"RALLYING FOR AMERICA" - Another View By Roger Propst

(04/03/2003)

Dear Editor, In a recent column, OF PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS - "Rallying for America", Mr. Tony Russell phrased some questions pertaining to the current military action transpiring in Iraq, and then proceeded to answer them. I wish to take this opportunity to examine and analyze those answers. It should be noted that I fully support Mr. Russell's right to think and feel anyway he wishes about this action, but when he feels his views are of sufficient importance that we should all be made aware of them, then I think it is my right to react to them.

Q. What do you think of the argument that it's our patriotic duty to rally behind the troops and quit criticizing the war?

Answer by Mr. Russell - That argument is shallow, self-serving, and unpatriotic. If you can't criticize your government when it goes from planning an unjust, immoral, illegal war to actually fighting an unjust, immoral, illegal war, then what kind of democracy is this?

Response - If you can't rally, why not then just keep quiet. The debate is over, troops are in harm's way; there will be plenty of time to analyze and debate when this action is over. This war is not unjust, immoral, and illegal just because you feel it is; vast majorities of your fellow Americans disagree with that assertion, myself included.

Q. Why do you think people make that argument?

Answer by Mr. Russell - Different reasons. For the administration, it's a cynical attempt to use people's love of their country to stifle questions and dissent. For the ignorant, who have only the most limited understanding of what it means to be a functioning citizen in a democratic society, that's what they understand patriotism demands. The first is contemptible; the second is pitiful.

Response - First of all, I have never heard a member of the Bush administration ever make that argument; conversely I have seen them make statements defending Americans right to dissent. It simply makes sense to debate these differences prior to conflict and after. During the conflict no good cause is served by that debate. I find the second statement concerning the ignorant as simply insulting. Since only two groups of Americans are addressed, the Administration, and the ignorant, then those of us not in the Bush administration, must be in the pitiful ignorant group. There is a time for and place for everything, and continuing to harp on the negative when American troops are at war, is neither the time nor place.

Q. Polls show a sharp increase in the numbers of people supporting the President and the war.

Answer by Mr. Russell - I've cited polls when they showed the public was dubious about this war. But maybe it's time to give up on the polls, when the government's propaganda machine dominates all the major media. If your conscience fluctuates with the polls, it's a pretty fragile thing.

Response - What a convenient answer; cite the polls when they support your position, ridicule them when they don't.

Q. But don't you think we need to show support for our troops?

Answer by Mr. Russell - Depends on what kind of "support" you mean. If you mean we're supposed to act like cheerleaders for an immoral invasion that devastates a country, and maims and kills thousands of women, children, and men, civilians as well as soldiers, no. If you mean that we hope those soldiers come home safely to their families, yes. People who can't understand the distinction have a problem.

Response - I don't think anyone expects you to become a cheerleader, but many do wish you would save your cynical criticism until our fighting men and women are no longer in harm's way. It is gymnastic semantics to say you support the troops, yet constantly lampoon their cause during the conflict. You have absolutely no basis for the claims you make about the deaths of women and children; in reality, the numbers of civilian casualties have been much smaller that anyone expected. Why not make that argument when war is over and the numbers are known; right now it has no credibility. I think people understand the distinction you make, they just don't agree with it.

Q. What do you say to our soldiers and our families?

Answer by Mr. Russell - When I say goodbye to somebody who is going overseas, I shake his/her hand and say I hope they come back soon, safe and sound, and that they don't hurt or kill anybody else while they're over there. I don't know about your religion, but I grew up hearing sermon after sermon on the story of the Good Samaritan. I take that parable to men that someone God chose to have born in Baghdad is just as much my neighbor as somebody God chose to have been born in Big Springs, Mt. Zion, or Orma. The President and his advisors spend a lot of time telling us how Christian they are, but it's a Christianity of convenience. They're a pretty unbiblical lot.

Response - I hope you don't say that to a member of the infantry, or a marine, or any other soldier who will be in combat. If they don't hurt or kill somebody, they may have no chance of returning safely. Your neighbors in Iraq have a much better chance of being hurt or killed by Saddam's regime than by any American. He has killed over half a million of his people during his reign of terror, a large majority of them women and children. You tread on dangerous ground when you make judgments about other people's Christianity; the President and his advisors don't need your approval of their faith.

Q. Should you be criticizing our leader in a time of war?

Answer by Mr. Russell - First of all, we wouldn't even be having a war if Mr. Bush hadn't done everything conceivable to drag a reluctant country into it, in the face of the opposition of almost all the rest of the civilized and uncivilized world. And second, this isn't some medieval kingdom where leaders are exempt from criticism through the Divine Right of Kings. I keep having to say this, but this country is supposed to be a democracy. In a democracy, citizens have not only the right but an obligation to speak. That obligation doesn't disappear in wartime. In fact, it becomes even more important then. It's ironic that one of the excuses the administration offers for this war is that we're going to carry the torch of democracy to the Middle East. We need to get a little better at it at home before we try to impose it on somebody at the point of a gun.

Response - Mr. Bush is the President of the United States; his responsibility is to the people of this country first and foremost. The rest of the world did not have planes flying into its buildings, its embassies bombed, a ship rammed in Yemen, etc. We are at war with terrorism; Saddam supports and harbors terrorists, he has weapons of mass destruction, and he hates America. The world has decreed that he disarm, and he has not done so, and thus poses a threat to America with those weapons and a desire to use them against the U.S. I have not seen in any of your columns how we should handle this problem, but rather a constant flow of criticisms, and an apparent view that nothing needs done. Where is the outrage at the human suffering of the Iraqi people under this tyrant? Saddam is responsible for any deaths that occur in this conflict, not the great nation of America. I happen to think we are pretty good at democracy, and have carried the torch of freedom for over 200 years.

Q. Don't you feel guilty about undermining the war effort?

Answer by Mr. Russell - Are you serious? The Bible says, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." We've squandered our treasure for decades on creating the most professional, best-trained, best-armed, best-funded military machine in human history. I think our treasure is in the wrong place. There's no danger we'll lose this war; there's a real danger we'll lose our soul. It is idolatry, and a sin against God and humanity, to ignore human needs and spend more on the military than every other country on the globe combined. That's sickness of the soul. I'm not interested in "undermining" anything; I'm interested in healing our national spirit.

Response - It is because of that great military machine that you live in a country that allows you to spout some of the stuff you do. Had it not been for that great machine, we would not have survived World War I; we would not have been able to get up off the deck after Pearl Harbor and bring Japan to its knees; we would not have been able to storm the beaches of Normandy and liberate Europe from the clutches of Adolph Hitler; we would not have been able to back down the Soviet Union when they had missiles in Cuba, and we certainly would not have brought down the Berlin wall. This nation is the envy of all freedom loving people on the globe. It is a nation ever ready to help its neighbors in time of need, and the one, which will always lead the world when evil, is confronted. The soul of America is not sick, and is not in need of the healing of which you speak. May God Bless America, as it once again stands tall in freeing an oppressed people that they might have the opportunity to drink of the cup of freedom.

Roger Propst