Shame on me
March 26, 2003
Twelve years ago, I was a senior in high school and editor of Pineville High School’s newspaper, the Yahoo. I was also a weekend disc jockey at the country radio station in town, just a few blocks from Central State Hospital.
The alpha DJ was a fellow from Arkansas. Head Honcho had a voice as deep as the Atchafalaya River. He wore glasses, parted his hair down the middle, styled it to stand on its ends and smoked Marlboro Light cigarettes. When the first war on Iraq went down, he called every on-air staff member to the radio station. That night, I pulled audio feeds from CNN and CBS and reported the latest news to central Louisiana. Head Honcho later spearheaded a campaign to place yellow ribbons on every lightpost on MacArthur Drive in Alexandria. Every hour on the radio, Lee Greenwood sang that he was proud to be an American, where at least he knows he’s free.
One afternoon, I stood in the kitchen of the radio station while Head Honcho sucked on a Marlboro Light. I don’t recall how we got into the discussion, but we were talking about the Gulf War. I must have told him that I was against it. I don’t really recall what I said. I do remember him saying that no one in their right mind likes war, but that sometimes in life, you have to go to war, and when you do, you have to support your troops. “Look at Vietnam,” he said. “That’s what happens when you don’t support your troops.”
After buying Head Honcho’s logic, I wrote an editorial in the school newspaper in which I parroted his sentiments. You don’t have to support the war. Just support your troops.
To this day, the thought of that article makes my skin crawl. It’s been a constant reminder to me of an early lesson my mother taught me, one I learned the hard way. Never write down anything that you don’t believe in with your whole heart and never take someone else’s sentiments and turn them into your own words.
Today, as was the case a dozen years ago, if you question the Bush administration and its actions, you are accused of not supporting your troops, of being unpatriotic, of being un-American. Discourse or dissension in the land of the free and the home of the brave amounts to treason. A long standing tradition of hearing the minority’s voice is giving way to the longstanding tradition of discounting that voice by questioning its patriotism.
And who would have thought that after all of this time, we would be going to war with Iraq again to oust the same villain, that another Bush would be behind the assault and that I would have the opportunity to revise my original sentiments?
I have little faith that, as President George W. Bush stated in his television address to the nation on March 17, this war will reduce the threat of terrorism. Contrary to what we believe, terrorism was not born on Sept. 11, 2001. The rest of the world knows better.
In the wake of 9/11, the goodwill the world showered on our nation, the kindred remorse for our loss, has been exhausted, and the arrogance of this administration is only reinforcing the ugly American stereotype. We seem to be the only people in the world who understand the logic that Bush is ignoring the United Nations in order to prove to Saddam Hussein the importance of obeying the United Nations.
This war will come at a cost. The poor will pay with their lives. Of the 535 members of the U.S. Congress, only Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., has a child on active duty in the enlisted ranks of the military. This administration, the rich and the privileged, wouldn’t sacrifice anything. They’ll only call the shots. The poor will fight for the sake of the rich.
The price tag for this war will be around $80 billion. We’re going to continue to bomb Iraq with “shock and awe,” reduce it to rubble and then rebuild it. Vice President Dick Cheney has already enlisted private U.S. companies to rebuild a defeated Iraq. When the American economy is in the toilet, what better way to revive it than to annihilate another country and rebuild it? Think of all the new jobs.
Maybe this Bush will finally oust Saddam, and we will live happily ever after. Maybe terrorism and evil will be eradicated from the face of the earth, and we will finally live in the peace man has sought since the beginning of time. Maybe the Head Honchos will continue to proclaim their jingoism as the gospel and to point to those who choose to think differently as unpatriotic. Maybe this conflict will make that Kim Jong Il fellow over there in North Korea think twice, and we won’t have to go over there and clean his clock. Maybe.