iraq.
My grandfather was career-Navy and served as a Lieutenant-Commander in World War II. The war ended too soon for my dad, so he went to military school and was working as a translator for the CIA when my parents met. A Federal Marshall tried to arrest my sister as a late teenager (they thought “Sidne” was a male) for failure to register Selective Service. Five years later, I tried to register, but when I turned up in the Columbia, South Carolina registration office, the matron in charge informed me (as I watched dozens of people clearing out their desks in a warehouse-sized common office), “it’s all over, there is no war - there is no draft registration anymore.” I was taking no chances: remembering my sister’s experience, I asked if she could please just take my name to show that I tried to register. I was a pacifist, but I believed it was my duty to serve. Thankfully, the Vietnam “Conflict” ended before I could enlist.
The following year, my college roommate had been old enough . . . our entire first semester, at any loud noise - or sound of a plane or helicopter - two years after he left the Army, “Doc” still dove off the bed and rolled under the desk. Even in the middle of the night. My dad told me that Aunt India had to sleep in a separate bedroom from my Uncle Freddie after WWII . . . Freddie has served in Special Forces, and suffered from violent nightmares for the rest of his life. Yet “Doc” and my Uncle Freddie were both very lucky: they came home. The past two years, veterans and families of veterans at Briarcliff Oaks have shared their painful and poignant stories of their own war time experiences - as have residents from other countries, who shared their stories of living through WWII as a German teenage girl during the Allied bombings of Germany, or having survived the German assault on St. Petersburg - as a Russian.
Despite the fall of communism and the seeming-desire of our world to coexist peacefully, we are again at the brink of war: a war we all hope does not spiral out of control. Yet we can’t even agree on the need to be there. A lot of us - and a lot of the world - are not ‘together’ on this one. In WWII, it took Pearl Harbor to galvanize the American public to enter the war with Japan. There was no Pearl Harbor to convince us of the importance of war in Korea or Vietnam. And our veterans suffered terribly as a result of the lack of public support. There is no Pearl Harbor with Iraq. But our leaders counsel that a nuclear Pearl Harbor is, perhaps, the risk we face.
We already have tens of thousands of troops in the Middle East: air force, navy, marines, army, intelligence, civilian support staff . . . Millions of American families have parents, children, sisters, brothers, cousins and/or friends in the service - at tremendous risk. Whatever we call it, whether we agree with the geo-politics or not, they are over there on our behalf, and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude, appreciation - and our prayers.
~ Scott Nilsson
Atlanta, Georgia - USA / 2nilssons.com
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