Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Yesterday was Veterans’ Day, and like an idiot, I forgot to blog about it. So, let me humbly begin this post with an apology and with a sincere hope that you enjoyed your Veterans’ Day.
It seems somehow wrong to say, “enjoyed Veterans’ Day”. We’re talking about a group of men and women who put their lives on the line, placed themselves in harms way, and although Veterans’ day specifically celebrates those who came home alive (although many suffered severe injury and psychological harm), it still is odd to attribute joy to this. I guess I’m probably thinking of this incorrectly, confusing having veterans with the need to have veterans. I’m sure that my regular readers know that I regard the need for war and armed conflict to be a failure of the politicians, and maybe I’m confusing having veterans with the political state that requires them.
It’s important to carefully distinguish the source of disappointment. In Vietnam, anti-war propagandists were all too effective at villainizing our soldiers, calling them criminals and baby killers. By the time they returned to the US, they were met with protesters hurling insults and bags filled with urine at our heroes. Honestly, I don’t know the politics to know if we belonged in Vietnam (or Korea for that matter) or not, but the decision to go was not that of those who fought the war. The anger was displaced and should have been reserved for the politicians who sent our troops in the first place, but never against those who fought. That the anger was turned towards those who fought the war is one of the truly shameful moments in our history. I feel like I owe those soldiers and apology for this, even though I was too young to even know what was happening at the time (I was about twelve and very sheltered).
Personally, I don’t believe we ever belonged in Afghanistan. I felt very lonely in arguing against ground troops in a very strongly Republican state, but never have I uttered a disparaging word against the men and women of our armed forces. In the United States, we are blessed to have the most powerful, technologically superior, and well-equipped military forces in the history of the world, and what makes the military effective is the chain of command. They follow orders and are sworn to uphold the Constitution (not the president’s delusions). Failure to follow orders is referred to as a “military coup”, which we have not seen since the Revolutionary War. It’s this uniformity and discipline that allowed us to build not only the most powerful armed forces in the world, but the most disciplined and trustworthy as well.
In the Iraq conflict, there was a lot of press about the armored division battle of all time as Iraq, with the third largest tank fleet in the world, as about to face the American armored division, but the battle turned into a triviality as the American forces walked over minimal resistance from Iraq. Not that it wasn’t dangerous, and people did lose their lives, but the battle was nowhere near the anticipated fight. The reason is quite simple. America went to the commanders of the Iraqi armored divisions first and paid them to, well, take a holiday. We paid millions of dollars (hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time) to more or less disarm Iraq. Unfortunately, we did it for the wrong reason, since the US military simply decided it was cheaper to handle the situation that way than in lost lives and equipment, but they did save many lives in this. Basically, they did the right thing for the wrong reason, but thank God they did as the US (and Iraq) saw minimal casualties. But the point is that the Iraqi commanders happily took these bribes. In the US, we would be absolutely shocked if our commanders were to do the same, and yet, somehow, we were not surprised that the Iraqi commanders took those bribes. That’s the difference in reputation between US commanders and those of other nations.
Ultimately, we owe what we have to our military members and veterans. Thank you, veterans, for the sacrifices you made, the efforts you spent, and the freedoms for which you fought. Having a single day to say thank you seems hardly adequate, but it’s what we have. Thank you, as well, to your family and friends who worried for you as you were away. They, too, made their sacrifices to be without you for an extended period of time. I’m glad you made it home.