The Definition Of A True Patriot
Wednesday - November 16, 2005
I’m amused when some well-meaning person refers to our troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as “true patriots.”
They are doing a tough job. More than 2,000 have died. Schofield Army troops will be heading back over (I’m also amused when the dailies discover something I reported in this MidWeek column Sept. 7), and we contributed our National Guard to that thankless war.
But we must remember that most of the troops are professional military people. The others were doing reserve or state home guard terms when George Bush as commander in chief ordered them to war. None had the option of saying “Uh, no thanks.” We’ll never know how many would have opted out had that been a choice.
I reserve the term “true patriot” for someone who does something meaningful for this country and doesn’t have to.
George Washington was a true patriot of the first order to take command of the ragtag, seemingly hopeless and unequipped Continental Army. The colonists who went under his command or volunteered in state militias to fight for independence were true patriots. All those men who enlisted for the good cause in World War II, especially the local AJAs, were true patriots.
You have to be careful about tossing around that term “true patriot.” That’s exactly what Jiang Qing, the wife of China’s Mao Zedong, called the Red Guards, who humiliated, beat and killed people during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution and set that country back about 50 years.
I’d be quite surprised if some survey showed that most of the wives and husbands of Schofield soldiers going back for a second combat tour would say it was their spouses’ patriotic duty to get it on with the Sunni insurgents. In private, anyway.
Some writers have even suggested it’s our patriotic duty to support the war effort and thus sending additional Americans to their deaths in roadside ambushes and car-bomb explosions. Journalists, especially, are vilified as unpatriotic for reports and opinions seen as morale sappers and a comfort to the enemy. (You mean the Sunnis are now the enemy and the more radical Islamic Shiites are now the friends?)
Actually, I expect that we naysayers could be the patriots (wrongful designation, too) for a future generation. Vietnam was a dumb war. Iraq is a dumb war. Somebody has to say so or we’ll keep getting dumber.
I confess that events could prove me wrong. Maybe George and Dick and Condi were just snowing us with the Saddam and WMD stuff and have a long-term vision for U.S. bases in Iraq to bring stability to the Middle East. If it works out that way, I’ll eat crow (or mongoose.) But I don’t think any of them are that visionary, or capable of bringing it off if they were.
I don’t have any problem with us supporting our troops in Iraq. George says “go” and they go. I wouldn’t want to live here if “no” were an option to the chief’s order.
I was wildly supportive of our draftee troops in Vietnam, even as I became more convinced of the stupidity of that war.
But never did I call them “true patriots.”
Nobody drafted today’s fighters. If they are in, they are either professionals or citizen soldiers by choice. Joining the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy or Coast Guard hardly qualifies as an act of true patriotism. For many it’s been an act of finding a job in America.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell would have been a “true patriot” had he stood in public and said “the evidence against Iraq sucks. Going to war against Iraq would be an act of idiocy and I’ll resign rather than support idiocy.”
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