Posted by: johnhourihan | October 15, 2012

Why Romney and Ryan aren’t supporting the troops


When George W. Bush sent troops to Iraq and then Afghanistan, most applauded, most supported him. Now when the current president, Barrack Obama, who didn’t support him, has ended one war and is trying to close up the other, he is being criticized by Republicans for not supporting our military. Paul Ryan, in his debate, said there was the possibility of keeping troops in Afghanistan longer and even hinted he thought we might send troops into Syria and/or Iran. Both Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan say they are supporting the troops.
Do they really think it is supporting the troops to send them to war? Do they think that’s what “troops” really want?
Bull. I was there. Troops want to do their job and come home as quickly as possible.
Years ago, I was sitting in a morning meeting of journalists who were “brainstorming” what we should put into a special section called “The Vietnam War – 10 Years After.”
They wanted to talk about the “ethics of war” and the “politics of the troops,” and I wanted to talk about agent orange and the lack of support for returnees.
They wanted to talk about no parades. I wanted to talk about no health care and no jobs.
I made a few suggestions but their glasses were so filled I couldn’t pour another ounce into them. It just spilled out onto the boardroom table.
Finally, I shouted, “OK, how many of you have killed someone for your country? Raise your hands. I mean, you know, actually killed someone.”
I raised my hand and looked around.
“No one but me? Then quiet down and listen. I have something to say.”
And for the first time since then, I now want to ask again, “How many of you who say you support the troops have killed someone on behalf of your government?
OK, then I have something to say.
If you want to know what it means to “support the troops” you first have to understand that war wouldn’t be all that bad if people didn’t get killed, and that people die in a war for one reason: Because they can’t help it.
It is death that is the problem.
It is the killing that makes it difficult, that twists people’s minds and sends them home “different.”
And the recent multiple-tour idiocy that became the pattern for Iraq and Afghanistan is wrong and dangerous.
It should have been stopped early on. Our troops have seen and are seeing too much death, and they aren’t all coming home healthy.
Those who come back, return with their minds figuratively strapped to a white table in a brightly lit operating room in a mythical hospital, and there they wait for the experts to come in flush away the anger and jolt them back into sanity, but they aren’t finding experts in the booth.
I spent three tours in Vietnam.
That was about three years for me, WWII was different. They spent a longer time. But in Iraq and Afghanistan, we kept sending the same people back time and time again.
Let me tell you why it is so important to stop this practice.
The first six months in a war go by relatively fast. A blur of the standard operating procedure of war, getting used to climate changes, biological changes, and creating a cognitive map of the dangers of environment.
At first you are taken care of by those who have been there a while.
But still people die.
If you live, you become one of those who does the “caring for.” When danger snaps in front of you, it is your own voice you hear first.
It is your eyes that find the evils, your hands that point to safety, and still people die.
War strips the invulnerability of youth from your nerves like a knife scraping along a leather strop, and you realize any minute can be your last, or worse, the last for those you care about.
By the end of your tour, you have turned numb to everything but staying alive.
You are depressed that your friends have died, that you couldn’t save them.
You stop sleeping and sometimes you lose weight.
You sweat cold in torrid heat and you shake as if from the cold when you are not.
You count first the months, then the weeks, then it comes down to counting days, and hours before you get your orders home.
But you feel every second.
Supporting the troops has nothing to do with keeping them in a combat zone even an instant longer than they have to be there or sending them to a new one.
When you return, you are no longer young. Everyone notices that you’ve changed.
My sister Nancy, who never minces words, said simply, “You were insane. It took years to get you back.”
One of the problems is that there is no happiness like the feeling of stepping onto American soil after having spent a year or more in combat, and there is no stronger  feeling than the guilt you feel for being happy when others are dead.
This is multiplied when you realize they forgot to tell you that you might feel guilty about killing other people. When you return for your second tour, you bring this feeling with you.
And it grows.
And if you survive three tours you have three times as many people to feel guilty about.
Whether you are feeling it for those you killed or for those you couldn’t keep from being killed, or just because you survived and others didn’t, you feel it.
And it is multiplied by itself every day you are involved.
It is amazing to me that so many soldiers return whole.
So here’s what I have to say.
By all means, support the troops. Bring them home.
And if you are using a war for political gain, but forget to thank the troops you sent to the war, you will be going to hell soon, then you‘ll know what it‘s like to have fools telling the world they are supporting you by sending you to war over and over again.
What goes around, comes around.

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Responses

  1. Yet the guilty never feel the the guilt! That must be a painful twist.

  2. Thanks.

  3. BRING THEM HOME NOW


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