An Associated Press article dated Saturday, November 19, 2005, quotes Representative John P. Murtha (D-PA) as saying “Our troops have become the enemy. We need a change of direction in Iraq.” The article went on to report that his “call a day earlier for pulling out troops sparked a nasty, personal debate over the war.”
Washington Post writer Charles Babington wrote on Saturday, “Democrats physically restrained one colleague, who appeared as if he might lose control of himself as he rushed across the aisle to confront Republicans with a jabbing finger. They accused Republicans of playing political games with the war.”
Commander Adam G. Alexander, USN (ret), or Whitefish, MT sees more villainy than child play in the political arena. He explains that he had a combat role in two wars, which were lost, naming Korea and Vietnam. He says they were lost, “…not by the military, but by the politicians. The politicians allowed themselves to be controlled by the actions of protesters. It is well understood that the large number of them were using the war for their own good, pushed by a very few people and the Communists. What we have now are the same type of people who are using this war only (in an) attempt to take over Congress and the White House.”
Jay Lagree is a retired Air Force colonel from Meridian, TX. His impression of the current dialog in Washington is that both congress and the mainstream media are guilty of serious misconduct. “When our liberal mainstream media and their counterparts in congress impede the war in Iraq, it gives the terrorists more time and more weapons to defeat the Iraqi people. Similarly, the Iraqis know that without the United States military they have no chance of defeating the terrorists in the immediate future. When we tell the Iraqi people that we are going to quit the battle and go home like we did in Vietnam, we are killing their hopes of freedom.”
Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Revie, a retired Army officer living in LaCruces, NM thinks the remarks of some congressional members are traitorous. He further explains, “Demanding a timetable based on calendar events to extract ourselves from Iraq is tantamount to giving aid and comfort to the enemy. That is the same as handing them our operations plan.” He concludes his comments saying “I firmly believe that if we exit based on a time table, that we will get our butts kicked in the process and that withdrawing to ‘Fortress America’ will only bring the conflict to our borders.”
But, not all veterans are in lock step with the administration. Rear Admiral B. J. Lehman, a retired Navy flag officer living in Stateline, NV says, “Of course we support our troops. I and everyone else I know, believes we must do that. But, starting this mission was and the mission continues to be a mistake.
“Would you support a mission to invade North Korea? How about invading Iran? They have both declared their readiness to fight us and many of our friendly nations. If you would not support these missions, why not? We have plenty of information. Why not go after them now?”
He ends saying, “ If your answer to these questions is ‘Yes’, I think you are wrong!”
Retired Army Sergeant Major Paul Pritchett of Nixa, MO says, “I do support the troops because they are loyal to their country and leaders and do what they are told. I think they are doing a superb job, notwithstanding the early failure of the Defense Department to provide them with every available method of individual protection, such as protective vests, armament on vehicles, etc. What I cannot support is an administration that starts a war by fabricating intelligence, such as was proven by the Downing Street Memos.”
Bill Lyster, a retired Air Force Master Sergeant from Panama City, FL is angry over how he perceives Representative John Murtha is being treated. He says, “Colonel Murtha, USMCR (Ret) carries two Purple Hearts from a war Bush and Chaney avoided. He deserves respect. One other clue as to what they think of us who went, and go to war when our country calls is that they are trying hard to reduce retirement pay, benefits and health care for veterans and survivors. They have no shame and history will not treat them gently.”
Many veterans have a mixed message on the war, as is the case with retired Marine Sergeant Major Leo Robert, of State College, PA. “I support the president and our troops in the war of terrorism”, he says. “That does not mean I cannot ask questions or be critical of this administration. You can support the troops by asking the administration hard questions. For example, why was there not enough body armor for our troops or reinforced HUMVees? Why are folks returning from the war zone and not getting proper treatment?” He ends his remarks saying “Rumsfeld and many in this administration are derelict in their duties when it comes to supporting our troops.”
The consensus view of veterans could very well be found in the words of Lieutenant Colonel Chris Sheffler, USAF (Ret) of Camby, IN. “Sadly, there is extremely little personal connection between the service and congress. Unlike after WWII, now you can count military veterans in congress on one hand. My thoughts exclude those few.
“Because of the distance of military/congress, there is no military experience (to draw upon) in each congressperson’s decision. They don’t see the sacrifice. They only see and hear the loudest voice – our media. As an example, on TV I only hear about the failures and deaths in Iraq. I don’t hear or see the success stories or jobs well done as those told in the emails coming home from our service people in Iraq. Why aren’t the success stories given equal time? Is it because there is a different political party in the oval office? How did pessimists get in charge of the media?”
Sheffler recalls “Several years ago, when our President stood before the nation and warned America that this would be a long and costly war, congress, almost to the last person, agreed and voted for the declaration. Nothing has changed in my mind that justifies the congress starting to whine other than the media keeps pounding us with negative news. I have not seen the President change his mind. He is persistent and continues on the same road. I am ashamed of the majority of our congress. They were elected to lead, not be weathervanes.”